1992: The Walk

I stand in the driveway as the tow truck repossesses our silver Oldsmobile. No! Bring it back! Why did they have to take away the best car we ever owned? How can he let them do this? Why didn’t he find a way to pay the bill?

“Well, Jenny…no time to feel sorry for ourselves. I knew they would take our car away after your mother left us! Again! What was she here, 2 months?” Maybe longer if you hadn’t threatened to hack her up with an axe?

“My brother George won’t care either. He filed for bankruptcy last month so they can’t come after him for being cosigner anyways.” Yeah but he still has a new truck. And we have nothing.

“Don’t worry. Pops will find a way to get us a car. Like I always do. Come on. Let’s go for a walk.”

Rusty leaves crunch beneath my feet along the curb. Let’s just keep walking forever.

As we make our way around the neighborhood, Dad says, “Jenny, you know that Daddy has always been honest with you. There’s a reason for that. I don’t want anyone else to tell you tall tales one day about your Father.”

Can’t we just have one walk in peace? Crunch, crunch, I can’t hear you.

“Jenny. You know that God told me to go to your mother and that you had to be born because he has a purpose for you and your Father. I was supposed to have one last daughter. You know Daddy tricked your mother. Told her I could never have any more kids…”

I hate you for tricking her. Why did she have to be part of your plan?

“…of course, Daddy didn’t know if I could have kids because of the fucking rheumatic fever. You know the doctors thought I might never walk again. Lost all my teeth…”

I still hate you.

“But none of that matters because I knew you were going to be born. I even knew what you were going to look like before you were born. Right down to the birthmark on your chest. Just like your Father.” Dad pounds on the left side of his chest.

“My first wife, my other kids, none of them matter. I had a job to do. To raise you. God told me, go to Debbie. And I did. What did it matter that I was married? That we all lived together while your mother was pregnant for you. That life was over. And I guess God wanted us to be alone, you and Poppa. Riding the dragon’s breath…like I always told you.”

As Dad drags on, my fists clench beneath my sleeves leaving marks on my palms. Fuck your dragon. I’m not riding on his breath or going along with your plan anymore.

“Dad. What you did was wrong. You had a wife and children. I never should have been born!”

“Don’t you dare judge your Father! After everything we’ve been through. You don’t even know. Your mother wanted to abort you…”

“Good. I wish she had. I don’t want to be alive if I caused all that pain for people.”

“Bullshit. Your Father wasn’t going to let some needle kill my baby. I told your mother I’d hack her the fuck up, and her goddamn sister too.”

I hang my head. You’re an asshole. You’re a bully. I can judge you. And I will live a different life than you.

Dad grunts a bit as we make our way back to the apartment complex in silence.

Jesus…did you just challenge him out loud? Yes, and it felt really good.

2000: Stalker

I bound up the carpeted auditorium steps—making my way to the last row of Chemistry lecture.

My cell phone buzzes against my thigh several times. It better not be him again. He called twelve fucking times yesterday, including our daily 8:00pm talk. To bitch about hot dog sauce! Fucking hate hot dogs…and that smelly dirt sauce. Buzzz…Buzzz…Jesus!

Reaching into my coat pocket, I slide the phone half way out and take a quick peek. Of course. Who else would it be? What were you expecting? A miracle? I consider crushing my phone, but instead hold the power button down. Powering off, asshole. Because I’m a college student. Over the age of eighteen. This bullshit was supposed to end.

 Professor McClellan points to random elements on the periodic table chart. “Can anyone tell me what happens when you combine sulfur with….”Shit. You’re lost. I glance at the clock 1:17. You just wasted 17 minutes in a complete fog. You’re going to fail this course if he doesn’t stop!

 The next 33 minutes zoom by as I alternate between conscious thought and visions of strangling Dad. “Okay, see you next week, class. And don’t forget the assignment that’s due Monday.”

What assignment?

Ambling out of class with the rest of the sophomore herd, I wonder, do any of you people have a secret this big? Or is everyone just thinking about the weekend parties and random hookups?

As I make my way from the science center to Grewen Hall, I consider my options. Run away? Ha! Don’t call him back? He’ll be here in three hours. Just in time for dinner! Call him back later? And obsess all day. Call him back now? Yes, get it over with.

 I flip my steel blue Samsung open and hold down the number 1—Dad’s speed dial. One ring. “Jenny! Jenny, is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me.” Now what the fuck do you want?

