It was then that it dawned on me.
I’m a lollipop. One of those big rainbow ones we all dreamed of as kids. Bright and colorful and twisted in circles against my own will. I'm sweet - but squeeze too much out of me, demand too much, and we will both suffer silently from high blood pressure. My strength is seemingly like a rock - but let me down and drop me and you will see my almighty crash, hear every part of me visibly shatter, the colorful shards of my sweet innocence left there unnoticed, sharp, pokey, lonely, filling every corner of the room.
So what is it that you would like me to tell you, Dad? What? That everything is OK?
No.I thought not.
You ask me these questions out of protocol, to alleviate your guilt.
* * *
It was a fine summer's day, all was clear and bright, except for your mood of course.
“Why did you kill her?” you screamed at me wildly, your unkempt hair poking out at odd directions, eyes bulging, the lines on your forehead distorting the features that once rested calmly on your face .
“ I don't know what you're talking about. ” I whispered. Truthfully.
* * *
I was turning eleven today, a big girl.
“You killed her” you whispered in my ear, softly, as though being subtle.
No amount of birthday cake could ever overpower that taste of shame.
* * *
“Daddy, can I join the afternoon dance club?” the words left in one quick sentence as I studied the floor.
“I don't know, do they usually accept murderers?” you replied with a sneer.
* * *
“Daddy I did it!” I screamed, feeling the waves of euphoria crashing powerfully through my system. I had won the swimming competition. The blurs of my classmates cheering, the exhilaration and the victory were dancing wildly in my mind.
“You did it” you repeated in a flat tone. A flat tone interlaced with malice.
I felt it all drop, all drop down.
But as quickly as these feelings left me, I felt a fierce bubbling anger rush through my veins, squeezing through my arteries, ricocheting around my skull.
“What is it that I did?” I shrieked with a sudden urgency.
“Why do you keep saying I killed her?”, “what did I ever do?” you looked like you were hit by a club, surprised I was even capable of raising my delicate and fearful voice.
But then something interesting happened, you went off to drag a chair, placed it in front of me and sat down, head buried in your hands. ”she was…” you stared into your hands, “beautiful” you concluded after a long pause, your face emerging from your hands, studying my expressions. I could see you now going back down the knotted and messy lane of memories, as if being pulled there slowly by a string.
“She was soft and sweet and kind” you said “but was made with a depth even the ocean would fail to fathom.” I sat there helpless, as I watched the memories sneak out your eyes and roll gently down your cheek, making the person I always viewed as a predator look all soft and broken.
“She had you at 40” you added as an afterthought “quite old some would have the audacity to say, lived a full life others would add, yeah right, they can sod off, them idiots”. You looked up at me “you were all of three, when you did it”. The air became constricted in my throat, I tried to relax my nerves, now all jingling with tension, he's lying , he's lying, I repeated to myself desperately. “How did it happen?” I heard myself asking, not wanting to hear an answer, praying you were too absorbed in whatever you were thinking to hear me.
“Was out for work I was, just like always innit” you started “she texted me, saying supper’s ready and it’s stuffed peppers mediteranian style, my favorite o course. So I was on my way home and I meet this ol friend of mine, and we start to engage in some banter, some chit chat like we used to over some booze in the good ol days' ' . I wondered why you were sharing all these extra details , especially when you usually stick to the strictly necessary when talking to me, like you knew I was a guaranteed waste of time. Was it an attempt to come across as more sincere? Understandable? Or maybe you were just trying to avoid the bane of the conversation- my mothers death. you seemed to have noticed my confusion which you probably perceived as impatience, so you stood up, sat down again and got straight to the point.
“So I came home hungry and exhausted , sure that all I needed right then was to scarf some stuffed pepper and call it a night”. Your pitch rose with every word, inadvertently stressing how ridiculous this sounded, even to yourself.
“And I go to the kitchen,” you pause. “go to the kitchen, and she's lying there on the floor, all blue in the face, abandoned, like a damned black rose deprived of all its sap.”
“And I see my careless daughter, sitting by her head, playing with her goddamned hair, poking at her eyes like she's a freaking rag doll” you said your voice rising with anger as your eyes of steel penetrate mine. “A three year old is capable of calling an ambulance! Screaming out the window for help. Anything other than just sit there and watch her mother suffocate.”
“But what made it happen though?” I asked the floor, scared.
“When will you learn to shut your trap, Dahlia? You're just rocking the boat with all your questions, always causing unnecessary chaos.”
“I’m not rocking the boat” I wailed helplessly “It's called communication Dad, why cant I ask you a question? Other people do it all the time. You do it all the time.Other people don't live in constant fear of people's reactions , your reactions.”
“Shut up” it came out as a slippery whisper- a warning.
“It's not my fault” I said again.
“SHUT UP I SAID”
I saw, as though from another body, your fist swinging out powerfully and landing at the center of my face. Then the pain hit me. A warm wet feeling overpowered my face accompanied with the bitter taste of copper in my mouth, a sharp stinging pain right between my eyes slowly blurring my vision, a siren ringing relentlessly in my ears. I braved one last look at your cold eyes, realizing that looking for love in them was like searching for heat in Antarctica, like childishly expecting a lion to burst into song and come up to give me a hug. Ridiculous.
* * *
So now that I am older, you can't really blame me for not trusting you, for realizing that a heart so full of anger has no room for love. But I still call you every wednesday, on my squishy couch with a cup of tea. And you always ask me with a voice that could pass as sincere “is everything OK?” And that's when I see the lollipop of my childhood, the one you so viciously smashed.
But yes. Everything is OK.