A Letter To My Father,
I want to begin with an apology: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not realising that you were just a child who thought that you would find the answers you searched for. I’m particularly sorry I never was able to find out your questions. I’m sorry that once, when you rebuked me by the airing cupboard, I asked why you wouldn’t just chastise. I’m sorry that I misconstrued your hesitation. I’m sorry that I thought I had won. I’m sorry that I wondered why my dad didn’t hit me, because I was different from the other boys. I’m sorry that your father had fifteen epileptic fits a day, and when he was lucid he spent his pent up aggression upon the penny arcades of your mothers’ face, your sisters’ head, your troubled soul. I’m sorry that you were taught how to be a man by the army, and subsequently passed that knowledge on to a son who was unable but willing, and another who’s freedom was more important than order. I’m sorry I didn’t know your name until I was maybe ten…
I was loading your fridge into a new house, when we got the call. We ran to the car whilst my brother apologised over his shoulder to the friend of his who helped us to carry your white appliance. His friend nodded, lit a cigarette, and headed on the miles-long journey home, alone. He knew you well.
My mother brought the engine to life like magic, her wrist flickered in tandem with your eyelids. Her legs kicked out, like yours, as a baby testing space. Her hands gripped, again like yours, as a child grasps for comfort. Before, she had promised you inside of her, and in return she would give you life. But there is no time for life on this day.
I’m sorry that when I watched you leave us I screamed. I was vaguely aware of the nurse saying to be quiet; that it is someone’s hearing that is the last sense to leave. I’m sorry I filled your last moments with emphatic, frantic blather; and a scrabbling sound as I put a CD into the player: Echoes by Pink Floyd.
Skip! Skip! Skip! Quick! No! No! Please don’t die yet! No! No! Please! No! Please, no! Skip! Please don’t die yet! Please! Please don’t die yet! Please don’t die!
I remember you fitting, and now I think of how you must have remembered your father. I remember you ceasing to shudder, like a new-born wreathed within the love of a mother. Your choking ceased, making way for such a gentle exhalation. I don’t know why, but I didn’t open a window; and now I wonder how long your soul swam within that room. I’m glad it did because your mother arrived, wheelchair-bound and late, to find you gone. Later, she would claim to still see you.
And before the curtain was drawn, I remember your eyes were blank, half open; like when I was a child on a Saturday morning using my thumbs to pry open your sleeping eyelids, enquiring if it was time to play.
James Oliver Firkins is currently studying Illustration and Creative Writing Joint Honours at the University of Worcester.