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My father had fleeting moments of kindness for me, but I couldn’t cry during his funeral. I just sat there with my hands folded in my lap and felt like people should see me crying, mourning the loss of a man I wasn’t sure I ever even loved. My father had spent the last few weeks of his life in agonizing pain, screaming and cursing Hannah, me, the nurses, and especially my mom. The first time I came into that hospital room with my father hooked up to various tubes and IVs, he looked at me and said hoarsely, “So, I see you’ve come back.”
“How are you doing, Dad?” I put a vase of daffodils on the bedside table beside him.
“I’m dying. What did you get me flowers for? What the fuck am I supposed to do with flowers, you numbskull?”
“I thought they might brighten up the room.” I carefully arranged the assorted cards and gifts on the bedside table until I thought they looked aesthetically pleasing.
“You have a girlfriend?”
He grunted. “Figures. What, no woman would have you?”
“Dad, stop. I just haven’t found the right person yet.”
“And you won’t, unless you burn those clothes. That sweater makes you look like a goddamn pedophile.” My dad laughed scratchily, which soon devolved into a hacking cough, and I realized he absolutely hadn’t changed. My dad was still a mean son-of-a-bitch and he still hated me.
Dad fell asleep and I sat at his bedside looking at him, imagining taking the pillow from behind his head and pressing it against his face. I leaned forward and whispered, “Daddy, you were right. I’m gay; I’m a fucking faggot, you were right all along. Does that make you happy, you cruel piece of shit?” I smiled and leaned back into the chair. I absolutely hated hospitals, I had spent a few weeks in one when I was nine years old because my dad backed over me with the car while I was sitting in the driveway drawing with sidewalk chalk.
I suffered a broken arm, a broken rib, and a mild concussion. Some social workers came to talk to my parents and my father said he hadn’t been drunk when he had accidently run me over. I knew he was lying, not a day went by that my father was sober, but my mom backed him up so I did too. I went home with a cast on my arm and a permanent scar across my chest and since I didn’t have any friends to sign my cast, Hannah went to town with it with her magic markers.
I spent my adolescent years embarrassed by the pale pink scar that made its way from my right shoulder down to my lower abdomen. I think I mostly hated what it reminded me of, so when my peers saw me shirtless and asked me about it I lied and told them it had happened because I had fallen out of a tree. I don’t think I had ever actually climbed a tree in my life. This one girl when I was twelve kept asking to touch it. I think her name was Jennifer, it never occurred to me that Jennifer had a crush on me and was looking for an excuse to touch me. In college I considered getting reconstructive surgery, even through the scar was fairly inconsequential, I wasn’t exactly horribly disfigured or anything.
I remember a few months into our relationship I told you about the way I actually got the scar, and how I had always carried a grudge against my dad, who had never really apologized for what happened. You ran your hand gently down my chest and said “I think it looks sexy, Warren; very manly. And if you don’t mind me saying so, your father sounds like a fucking asshole.” I laughed. I had been pretty much thinking the same thing since I was a small child.
Early one Saturday morning I got a phone call from my mother that Dad had died during the night. She was crying, and I attempted to comfort her while startled by how little emotion I felt myself. Does that make me a terrible person? Probably, but while some people find it nearly impossible to control their outbursts of grief, I find it equally difficult to believably fake it. The funeral was exactly what you’d expect it to be. I bought a new suit, I spent an inordinately long time picking it out. I even thought about how many people I knew were likely to die in the next few years and how much use I’d get out of the outfit. I was relieved that my mother decided against the open casket funeral, I was dreading looking upon my father’s cold, dressed-up corpse.
My father had a fairly small turn-out, most of his friends were already dead. After the service me and my mom embraced and she cried in my arms for a few minutes, her shoulders shaking. I started crying then, but it wasn’t for my dad; it was for my mother and what she had lost. She kissed me on the cheek and got my face damp with her tears, she told me my father had loved me, but I knew she was lying. But it was a kind, merciful lie, and I pretended that I believed it.
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