I cannot find my dad. Studies show I should continue looking for him. Studies show I should want to locate him. Do you know where my dad is? Where I should look? I keep thinking, 1974. Why do I keep thinking that? The L-shaped scar across his belly. Stories of handle bars and horse hair stitches. How the skin of his fingers held black in their whorls. I keep seeing my hands embracing his wrist, his palm up, the smell of Borax; the feeling of containment like, everything is safe if you grip it right behind the neck. My dad’s hands are too big to stay lost. They are huge.
The rules of engagement state that if you make multiple phone calls and get a machine and leave messages you have made proper attempts. You have reached out. There is effort on your part. The rules of engagement state that this means the receiving party should understand there is forgiveness. People who have not forgiven do not reach out. They shut down. Wrap their guts in ice, black tape, razor wire. Change phone numbers. Lay spike strips across the roads of their life. Drive themselves into walls. This is plain fact. This is how it is.
The other day at work I had a feeling of talking with my dad, like I had hung up the phone with a balloon bouquet in my chest; glossy blues, reds and yellows. His hand patting my head, my sunlight-warmed hair giving permission; welcoming. The laws of physics made me sit in this feeling had me staying there like it was truth. The laws of physics created a bench seat with lap belts in a car with a temperature hotter than the outside air, so I sat there, grateful at first, happy to be out of the cold. Until I began to sweat. Until I couldn’t breathe. Until I had to get out. My small hands struggling with the lap belt. My hands were so small. So. So. Small. Look at how small they were. See them. Now, understand.
I recognize that people can erase things. How sometimes it is best to fill the noise with silence. Experts say that no matter how many coats of paint you put over something that something is still there, only bigger, now with a rainbow of layers that will just cause it to fester. Experts say that the only way you can truly get rid of something is to peel those layers away, that darkness is not a cure. Check for yourself. There is always a dank smell. Close your eyes. Breathe in. See?
I’ve learned the mind is a powerful thing; both a protector and a liar. It has given me so many versions of my life. So many variations they unfold behind me like a train of branches, a train of vines. This stem is where we just went fishing; my dad helping me with the hooks, the coordination of cast and release, bologna sandwiches with melty bread, and fish that filled up the stringer. This limb is where the boat just rocked and rocked while I watched more sky than water and we came home empty handed, came home empty. A national poll released today showed that there is only one true version. A national poll released today showed fragmenting one’s life into fairy tales is a game for younger girls, and while helpful, cannot be played forever. The tangle must be thinned or it will continue to catch and cause stumbles, stalls.
My mother tells me I should stop looking. That gone is gone and gone is good. I want to ask her if she still hates questions. Forecasters predict that there are questions, so many questions that need to be answered. Forecasters predict my mother will not like these questions; will run from them like before. I will read her a picture book instead. One about a mother bear and her cub. The mother bear so brave against hunters with guns! Against winter hungry wolves with desperate teeth! I will read it with enthusiasm. I will say, “Look at how she stands so tall and fierce on her hind legs! Look at how she fights! Can you believe that?!” I will point to the pictures. I will watch my mother’s face.
To date I have looked all over. I have revisited all the places I remember; the watery bottom of the Zodiac he took me fishing in, the train tunnel—long and dark—he made me walk through, back bedrooms and basements, even the blanket forts where everyone was walking around but couldn’t hear couldn’t see. Researchers agree that I looked the longest and hardest in those blanket forts. Researchers agree that I even fell to my knees in a blackness while searching those blanket forts; the ones that everyone admired because, oh, how precious, look at them! Look at them but do not see. Researchers agree there was a breaking down, a peeling of paint, a flood of noise into the silence. I looked too hard for him, too successfully in the blanket forts and he was completely there so very there that I thought for a moment I had found him; the hulk of his shadow, heavy with whisper, lying in wait.
xTx feels ashamed of things she does in private. To learn about these things visit her at www.notimetosayit.com.