A father’s letter
This is some stream of consciousness I wrote while trying to ‘clear my throat’, so to speak. It’s related to something else I’ve been working on for a while. This entirely unedited; I’m sure I’ll be mortified in the morning.
Let me just write about you for a while, about those dreams you had when you were younger.
They were unpleasant dreams, but not quite nightmares. The horror in them didn’t seize you like that, did it ever?
You tossed and turned in your bunk-bed, distracting me from whatever it was I was trying to do. Every time, I hoped you’d mumble something, remember something, give me some hint of what was troubling you. You never did. Every morning after that, I’d ask you how you slept and you’d always say “fine”.
I wanted to know what your unpleasant dreams were, in hopes that you’d say something, anything, about the last night your mother was with us. What do you remember? What could you possibly remember? But you do remember her. What’s more, you remember specific things about her, like that lullaby she used to sing. You remember it better than I do.
I’ve heard you humming it sometimes, late at night, when we’re crossing somewhere beautiful. You’ll sit by the porthole, brush your hair, and hum that song. One time, while we were passing through a nebula, you hummed it from beginning to end. I watched you. I wanted to ask so badly it physically hurt when I stopped myself.
You remember that song better than I do.
Do you remember the house we used to live in? The house on the hill looking over the valley? Your room used to be in the corner, and we had a little porch swing you used to try to swing for real, like you do on the kind in the playgrounds.
You have to remember. You were holding the brush your mother used, while the two of you would sit in the window. You’d talk about something, anything, and she’d brush your hair and look out over the valley. Do you remember?
Do you remember the night they came, when I wasn’t there? Do you remember anything, anything at all? Did your mother say anything? Did she tell you to hide? I need to know. I need to know how she lived the last few moments she had in this universe. But I can’t ask you. I can’t even show you this letter.
What if you do remember?
What if you know exactly everything I want to ask and that’s still not enough? Is it better that I don’t know at all what they sounded like? Did THEY say anything? Did they find you and let you live? Or did you run away so far that you didn’t see anything or hear anything of what happened? What if you know their names? What if it was all a big mistake and they tried to explain it all away to you?
What if you don’t remember? What if I remind you of everything that happened, everything you locked away because you’re just too young to deal with it? You still are. I can just imagine you arguing that you’re not, but you are.
That’s why I’m writing this, because I’ve got to get rid of these questions before we get to the waystation. They’re making me sick, and I need my mind to be clear when we get there. You don’t want to be alone anymore, you don’t want to drift anymore, but the moment we meet other people I don’t know what it’ll do to me. I don’t know how I can look anyone in the eye when they ask “where is your wife?” and “where is her mother?” And they will ask. They will see you, and for one of the millions of different reasons they could have, they will ask.
“Oh, you’re teaching her how to use a gun? What does her mother think?” “Are you two been traveling a long time? Oh, she’s your daughter… Really? Where is her mother?”
I can’t blame them for asking. I can’t stop them from asking, but I don’t know how I’ll answer. I don’t know how I’ll even look at anyone’s face after they ask.
Al I need to know is if you remember, and I never will. I’ll never ask. I can’t. I won’t. If you ever find this, don’t tell me. Don’t bring it up at dinner. Just say you’re “fine” like you always do. Burn this page, forget you ever saw it. My heart broke when I realized I lost your mother. I don’t think it can take you finding out your father is not as strong as you need him to be.
Tonight we’ll be crossing through the plasma flare of a star that died long ago. I know you’ll sit and watch its dying light. I know you’ll brush your hair and you’ll hum that song. I’m going to be sitting there, pretending to navigate, while all of me just wants to ask “What do you remember? Did she say anything for me before she died? Did she say anything at all?”
What do you remember?