My daughter is dead.
My wife is too.
My death doesn't matter to me
anymore; just the lost spirit that I had obtained a while-back.
"Father, do you think
that the operation would do well?" Emily says, her right foot still numbs
from the last surgery.
"Dearest, you will do
fine" I had reassured her. I pat her head, to assure her everything will
She had lost all given hope;
death was eating away at her, bit-by-bit-hour-by-hour all awhile making her run
the operation with a wounded heart. She was running out of time. Time, in an
effort to keep her bound to her fate, was relentlessly cruel. Mercy! I plead
the God above! Let my daughter live! She was fragile as though she was one of
those boxes that were labeled, " WARNING! BOX MIGHT BREAK DURING
TRAVEL" and-at any mere second- her heart would tear into tiny-pieces all
broken and twisted in different directions. And, though I had said those
reassuring-but fake- words to her, she believed them. She was so strong in her
faith in ME. Me, who was a terrible father. Me, who was-and probably still-
weakened and hopeless.
A balloon shot by a tack. A
HOPELESS and sunken: but the sun was still shining today.
The months past like that.
Me, who was getting more
anxious very day seeing her body getting frailer every-day. And, her who
remained the same: happy, thankful, and of course; a little girl.
" Daddy, thanks for
visiting me today." She gives me a slight smile, as she rests, on the
" Of course, anything
Those were the last words I
had said to her.
The following day-while I was
on my way to making a visit to her hospital room in the emergency center- I
received a call:
" Hello. Good evening
Mr.Ivanov. This is Ms.Debrah from the Methodist Medical Center in Orange
County. I would like to inform.....You......Th-that your daughter, Emily-age
eleven- has been sent to room 356 for an open-cardiac surgery with Doctor
Mendele and has been repeatedly labeled as having heart failure" She knows
its her job to reassure me: but listening to her rant about the procedure was utterly
heartbreaking. But, even so she continued, " She was transferred to the
nearest medical wing possible, but.... Time......Was......Not enough. I'm
terribly sorry for your loss. Have a good night." After a pause, she ends
with a "thank you-buh-bye.
That night was definitely no
such of a good night.
Such of good nights; they
consisted of home-cooked beef-and-pepper stew with a side dish of white rice
and laughter. There were those nights that I wish I had never regretted......
All those after-school PTA
meetings I failed to attend, those "daddy how was work today" days.
Days that I'd trade the world for to get back.
I'd never get to see her
glowing smile, her countenance always positive, always enduring the blows and
the I'm-going-to-ignore-you-days. Like a dove she was kindness itself. She
mirrored all that I ever saw in my wife, Annika. For Annika, like a
broken-hearted dove herself, died shortly after our divorce, five years ago.
" Rei. Rei! Please
listen to me! May it be my last dying ailment that you care for Emily. I know
what between us didn't work out, but...Please. Do this for her. This may be the
last thing I ever have to say to you." Her pleas sounded more like she was
drowning; for every time she went up for air- she was drowning ever more slowly-
she was pleading me for me to:
"Listen!" She was
yelling now. " Please. If its the last thing you do." And, she passed
slowly from this realm.
The time passed in slow
motion ever since.
" I can't do this
anymore. I don't think I can keep going on like this." The sound of my own
voice surprised me. It was a raspy tone, tinged with age, and bottled up for
the sake of pride.
It was December the fifth,
Emily would have turned
fourteen today. Fourteen. This would have been the time in which she would’ve
begun high school. The years in which she would have spent the majority of her life
hanging with friends, maybe partying. She would’ve asked a boy out and would’ve
gone to prom. She would have colored her hair, put on a bit of makeup to
impress her friends. Friends whom would betray her and turn her heart awry. But
you see! Ever since she had passed, I no longer had to worry about her growing up.
Alas, there would be no such thing as growing-UP. She was anticipated to live till
the day I die. She was supposedly to see me rot-in-the-Earth and see ME eaten by
maggots the day that she sees ME die. No! It was reversed: now, all I could see
when I picture her: laying in her coffin- buried next to my wife- lips pale and
veins blue. She’s the ONE I see aghast from death-and- in the next ten years, I’ll
be the one seeing her being eaten by maggots.
And, because it aches me to think-that through it all- I was the cause to her ultimate death, pains me. There would no longer be those days she’ll ask me how work was; no more days in which I’d pain her.
I’m hopeless. Why can’t I do anything right?
I was the ONE who, as he-after he- has gone and did the unthinkable has to later regret. Not Emily. Not Annika. Not father.
So, as those eerie, melancholy days turn into weeks, months and-then-years, I decide to make a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Good news, it’s not more than five hours from Orange County. Bad news, traffic is bad today.
