Paying Respects

A young redhead swinging, laughing in the glare of sunlight as a man’s hands reach for her. A father rolling in the grass with his daughter. A glimpse of a guitar in his hands, teaching her how to strum. His rich, husky voice says, “You can be… whatever. Whatever it is you want to be.” The hiccups of her childish giggles fade into darkness.

My eyes snap open to the morning sun barging in through my window as if it were invited in. Birds chirp outside, singing a song that I don’t even wish to sing along to.

No alarm clock this morning just like the last four days. It’s hard not to count.

I reach up to cover my eyes, feeling wetness on my cheeks. Again. My one source of sunshine is gone for good, and this sunlight is merely warming my cheek, not filling the gaping hole that I can barely breathe through.

I don’t want to face today. It’s too late to say goodbye, too early to say farewell, so why say it when it will just make this more real?

Someone knocks at my door.


The pity in her voice makes me roll over, not wanting the tears to have a witness. The weight of her sinks down the side of my bed, and I suppress the urge to shove her off. On any normal day, I’d welcome my aunt’s presence first thing in the morning. Now she’s just a reminder of what I don’t have.

“It’s time to get up, sweetie,” she says, rubbing her hand on my shoulder. I shrug her off, grunting, hoping that was invitation enough for her to leave me alone. “We have to be there in an hour.”

That doesn’t make me want to get up any more than the sunlight does.

All too late, my aunt leaves my room, taking with her his eyes, his chestnut hair and his generosity.

I don’t want to face today. Facing it would mean that I would have to accept that my dad is no longer here, and that’s not acceptable.

When I open my eyes this time, it’s with a new determination. I throw on the closest pair of jeans, and covertly slip on my bra underneath my Eagles tee that I wore to bed without actually taking it off. From the floor, I snatch up my Ogio school backpack and dump its contents onto my bed. A math book, geography binder and all of the pens that I could never find scatter and bounce off each other.

Walking around my bedroom, I swipe several key items into my now-empty bag. Deodorant, bobby pins, a photograph of me and Dad, floss, toothbrush, my backup case holding a handful of guitar picks, pitch pipe, and my wallet. My guitar case rests against the wall plastered with all of my signed concert posters: AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Heart, and others that I’ve covered up with ones that left more meaningful impressions. I swing the case around my shoulder and take one last look around the small bedroom Dad and I used to jam in.

This time I won’t let any tears fall.

I’ll pay respects to my father the way he’d want me to–to be whatever I want to be. And that means leaving this town.


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