|Repose Remembers (reposeremembers) wrote in repose,|
@ 2020-04-11 22:39:00
|Entry tags:||harlow james, kit vaughn, ~plot: memories|
Will characters be viewing the memory or experiencing it?: Experiencing
Warning, this memory contains: Death, bullying, drugs
You’re not mad at him for dying, exactly.
And not just because he’s impossible to be mad at? Like, really impossible. You’ve tried. For years. You tried when he grounded you for failing a math test and lying about it, when he changed the Wi-Fi password for a week after the first time you were late coming home for curfew. You tried but it was really fucking hard when you knew that he was only doing those things so that your mom didn’t always have to play Bad Cop. You tried to be mad at him when he got sick, when he started falling asleep on the couch and the dark circles under his eyes like inkblot bruises bloomed wider and his skin started to look like crepe paper where it thinned around his mouth. But then you just felt like an asshole, because you were trying so hard to be mad at the guy with cancer.
He’s the kind of dad who doesn’t kill spiders. Whenever you spot a fat, fuzzy body and too many legs and scream for him to come kill it, he shows up with an empty cup and a playing card and a lecture about how many disease-laden mosquitoes that they eat per calendar year, thereby saving you from malaria or West Nile or some equally horrific death. It’s kinda really fucking annoying, actually. But he’s your quiet, sweet dad, and you pretty quickly figure out that your mom has no qualms whatsoever about smearing spider guts all over the ceiling with the bottom of a flip-flop. So it works.
Your dad is the one that you go to when you’re sick of the Facebook messages calling you a slut, telling you to kill yourself. It’s been a slow summer in the news cycle, you guess, because all anyone can talk about is how you gave Derek Phelps a reluctant handjob at Bianca’s pool party last month. You’ve received exactly four unsolicited dick pics since that party, each more horrible than the last. The only upside is that nobody’s talking about your dad’s cancer anymore. So there’s that. But you know that if you went to your mom to try and hide from the DMs, she’d figure out in a heartbeat that something was up. And it’s not that your dad doesn’t care as much, obviously. Just that he’s sort of got a lot of other shit going on? Whereas your mom tries to ignore her pain by micromanaging your life, and that’d just be traumatizing for everybody. You made her cry last week, when you told her that you didn’t need her to take you shopping for back to school clothes anymore. Now you give her a wide berth.
Instead, every day you crawl into the hospital bed that’s been set up in your parents’ room and carefully untangle some of the wires and tubes until there is enough room for your skinny body to slip under the covers and wriggle up against his side. You’re only thirteen, and small for your age, so you can squeeze into a tiny sliver of space on the elevated mattress. The nurse that they send to help out when your mom is at work, she barely ever even notices. You’re actually sort of glad that she never looks up from Candy Crush on her phone screen, because otherwise she might tell you to leave him alone, let him get some rest. Instead, you’re the one moistening the sponge on a stick into the kidney dish full of water, squeezing out the excess against the side and then rolling it between his lips. He’s too weak to hold a glass or even sip from a straw, and one of the therapists that visited is worried that if he tries to swallow too much water at once he might breathe it into his lungs, and that would be really bad fucking news. But he can let the water dribble into his mouth and pool under his tongue, and that seems to make him feel better when it doesn’t make him puke.
You aren’t mad that he sleeps a lot. He’s tired, like all the time, and he says it’s mostly because the chemo drugs make him feel like he’s been hit by a truck. You’ve never understood why the treatment for cancer is supposed to make him feel so much worse than the actual cancer itself, but that isn’t his fault, obviously. So you let him rest. You aren’t that selfish, yet. You just want to be close to him, to feel the laboured rise and fall of his chest so that you can be sure he’s still breathing. Sometimes you sleep, too, dozing with your head resting against his shoulder while the laugh track of old sitcoms crackle in the background like white noise.
Sometimes you want to ask him what dying feels like, but you understand that would be a real dick move. Everyone else is still pretending that he’s going to get better, even when his prognosis had come back with a ninety percent chance of full recovery and then he almost immediately got worse. You know that he’s dying, and you know that he knows it, too. It’s your mom who doesn’t seem to get it. You think that maybe it’s because she’s not like the two of you. She doesn’t feel the brush of that gauzed curtain against her skin, the one that separates flesh and blood from dirt and worm food. She doesn’t have to hold her breath walking by a cemetary, because she doesn’t smell the rot. The sadness. Doesn’t feel the pull of freshly turned earth sucking gravity down like a black hole.
