Out of Orbit/Paradise
I hate the day you were born. Because Dad’s absence crushes me, too. I haven’t forgotten his voice. Low, and warm like a dram of scotch whiskey, neat. When I was a kid, I would listen to his stories and lessons for hours and hours, and I’d never grow bored or distracted. One of my favorite things to do was ride beside him down country roads with the oldies station playing, listening to him talk about the sociological and political issues that inspired and provoked his favorite folk song heroes. Dad always sounded like the smartest man in the entire universe. I was proud because out of all the dads in existence, he was mine. And then he wasn’t.
I wish I didn’t want him back. Or you, little sister. It hurts too much to want. And it’s too damn hard to figure out which hurts me more, missing the dead, or missing the living.
What I do know is that I don’t like going to the motor speedway half expecting to see our dad in the stands, or to the lake, half hoping to find him at the cabin. I don’t want to miss the man who could no longer stand beside his wife, and who could no longer stand the sight of his living daughter. But I do miss him, despite this distinct hollow he created in me. It would be better for me if he were dead, I think. If he were dead, I might be able to accept his nothingness. I haven’t seen Dad since the day I turned eighteen—five fucking years—and I wish Grandma Carey had never told me where I can find him. That I know where that man lives now only nurtures my pain.
Maybe you’ve caught me a time or twelve between the rows of red maple trees, driving up his blacktop lane. If you have, then you know I always lose my nerve midway, and I back straight out, wondering if anyone outside or in had even noticed I was there. I wish I could just admit to myself that he’s no longer my dad, forget the bastard. Unsee his new life with his new wife, and their perfect fucking stone gable house; one just like our mother had always wanted. I’ve several times considered burning the place down.
Christ. What right do I even have to feel abandoned by him? I failed him first when I failed to save you, his heart. You’d been Mom’s heart, too. She and Dad, they were both satellites revolving around the seemingly infinite and magnificent you. After you died, Dad started yelling again, and the affairs became more frequent. He and Mom couldn’t stay together, which further proved that nobody was anything valuable without you. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to the envy I sometimes felt, even for a little while after you were gone. When I think about all the time I had wasted on feeling jealous of you, I could vomit. But envy or no, you were also my heart. You were my best friend. My sun. When you died, I fell out of orbit, too.
I remember how strange and lonely the nights had become after you were gone. Sometimes I would leave my bed and climb up into your bunk. It didn’t matter though, where I lay, because I always just lay and stare into blankness. At least in the summer months I had the crickets to listen to; autumn and winter brought nothing at all to soothe me. A lot of the time, for the first year or so, I’d go to bed under the watch of the black naught and see the dawning of day without ever having slept. Not that it mattered to me. There was no fucking difference between day and night. Neither ever brought you back.
I’d told Grandma Spencer once that the only thing keeping me together was the thought of your beautiful soul floating around Heaven, and eating ice cream sundaes. I said it, one, because it was the truth, and two, because I knew it would piss her off.
She said, “You know better than that, Magpie. We don’t have eternal souls. When you’re dead, you’re dead. You’re nothing, like you never existed. Wren is not in Heaven. Only 144,000 will go to Heaven after Armageddon, and Wren won’t be one of them. She won’t be resurrected and live on the Paradise on Earth, either. That’s your mother’s fault for not coming back to the Kingdom Hall and raising you girls in the Truth. Only people who live in The Truth will be resurrected. There’s still time for you, though, if you want to. You’ve got me and your grandpa to support you. We love you. And we loved Wren. It breaks our hearts that Wren is dead. Forever.”
“If Renny is nothing, I’d rather be nothing, too. I couldn’t live in a paradise knowing my sister is fucking nothing. How can you dare claim to have ever loved that little girl?” That’s what I said. And that’s what I stand by. Jehovah has never really appealed to me, and I don’t want what he is offering. Especially if it means the people I have loved in this life with every breath in my lungs are just soulless rotting masses of bone and flesh who never meant a good goddamn.
© 2019 Kindra M. Austin
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Kindra M. Austin continues a tale in which the living and the dead can both be lost.
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