Thursday, October 6th, 2016 – 9:02 am
“Where are we going?” I demand again.
“Home. I told you that already. Quit asking,” comes the stark reply, stripped of every natural affection.
I can’t see very well. The fever hovers at about 104 degrees. My hot tears almost immediately burn and freeze my cheeks. I didn’t know they were coming down. I don’t think I feel sad.
We’ve been to the Mare Island commissary so many times already, in just a matter of months. My father has the focus and ferocity of a lion protective of his sick and disoriented second born. And yet he is clearly also angry as any Navy MP, unduly and improperly inconvenienced from his schedule of duties. There must be order. Law and order and discipline and punishment can solve every ill and illness in our society. The greatest fucking military in the history of the world. There should be proper channels for these continual confusions and I have stepped outside of them.
I clearly notice and make note of his notable impatience, despite the burning delirium and my tender age. And now four decades between fevered dreams. But the car ride was already eternal and may ever stay that way. Time will tell. For almost two decades until he demanded I leave his roof and floors and walls and doors, I watched his silent song remain the same. He almost opened his voice and sang it.
As a keeper of history, now I see my angrysad father fuming at the stoplight, retreating into his flawless fight filled worlds, false and flimsy. His lips always move silently while he wins infinite pretend arguments, but only ones already lost or never to be uttered. Practice sessions at stoplights never purchased him real life bravery, regardless of the dozens of run throughs. He gets angry whenever I ask why he talks to himself.
“Why is she crying?” I ask him instead. I will keep asking other questions until he says I must be silent or my heavy chest aches too much to draw in the deeper breaths. I’m so tired, but I have already slept for too many days.
I point at the beautiful, crying girl at the bus stop. The stoplight never changes. We’re still idling there.
She is waiting for her dad to take her home. She too is burning with a fever and is perfectly lost, both inside and out. She is terrified, but she can never show it. That will make her even more vulnerable. She pretends to fear no monster. She believes that will keep all the monsters at bay, except the one monster that we each possess and desperately need to save us.
She is about my age. The street light above the bus stop turns on and the encroaching dusk threatens her frail and fragile frame, more with each moving moment. She will be swallowed whole and no man will remember she once stood there.
Is he even listening? I turn to look at my father’s face and his impatience is turning to concern and confusion. The car behind us gives us the polite, “you missed the light, I don’t want to fight, please go now,” shortest possible beep from his 1970s era horn. Everything sounded so different, then. So far away. I hear the blood and the echos of bloody screaming coursing through my infected ears.
My dad screams at the invisible man in the car behind us and retreats back into the argument he had almost won before I interrupted his multiple universes and the sickeningly sweet, Candyland version of reality.
“Fucking asshole!” He’s back. There’s the monster, deftly tightening claws around the green wheel. He will get us home. He always does.
I look back, terrified my father would forget and abandon that sweet, helpless girl. My eyes catch up with his whispering mouth and the argument I have already lost in both our imaginations. I can see the truth he denied. The empty space between the fevers. The vinyl Impala seat digs deep into my back, forcing me back down the road I have never chosen and will forever hate.
“Patrick, there was nobody standing there.”
One of my neurologists told me two weeks ago that I have the long term memory of a historian. She also told me my brain is malfunctioning.
Yesterday, loved ones hugged and visited me and I laughed more than I have in a very long time.
But Amy also walked over and set her hand on my shoulder and assured me that everything was fine and I simply had another misunderstanding. I think I yelled at her brother for something he never said or even implied. I can’t remember the imagined conspiracy, but I would never have recovered from the spiral unless I trusted Amy far more than my own memory. I know she would never lie to me.
The memory loss is crushing. The confusion is killing. This alternate universe is odious. I hate that ugly monster. Why did a loving Father leave that little girl standing there on the corner, all alone?
I looked back last night at the shadow yelling from my walker. He was no longer sitting there. The stop light has changed forever. There never was a reverse on this thing.
The street light blinked out once again at the first strained smile of sunrise. The ghost of a girl is gone.
Quit crying. It changes nothing. It simply draws the monsters. Don’t look so shell shocked. Stay positive. Try to laugh at it all. Laughter is a less destructive outlet for expressing your own terror than nonstop screaming.
Funny thing is, my second writing class starts in a few hours. Funny.
The light changes one more time. The fever is breaking. I am only warm inside, no longer burning.
“Where are we going?” I beg myself.
“Home again. Don’t worry. You can keep asking.”