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Drama

"Didn't you hear what I just said?" I heard but was not listening. A normal daughter would have cringed in shock but I was no normal daughter. So when my father said he was going into cryogenic storage for one hundred years it just bounced right off me barely leaving a mark.  


"Are you paying attention, Tatum?" 


"I'm paying attention, father,” I lied, sitting in the living room of my childhood, staring at the furniture trying to rekindle memories of my mother. Memories her stole from me.


“So you heard me when I said once I go into cryogenic stasis, it’s irreversible. It doesn’t matter if you’re my family, they won’t reopen it. It’s final. Like a dying wish.” 


I knew it was yet another ploy like all the other ones he had to gain my sympathy. I had to admit it was bold, but I wasn’t going to be fooled like he fooled mother all those years.


“What did you expect from me?” I simply said. “Tears?" 


I could see him working through it like a math problem in his mind. His eyes showed disappointment at the answer.


"No, no," he said. "I guess you wouldn't." 


"Are we done here?" 


He let the silence hang there forever. I guess hoping I would change my mind. 


"We're done,” he said.


With that, I got up and left.  


...


“Why are you so mean to him, Tatum?" Amy, who could love Hitler if she tried, said this while lounging in my lap.


"Have you read Paul Bloome's Against Empathy?" 


Her magical bright brown eyes looked up at me wistfully. "You know I'm more of a Romance book type." 


I brushed her hair both admiringly and pitifully. 


"I know," I smiled. "But in it, Bloome states that empathy is a silly emotion that we cast to arbitrary beneficiaries. What good does it do, giving my love to a bigot and womanizer like him?" 


"He was uncomfortable with our relationship at first like the rest of the world, but in the end, he said he loved you and would support you, didn’t he?" 


"Took him long enough."


“It was a week.”


“Besides, he's not going through with this cryogenic stasis mess." 


"What makes you think that?" 


I could feel the crease between my eyes naturally wrinkle as I thought about the memories. Certainly, they were faint. Almost dreams. But I saw them. Women -- every shade of hair -- finding their way into his bedroom and me -- a little girl peeping in to see them. Even then understanding the betrayal. I vaguely remember my father smiling in a way he hadn't before. 


In my dreams, the smile felt even more duplicitous because it was supposed to belong to my mother. 


She was dead now. He never told her about the other women.


Back in the present, I told my innocent Amy why he would not go through with it, "Because he's a coward."  


But Amy's warm heart would not abide, "That coward is your father, Tatum."


I don’t know whether I envied or hated her for it. She was always fighting. Always fighting for love. For a calm and clear mind. It was why I loved her after all. Why I needed her.


“He’s going to go into cryogenic stasis and wake up to a new world. A foreign world. Once that hatch is closed, you can’t reopen it, Tatum. Are you sure you want to risk that?” 


I thought long and hard about it.


...


The house was empty when I arrived. It felt like a ghost town as I slinked in through the door. In truth, I hadn't been since my mother died. I never saw the use. it's ironic, though her she was the one dead, it's his ghost that haunted the halls. 


Indeed, I saw her death as freedom. Freedom from a rotten scoundrel who didn’t appreciate her. Still, she died before I ever got a chance to know her -- I imagine it was his lack of love that killed her, but I never proved it.


All this was running through my mind as I wandered into my childhood home, but something was different today. My father had left out some chest. As I approached it, my hair stood on end. There was something eerie and foreboding about it. I saw a bunch of old wings and costumes protruding from its open mouth. What was I looking at? 


I dug a little deeper and my eyes opened. It was a Brown thick book with a leather cover -- I began to tremble while holding it in my hands. I remembered it well. How she would sit next to the nightstand scribbling in it in the dark. in her own world. It was my mother's diary. 


Holding it in my hands was like knowing a thing existed out of reach across the universe. knowing it was impossible to hold -- yet now holding it. My heart was both anxious and upset. Anxious about whether I should -- from the grave -- invade my mother's privacy. At the same time, I was containing my rage at knowing my father had hidden this from me. He already laid his claim to several women but in death he had to keep this secret from me. 


Just then I realized: why could my mother love such a man. I realized i held that answer in the palm of my hands and would learn once and for all. A disparaging look, resembling Amy's, did glance down from the heavens, but I figured it was God and not mother and proceeded to open the diary. 


What I read was not what I thought. I read about a wonderful man whose love shone brightly and would never fade. This was not the father I knew. But then finally I got to that part. She talked of how the marriage took a turn for the worst around 1981. That's when I was 5. That's when -- I estimated -- the women started to show up. It was weird reading about my parents' sex life. How it had faded into oblivion and lost its fervor but much to my shame I powered through. I was aghast at what I found out. 


I found out who all those women were that I saw having sex with my dad. As her journal explained, "When the fire leaves the relationship, you have to get a little creative." The wigs in the chest. The costumes. As a four-year-old girl, I couldn't have known. But all those women in my father’s bedroom... were all my mother. 


I felt so foolish. The man I imagined who cheated on my mother and would lie about going into cryogenic stasis for mere sympathy was merely a fiction. The man I read about in her diary was one who fought for his family. Who cared deeply about us and would be distraught to continue living in a world where his daughter didn’t love him, 


I dropped the diary and made a dash to my car and raced to the cryogenic center.  


I hated myself as I whisked down the street oblivious to road signs. If a cop was in the area, he was going to have to arrest me. I parked so sloppily in the front of the center, I may have parked in a handicapped spot. I was rude to the person at the desk demanding to know where my father was. She didn't tell me but I barged my way in following the signs. 


"You can't go there ma'am" a sea of followers told me. The entire hospital may have been chasing me. but I had no choice. Cryo is like dying with dignity. once he goes down, it cannot be reversed. I needed to catch his attention before he went down. 


But it was too late. The process had already begun and was irreversible.


As I barged in the ice was flowing up his body. His eyes were just starting to turn lifeless as tears flowed mercilessly down my eyes and I futility tried to interrupt the process, banging on the glass. But it was useless and he went into stasis, not to be unfrozen for another one hundred years.


The last memory of him is seeing those barely lifeless eyes as he went under. I could not quite tell if there was any recognition on his part. And that’s the worst thing about it. That I do not know if he felt me pounding at his chamber. That I will never know if he saw my moving lips. And will never know if he heard my pleading voice as for the first and last time I told him, "I love you, father."


October 10, 2020 01:11

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2 comments

Vj Hamilton
00:41 Oct 15, 2020

Hi Courtney, VJ here from the Critique Circle. I like how you began with conflict and just kept ramping it up. What a discovery in the trunk - and what a revelation! You drew to a cliffhanger ending. Well done!

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Joe Nyirenda
16:16 Oct 10, 2020

Beautiful read

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