If you’re not mad at him for dying, it seems sort of fucking ridiculous to be mad at him for being too sick to notice that you aren’t okay - but there it is, nonetheless. (Maybe it’s really his doctors that you’re mad at, for all the meds that make him dopey and thick-tongued, make his fingers clumsy and useless. But that hardly feels right either, when they’re just trying to ‘make him more comfortable’, whatever that means. How could any of it be comfortable? Unless they’d ever died, they didn’t fucking know.) You’re so angry that he’s too out of it to notice the first time that you hand him his midday dose of Oxycontin and palm one for yourself, too. You even sit there for an hour just holding it in your hand, sneaking glances at the contrast of the pale little pill against your skin, turning it over and over like an hourglass draining away the seconds until the world stops. You’re angry at yourself, for being so fucking selfish that you’re making this about you, but you can’t help but wonder what it feels like.
You asked him, once.
“What do those feel like?” Tugging anxiously at one of your braids, twirling the end around and around your finger as he chokes down his morning cocktail of meds. He seems almost surprised, and the smile he flashes you is still your dad but it’s a strained version of him, watered down, because just being awake means pain.
“Like getting tucked in under a warm, fuzzy blanket,” he says, and you can believe him, because you know that within a half an hour his words will start to slur, if he even talks at all. You might have to wipe the drool off his chin when he falls asleep. You don’t mind. It’s the only time he looks peaceful. So when he nods off and his breathing slows, and his head tilts back against the pillows propped up behind him, that’s when you dig the pill out of the pocket of your jeans tuck it far back on your tongue, behind your molars. You’re watching the door to the bedroom furtively while you take a sip of water to help you swallow. Like you’re expecting that your mom might come home early to catch you.
In retrospect, you wonder if maybe you were hoping.
In the moment, you’re not wondering anything. Your body feels empty, hollowed out. You expected to feel like you’re floating but instead you’re just dead weight pinned to the mattress, and that blanket feels scratchy against your skin but you only notice it from a million miles away. This is better than the first time you were ever given Valium after a panic attack, better than all the stolen sips of vodka from the freezer sluicing down your throat and chased by a fruit punch juice box. After, you’ll be mad that your parents didn’t even think to not leave all his medications in a fucking drawer where you or your little sister could get them so easily. Mad that they trust you too much to think that what you’ve done would ever occur to you.
But in the moment, you don’t feel anything. Just tiny, ticklish little pins and needles all over your face, your arms. You’re slumped against your dad’s side and you’re not sure if it’s been five minutes or an hour when he rouses, just enough to turn up the volume on the TV. Golden Girls is a blur that streaks your vision and bubbles up empty laughter from your throat. You think that if you tried to lift your head from his shoulder, it might just tumble right off your neck and into your lap and know that you wouldn’t care. The idea makes you chuckle, harder, which makes your dad laugh, and pretty soon your cheeks are wet because even when you can’t feel anything at all except the euphoric flush of blood under your skin, you can still feel that place inside of you that will be empty when he’s gone. You wipe your cheeks on the sleeve of his favorite red hoodie as soon as he’s asleep again but your eyes still feel puffy, practically swollen shut.
He dies later that night, and you know when it happens. Your mom carried you back to your own bed when she got home from work, probably thinking you’re just exhausted from stress. Not that she’s even entirely wrong, right? But your eyes open and your watch says 4:03 AM and you can feel him slipping away, winding up through the slats in the ceiling and between the tiles on the roof of your house, and you can taste the copper tang of rage on the back of your tongue, like blood, because he didn’t even give you a chance to say goodbye.
When the funeral home takes his body away, you slip into your parent’s bedroom while your mom is still crying silently in a heap on the couch, with your little sister plastered up against her back. You open the drawer and pocket the bottle, drawing the edges of his favorite red hoodie tighter around you. And you’re mad, you’re so fucking mad at him. But not for dying.
No. You’re just mad that he didn’t take you with him.