“COME AND SEE ME NOW, WORLD!” I shout to the vast space ahead of me.
And, at the top of the world, I pass along with it; as I let the wind carry me….
Where am I? I stare out at the dark-midnight-sky. The big dipper shines bright tonight, its constellations connecting. Cassiopeia and Orion shape the sky, they lit-up in gleaming white-light. Specs of light scatter around these constellations, like a child has splattered white paint on a canvas of indigo. The canvas? It was dull today, the pale indigo sky fading into the porcelain-blue and mixing with even-darker-blue. It was a pretty sight, but it wasn’t the type of sky I’d imagine seeing on the day I wake up in purgatory.
I know that I’m in purgatory.
Probably for a couple of reasons: 1) I definitely wasn’t surrounded by angels with harps playing glorious melodies and 2) I was definitely not on fire, being taken away by Satan himself, either. So, in an effort to figure out where I was-at the moment- I decided to look around. What surrounded me: dead bodies and a local church.
The wind blew violently around me, sending a chill up my spine. My spine? Did I even have such a body part at this moment? I’m. Not so sure.
“Do you hear me? Get up.” A voice commanded me from behind. I get up.
“Where am I?” I ask the voice. It seemed so far but yet, so close.
“You are in purgatory.” The voice responds flatly.
I guess I was right.
The voice, he continues, seeming bored-like he’s been doing this ALL his life, “You are dead, as you can tell. And, because you are dead-but in purgatory- you must serve three years as a crypt keeper of this graveyard.”
“But who are you?”
“I am only what you think you want me to be. I am only a spirit, your inner monologue. A voice commanding you-and maybe, once you think about it, telling you- what you need to do.” The voice then, fades and, then it’s just me.
Me, whom is now the crypt-keeper of this graveyard.
If I could only just have lent my ears to another, to have that churn in my stomach just burn aflame; amidst in the living dead. I, after all, was among them. But, the night was calm.
“Those who believe in the living to sustain the dead are fools.” I uttered under my breath. My thirst quenched as I said these words. How strange! The feeling of being dead but the memory of being alive! Alive was said in past-tense the cripple of words just failed under my cold tongue. No longer a red-apple color with a tinge of pale pink. But, a purple-dead color tinged with cold and beginning to fall off. I was on the verge of being one of those Frankenstein-corpses.
It was like the battle between heaven and Earth were trying to decide whether to keep me alive or dead.
“Should we keep this man alive?” The Gods asked one another. They were part of the court decision that helped determine the life lived and the death made for humans.
They were kind-of like mini Hades disciples.
“WE think that the man should be kept dead.” The majority of them proclaimed.
And, that was just the start of it all.
Those days were rough. Back slouched and foot sprains from all those tiresome times that I’d have to lift-dig-bury-lift-dig-bury over and over again. Like a recorded radio saying the same piece of news on last Saturday’s weather-report: but imagine that being on repeat for three years. Three years in which I was taken from graveyard to graveyard because of THAT little-inner monologue- voice at the back of my brain that said,” You must keep to your promise.” But, what promise, exactly? What did I promise in which I had to do such a time-consuming and also, tiring job, on hours on end?
I soon found out, soon enough.
But, that’s not important, though.
You deserved this. You deserved all this fucking mess. You are just lonely.
That last thought hit me directly at the heart. My eyes bulged at the thought of that thought. Loneliness. What was this such feeling? After all-growing up- I have never been the type to be aroused by such a feeling. It simply didn’t matter to me anymore. The hatred that people clashed towards my soul. A soul that could never be anything more than: dead.
That night, as I was digging up the grave of a former mayor-from town- a little girl came up to the graveyard, with a couple of friends. These friends of hers were small and agile, all running across the graveyard in such speed; like rabbits-themselves.
But they were not lonely, that’s for sure.
And, that’s what made me boil in rage.
As this rage continued, licks of flame sprout from my head. My head was on fire, and I didn’t.
I suddenly remember Emily: she was always bullied at school by these girls. These girls whom where more popular and did the best at their spelling quizzes.
“Daddy, I wish I was just like them!” I remember her telling me.
Because poor Emily, my sweet daughter, was slow and anemic. She was ghostly pale, while these girls were glowing and had color on their cheeks. She was tired and slow, while these middle-schoolers were fast and hyper.
“They were kind to me today, dad! This morning, one of them handed me her eraser during class when I asked if I could borrow it. And! They said I could keep it. How amazing, right? I guess my life is not as bad as it seems!” When she had said this to me after school, I remember the girls snickering in the background.
I couldn’t stand the fact. The truth. The unbelief that these girls had on my daughter.