 “Where were you? Daddy called four times, already. You know I’d never do that unless it was very important!” I mentally rehearse the childhood lullaby Dad taught me. Lizzy Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks.

“I was in Chemistry class. You know I have classes all day every day right, Dad?”

“Oh, well like I said, this is very important. Besides your Father is still so upset that you switched your major from economics to physics. That’s one of the dumbest fucking things you’ve ever done. But it doesn’t matter now. That’s not what Daddy called to talk about. I need a big favor.”

Of course you do! Hint: calling me ‘dumb’ right before asking me for a favor is not a great plan.

“Listen. Remember I told you your Mother was back in town from Connecticut? Well, I was right! You know your Father with my crazy intuition. I could literally smell her.” Luckily Dad can’t see me roll my eyes through the cell phone. Just leave her alone. It’s over.

Dad continues, “Well, your Mother should have known that I would find her—of all people…” Because you’re a violent stalker…

“…Anyways, I put a note on her car. I told her that I would always be in her life because we share a daughter together. I left a few messages on her answering machine to call me back, too.”

I breathe audibly but say nothing. Yeah, so I’m not getting how your creepy shit involves a favor from me. If you think I’m gonna call her…you’re wrong!

“Well, your Mother—that crazy bitch—she called the cops on me.” My jaw drops open as I visualize fireworks! Clearing my throat, “Ah hem…” to hide my elation, “…What!”

“Yes, and that’s not all. The bitch filed a restraining order against me! They delivered it this morning. Said something about how I left 26 messages on her answering machine. That’s bullshit. I might have called her 6 times! You know your Mother always exaggerates so bad.” I think you’ve now called me 17 times in the last 36 hours, so…go, Mom!

 “Okay, Dad. Well, I don’t know what I can do. Maybe…stop calling her. She obviously doesn’t want to talk.” …to you!

 “No, Jenny! You’re missing the point. Your Father has a situation, here. They set a court date. I could be in real trouble.” His voice just trembled. Jesus! What really happened?

 “Anyways, Daddy needs you to write a letter to the district attorney on my behalf—stating what a good Father I am—how I raised you—all my years of community service. Type it up all professional on that computer of yours, and make it look good!”

Hesitating, “Dad, I’m not sure if I can do that. I mean how would a letter from me help? And I wasn’t there, so I just don’t feel comfortable. I don’t want to get involved in the middle of this.”

“Don’t be a fucking asshole, Jenny! Of course, you’re gonna write your Father a letter. How could you ever question me? I saved you! Your Mother wanted to kill you, and you know that. It’s just you and Poppa, and it always will be.” It’s not a favor. It’s a command.

 Filled with rage, I step off the curb without looking. Shit! Car whizzing! The driver slams on his brakes… screechhhhhh…and glares straight into my eyes. I raise my right hand to say, Sorry, dude! If you only knew…

As I enter the main dormitory doors, Dad asks, “Do you have a piece of paper and a pen?”

Curt in my reply, “No, Dad. I’m not back to the room yet.”

“Okay, well Daddy will stay on the phone until you get safely back to your room. I need to give you the district attorney’s info. By the way, you girls keep your doors locked and bolted at night right? And you don’t walk around that campus at late hours, I hope?” Jesus! For the thousandth time…the fucking door is locked. I do what I please, now…at least when I’m not on the phone with you.

 On the elevator ride, I grab my notebook and pencil from my backpack. “Okay, Dad. I’m here. Lie. What’s the info?”

I scrawl District Attorney Morrison’s info down on the back of my chemistry notebook. Bits of recycled cardboard skew my scribbles while the pencil lead snaps under my death grip. “Gotta, go, Dad. Lots of assignments and tests, here.”

“Okay, honey. Poppa loves you very much. Always remember that.” If you loved me, you’d die and leave me alone.

I barely acknowledge my roommate’s “Hello.” Just get this letter over with, and hope they don’t lock you up too.

 Dear Mrs. Morrison,

My Father raised me since I was four days old…

God! Don’t write that shit! You sound like his puppet! I feel to see if my nose has grown.

After signing my name, I fold the letter in three equal parts and stuff it into an envelope. Heading to the basement mailroom, I consider not sending the lie. Oh fuck it. What’s one more thing?

I pause in the hallway as my eyes well up. It’s a lot and you know it! You need to start confronting him again. Play by your rules.

My hands clench into an icy ball as I send the envelope whooshing through the ‘outgoing mail’ slot.