7. The moon is awfully quiet when he asks you why you died. He is seating on one of those chairs that can't hold his weight while his hands rest diligently on the door frame. And he is looking at you because he is waiting for an answer, like the one he knows you can't give. You feign ignorance as you wrap your burning hands around the teddy bear on your lap, like the one he gave you when you were ten which you lost when you played with Hannah at Sio.
Where is she now?
You look over at his fragility and the cowardly way his hands shove away the balance of time and emotions. He looks at you looking at him and he arches an eyebrow. He is waiting just as everyone has done all these years, waiting for an answer to a question that just won't make sense.
"Cara." He says again, "why did you give up the life you've always wanted?"
This is the same question he's been asking you since you sat on the creaking swings at the back of the house. You came back. That's what you want to tell all the others who will ask you why you left too early. You will tell them but not him. He is waiting, that's the difference between him and all the others. And the difference will require you to be honest.
"I don't know what to say."
"Why did you leave?" He asks again.
6. The sun is laughing at the man who sits outside of his home, listening to cars pass by. His wife is yelling again and he has forgotten to feed the dogs. He hates dogs. He hates their smells and constant clinging but he doesn't tell her. He says he forgot to feed the dogs. He didn't.
A young girl starts to walk by. At his house, she hesitates. He calls her by her English name and when she climbs up the stairs to meet him, she laughs into the crook of an elbow and says, "How's the weather, Papa?"
He likes her. He has told her before. And because she has a father in Istanbul who has forgotten her name and doesn't call on weekends, she finds it easier to call him papa. He likes the sound of that because he doesn't have a child.
Tell his wife to give him one. Why is she still screaming?
"The sun is peaking through its glasses and wondering why you sound really excited." He says.
She plays with her hair, twisting the ends with her fingertips and sucking at her lower lips. Her sneakers are soaked with water and sand and childish exuberance.
"I got straight A's. I am going to be an astronaut someday."
"That's wonderful, Cara. You've got really big dreams. You are going to be an absolutely incredible astronaut."
"Thank you, papa."
"Now hurry home. Your mom must be worried."
She leaves. His wife steps out of the stuffy house with her hands hidden in the pockets of her apron. And she is still yelling.
5. The wind slows to a stop when you push the teddy bear away from you. He looks past your whitish frame and past the soft curls you've left unattended for years. He recalls faint memories of you laughing in the wind and rain. He remembers you burning a candle, the last time the candle ever stood out properly to you. He loves you, see, so don't lie.
"Why did you go?" He asks again.
He is crying now, water lines charging through the skin of his cheeks. He cleans it up and shakes his head vigorously as if he can change the outcome of three years before.
"I don't know." You say.
You stand up and walk towards the moon. You hear the laughter of people pass before your eyes and it makes you choke. It feels different - the taste of regrets on the tip of your tongue- and weirdly, it intrigues you. Like the way you will have felt if you had married and gotten kids who will call you by your first name.
"I miss you, Cara." He says.
Your eyes are burning.
4. Fireflies lose their focus when they pile high above each other outside your door. You are in the kitchen holding a wet cheek with a birthday cake that is too small to look familiar. Your mother is clapping her hands tiredly, asking you to cry less. Your real father is probably eating Thai food in a fancy restaurant, all the while explaining why blondes are okay when they smile. He says they look like an albino. He doesn't like blondes.
The man from the other street who waves at you when you pass by from school appears at the door. He is smiling. Your mother let him in and he stands by your side like he's always known you.
He asks, "Why are you crying, Cara?"
You tell him your father couldn't come.
He touches your hair. You are blonde, just like him. He kisses the top of your head because you look, partly, like him too. He gives you a present and when you unwrap it, you find a teddy bear and you love it until it stops loving you. You are just ten.
You lose it when you go to the neighbor's house to play with Hannah, the girl you called your best friend for the time they still lived at Sio. They moved away with your teddy bear and you didn't cry more.
3. Purple roses smell better when they are encased in fake smiles. Your mother will agree because, on your thirteenth birthday, roses appeared at the door with a note that read: Happy Birthday to you my dear Caro. I love you. Dad.
Your mother fakes a smile and it smells lovelier. You walk to see papa. He is at his workshop, greases like a jagged line across his face and hands. He can't hug you. You say to him, "My father sent roses and a gift. There was a card, see. He doesn't even remember my name. He called me Caro."
Papa hugs you with all the grease in his arms and when you go home, you are smelling like a pocket full of failure.
You open up his gift. An iPhone and a teddy bear are all you can find. You don't throw it away. You keep it, just as you've kept a ten-year-old hatred for your father.
2. The birds are laughing when you start coughing. The sun is dancing at the paleness of your skin when you step out of your house. You squeeze your hands into the back pocket of your jean. You pull out a crumpled note, brown from abandonment. Below the dancing sun and laughing birds, you read the words again; you read your thirteenth birthday card again because you are twenty now and you don't have a second card. You don't think he knows you exist anymore.
Your eyes are darting restlessly and you can't walk more than a mile before the exhaustion kicks in. You are sick, that's what the doctors say. Your mother has stopped praying. She drinks often now and cries over burnt pancakes. Papa is the only one who can calm her and when she rests her head against his shoulders, you ache to know why she feels comfortable around him. You ache to ask them why you look so much like him and not like the picture of your father you found at the bottom of your mother's drawer.
You are sick. You will die. A cut in your hand speeds it up. Above the clouds, in the space between heaven and hell, you hear a doctor say the cut was self-inflicted. Your mother keeps asking papa why you would kill yourself. Papa cries. Above the clouds, you know papa is the reason your father left. He found out you weren't really his child. Now he hates blondes. And albino.
1. "Why did you leave?"
He is older than you remember and his wrinkled face makes you want to cry. You do not know what to tell him, because you haven't been able to convince yourself that you did the right thing. You were going to die. It is only fair you saved everyone the stress of watching you dutifully fade away by cutting yourself.
"Why did you give up your dreams? You were going to be an astronaut."
"How do you become an astronaut with death hanging before your eyes?" You tell him.
Your hands have burnt out. The teddy bear is on the floor too, part of it burnt out, hot smoke pulling away. It's your leg that is taking the next move. You just have a few minutes, nothing more. You will have to go again. And this time around, you can't come back.
"We all loved you. Why did you do it?"
You don't know why. Your legs have burnt out and he is still waiting for an answer. There are tears in his eyes like a force that pulls out all the itching memories.
"I couldn't stay. Not with mother who said my father had abandoned me. Not with you who made me feel special but who was lying about my existence."
"Looking at you makes it harder." He whispers.
"You look a little tired." You say.
You are floating away.
"Stay a little while." You hear him saying.
But there is no time in the place where you are going. There is no answer that will open the stars.