And, bit-by-bit, my rage turned to poison.
They were leaves drained from color, falling down an oak tree.
One. By. One. One by one like the rage that fell down my heart.
“So, YOU SHALL all go away!” I poured my rage on them.
And the council still failed to decide.
So, that night, as all the crypt-keepers ‘round town all seemed to bite their lips-to the point their parched lips bled- they all realized that the moment that they expressed any sort of rage or hatred, they were put-like a child on probation- in their place. Strayed from all mankind’s kindness, they were rest assure that they were in purgatory for a damn reason.
And that damn reason: karma.
I was hanged that evening. Above all nature’s provisions, mother nature’s hate.
“Down with him! Down! Down!” I was taken with the rest of the prisoners.
They had decided, after all.
The story of the crypt keeper once fascinated me. I looked across the edge of the rail, and started to wonder: was I worth anything? Worth to all those terrible enough to ever hang my bloody neck down the rope o’ despair. She was dead. They were dead.
And I was, too.
People say that weakness is a feeling not a thought. But, here’s my take on it: There are some people who-being hateful humans- won’t say either a) Nothing, b) that weakness defines you or c) encourage you to stop being weak.
The night that the council finally had stopped to think that they were being “too cruel” and “hateful” they just slowly killed me through death’s power. Slowly, slowly, I was bait to the devil. The devil shorn my hair, ripped my clothes, stabbed my heart. Dramatic as it seems, it was no parade. It was a dance of death.
The following days started with that thought. And the only thing that seemed to keep me going was the fact that someday, someday. Someday: but then, nothing.
“ Mister Rei Ivanov, do you pledge that, with all that you hated and innocents you killed….That, you promise to the council that you would take on the role as the seventh crypt-keeper for another ten years?” A plump old nun-from the council- rather rubbed this statement in my face.
I had no choice, either way. So, why would they ask?
And, if this was the end, I might as well end this story on a light-hearted note:
Weakness is not a virtue it is a feeling. We feel weak only because of our surroundings not our situation. At age five I felt I was weak because of a little girl’s snares. But I never once crossed the thought until she snared. Truth is not inevitable. How do you know it’s the truth? Bronte probably never knew what it felt to be alive. Only how it felt to be weak. Living is not proof you existed, it is proof you were human. A human only responds to its surrounds and advances on the challenges but never feels weak nor alive until others show it. I’m still learning to process the meaning of being weak but for sure I know it’s not being alive. I hope the wind takes me to the truth.
Sitting at the edge can mean a lot of things. You could be sitting on the edge of a bench, cliff or fuck even water. You can’t tell though. Of course unless someone calls out to you saying, “why you sitting on the edge? Move closer to the TOP”. “To be on top does not necessarily mean you are balanced” you respond in that cliche writers block attitude. The person you are having a conversation with either will say a) what? b) huh? or even c) nothing, never mind, or ok... after all, ok, never mind and nothing all come to the conclusion of changing the subject of topic. Most people would choose a balanced option of either of the three because like my mother says, “everyone thinks alike in some way. We aren’t god: we can’t think our own thoughts.” Well, if you can’t think your own thoughts, then why do we as psychologically speaking,” think” them before we speak? Well I guess that’s the whole fucking point: you can’t think your thoughts some majestic God is sticking them in your compact brain. A brain after all is only in eighty or more (depending on your diet and health wise speaking your exercise) years gonna be decomposed by maggots in earth- yeah literally the earth’s- dirt. Or maybe I’m just thinking way overboard. “You overthink way too much bee” my English teacher says and ticks off a C- on my essay paper. “If only that smart brain of yours could be used to analyze the importance of being precise on your STAAR tests you have the potential to make an A on this assignment after all.” Well I guess that’s the whole point of my reasoning. I often get way to caught up in my own thoughts on paper in writing to the point where my mind drifts to places and gets off topic. Where to the point where the whole prompt has flew out of my limp brain.
And, in the effort to save all that I knew, did, and want: I cry out:
“ In the name of the Gods, and the council, I the seventh crypt-keeper, pledge that though I had been detained from my position from the living, that someday, I’d see Emily. Emily, my dearest daughter, whom never knew anything all her life except the blows and the beatings. The beatings that hit her fragile heart hard. I’m a terrible, terrible liar. Because, truth be told, I wanted her dead. A long, long time ago. I wished that she was dead. Dead. Like how I am now. But, if it be my last dying wish, I hope to tell you that: I’m the real unreliable narrator, the cruelest of them all. I want to look at the corpse I am and say….” And then, I’m sent to a place, far away.
Not in purgatory.
Nor in hell.