Don’t tell me you’re one of those goths.
I don’t know what it meant to him, but I remember what it meant to me. I was in the height of my teenage angst and experiencing, perhaps for the first time the depths to which my depression could bring me. To cope with my distress I resorted to cutting myself; I was compelled to see the blood well up in the canyons I carved deep in my thighs. I listened to dark, brooding music, and I surrounded myself with people who did and felt the same. And though it may have been for lack of better word or explanation, we identified as goth.
At 14 I still had no relationship with my father and had long since given up expecting one. But maybe in some last ditch effort to find myself in him, or perhaps simply to spite my mother, I picked up the phone and called. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those goths;” my father rejected me once more.
I think it was that visit, where we sat in silence and discussed nothing meaningful, where we shared nothing at all, that I decided the rejection was mutual.
Over the next few years I visited him sporadically at his rundown apartment on the bad side of town.Once I knocked on his door and asked him for percocets. He raised his eyebrows, but invited me in and let his buddies offer me hash. He reprised old stories of snorting cocaine and staring out the windows, paranoid the cops would find him.
I refused to kiss him goodbye. I scoffed when he requested my phone number. I gave it to him anyway, though I was certain he would not call; I was right.
I brought a boyfriend or two to meet him. I referred to these rare introductions as “showing them my dad.” His absence still made me bitter and the sight of his worn face did not soften me.
I joked that I was stopping by to make sure he was still alive. But I said it curtly. I thought that my flippancy and steeliness were a sign of my strength; that my unaffectedness was warranted and just.
But now, two years after his sudden death, I am afraid that I hurt him.
The last time I saw him I flew 5,000 miles across an ocean to tell them to pull the plug. I am no closer to understanding him now than I was the day I signed his body away.
I do not know the last time I told him I loved him.
I do not know if I even did love him.
I do not know where his ashes are.
I have regrets.