Father, I married a man who requests I call him Daddy in bed, but you are my only Daddy.
When I told Sister of Andrew’s request, she reminded me of how much you hated Andrew, and how hurt you might be if I complied. As if I needed another reminder. Andrew’s brother stepped in to walk me down the aisle and every photo of you I hang up Andrew takes down.
If I were to call Andrew Daddy, I would picture you, Father, in bed. In this vision, which I shared with Sister, I would also see our Mother in her long flannel nightgown, reading Psychology Now as you attempt to seduce her with gifts of snakes, pomegranates, and sunflower seeds. Mother only calls to complain of hot flashes and your Viagra pills. Our Mother says the last time you properly made love was the day you conceived Sister, nearly thirty-five years ago.
Aphrodisiacs can loosen you up, Sister and I have told Mother before, but Mother swears she is allergic to shellfish and chocolate both. Though she finishes a bottle of red wine alone on the side porch at night.
Sister called to tell me that you are dying, that you fell last night while shoveling snow so that our Mother could get to her job at the clinic. She’d told you that most people who have suicidal ideation suffer from stronger visions during storms.
I told no one about the state of your health, not the cat, not Andrew, and sat instead in the kitchen drinking coffee spiked with vodka, watching Jeopardy on the little TV which Andrew insists we keep near the stove so that he can watch while I cook for him.
He is not a winner, you said on the day I walked down a thorny aisle in the forest to the sound of a makeshift wedding band playing death metal, Andrew’s favorite. You’re full of aggression in your late twenties, you said, and you’re making a mistake.
Will I ever consider calling Andrew Daddy just to get some Father back in the world, because it’s feeling quite small without you in it, even though technically you still have your breath and are thirty miles away in a hospital that smells of blood and mac and cheese. But Sister claims you are dwindling by the minute and to get in the car now.
But when I try to get myself to the car I remember the way you took a pair of scissors to the black dress I’d chosen for my wedding day, cut it where it hung plastic wrapped in my girlhood closet. And the way you spit black? as though my choice were foreshadowing the eventual death of my potential to orgasm or to make money or art.
Father, the car won’t start. My husband is in bed pulling his shorts off, his shirt off—he loves to sleep naked in winter. If I go inside he will beg me again to call him by your name. And so I stay in the car but when I turn the key in the ignition my hand freezes, and I can’t go forward and I can’t go back.
The front door, from this angle, where I sit with my head on the wheel in the car across the street, looks like a cool blue pond of water. Father, can you see it out of your own dark window? Will you take the plunge before morning?
Mother plays harmonica when she cries. But today Sister says the wind carries the sound of one wooden spoon beating a metal pot.