Full Fathom Five (Daddy Issues)

Elena Montemurro
Elena Montemurro

I.

I love digging you out of the ground and worshipping your remains. You didn’t leave a note, so they’re all I have. I find you in the yellowed, curling pages of a photo album, looking dreamily at the baby in your arms. I find you in the tongues of relatives, who say you were good and kind and strong. I find you within me, our chipped coral bones and faded pearl eyes one in the same. I must build you up again, make you a figure that matches the myth in my head. So I horde all these leftover scraps, piecing them together to render your scattered body whole.

II.

After you took yourself away to that cold, distant plane mom tried to follow you. By miracle or misfortune (I really don’t know which) she stayed, shackled to me. We look too much alike, and for a while she thought I was your ghost, a phantom pain from her missing limb. Sometimes, bourbon playing in her mouth and in my nose, she yells at me. Or rather, she yells at you through me, always about your unreturnable flight, or being stuck all alone with me, or the blood vessels bursting in her eyes. There’s no way I can extract myself from your image.

III.

It’s funny how time had the audacity to tick on. To me you were a God, and I thought your absence would summon doomsday. But no seals were ripped open and horsemen didn’t come roaring from the sky. The sun continued to rise and fall, tied to that invisible thread I thought would snap. Even mom’s breath stopped reeking and those red scratches retreated from her pupils. She began dating, breeching that silent pack we’d made. With each man she saw I felt your presence recede from her mind, a tide running back to the sea.

IV.

But I was good. Mourning was tattooed into my skin, and you lodged yourself in the folds of my brain. Still I craved something harder, more solid than your spectral figure. I looked for you in other men, tried to find one who’d fit the divine image. Within them I searched for the girlhood devotion that seethes in my heart. Yet they were no icons, and would melt into grotesque effigies when I heaved them onto your lofty pedestal. You left me unmolded and I now I exist only half-formed, and no other hands can give me shape.

V.

She’s been taken. Mom accepted a proposal and now she’s gone away from both of us. In that moment I took a blade to the already frayed cord that binds mother and daughter. By rejecting you she rejects me, for I am nothing but an extension of your flesh and blood. But how she crumples under the guilt I place on her shoulders, how happy she is with him. My loyalty feels heavy like chains, yet I yearn to reach out and touch her. Should I sacrifice her upon the alter I built in your name? I love you dad, but I don’t want to drown in this sea change. TC mark

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