The sweltering heat, the characteristic stench, the crowds of people walking on foot as they went about their daily business—all of it was nauseatingly familiar to Hadrian, but the nostalgia was not fond.
You are the rainbow after the storm.
You are a reality and a fantasy, you are the result of water and logic and a child’s wistful imagination. You inspire dreams and fiction, you cause people to stop and stare – to forget the torrid winds and lightning strikes that just tore their worlds apart.
I do everything for you.
I chase your spectrum for a gilded promise, only for you to vanish before I ever come close. I hunt storms and stand in the rain, waiting for the moment when the clouds will clear and you might expose yourself again.
Sometimes, you do.
Sometimes, you don’t.
I still chase, I still hunt.
I still stand in the rain.
The first time I dreamed of my father, none of us spoke to him.
My mother, my sister and I were in our kitchen – in our old house, our first house. The yellow one where most of my happiest memories were made, where I found a dying butterfly in the snapdragons and we’d get our stuffed animals caught on the power lines; the house that was knocked down and made into a parking lot after we sold it to a car dealership.
It was that house, and dad kept trying to talk to us, but we ignored him.
My mom and sister wanted to respond, but I stopped them every time. ‘You can’t, mom,’ I’d say. ‘Don’t, Katie. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know he’s dead, and if you talk to him, he’ll go away.’
He got so pissed when none of us spoke to him, because it was so obvious we could hear him. My dad was yelling at me in my dream, and I ignored him then just like I did in real life. I wasn’t sad in the dream, but I woke up crying.
The second time I dreamed of my father, we were eating dinner.
The four of us, again. This time, we were in our second house, before it caught on fire. Dad had made us dinner and was serving it to us while we sat, which made me immediately aware that it was a dream, because that simply never happened. I think it was fish. I hate fish, but I don’t remember being disappointed.
My dad was being so uncharacteristically nice, offering to clean up some of the dishes before we’d even eaten. ‘No,’ we all said. ‘Don’t be silly. Sit, eat with us.’
And he did, and we actually had a normal conversation. Also strange, because in reality, my dad ate like a vacuum and would be finished before my mom had even gotten her tea and joined us at the table. This time he ate slowly, and we had a family dinner.
But we all knew he was dead.
There was this sort of unspoken acknowledgement that as long as we didn’t bring it up, as long as we didn’t say it, he wouldn’t go away. I was crying in my dream while we talked, forcing a smile like it was all okay, and crying when I woke up.
The third time I dreamed of my father, it was just me. We were in the family room sitting on the couch, and he was yelling at me for something I hadn’t done yet. A far more typical interaction.
‘Don’t name him that,’ he kept saying. ‘Give him a normal name, for God’s sake.’
‘Dad,’ I snapped, ‘I’m not naming anyone anything. I’m not pregnant.’
‘Not yet, but you will be. Don’t give my grandson a stupid name.’
I yelled at him for assuming I would have a child – a son, to be precise – and he yelled at me for a name I hadn’t even chosen yet, because clearly whatever I would decide on would be dumb. I told him it didn’t matter, it wasn’t happening, and he couldn’t send me passive-aggressive texts about babies, anymore. He said ‘Watch me’, which was as funny as it was horrifying.
I woke up panicked, checking my phone with my heart in my throat. There were no new texts, but I took a screen shot of the last conversation that we had like that because it suddenly seemed important that I always have it. Then I cried.
You have to understand, too, that I’m not much of a crier. I didn’t cry at the visitation, I didn’t cry at the funeral. I had one good cry on the night he died, by myself, holding the comb we used to fix his hair. I’ve been pretty statuesque since then. The fact that I sometimes wake up crying is fucked up and I hate it, and I’m not sure if I want to keep having these dreams or not.
Either way, I continue to have them pretty frequently. We sometimes fight, but more often than not, we just talk. I usually don’t remember what about, but it’s all so bizarre, because I have now officially talked more to my father in dreams than I did when he was alive. I suppose one could argue that I’m really just talking to myself, technically, but I like to think it might be something more than that. Maybe.
There’s no resolution to this rambling bit of writing. Sorry.
Happy birthday, Dad.
This fire will be the death of me.
I can’t contain it, I can’t fight it. My veins are flowing with lava, burning me alive from within. My skin is hot to the touch. I’m scratching at my arms and shins like I might be able to pierce the flesh and rip the heat out of me, like I might let these liquid flames pour out of my body and not take my life with it when they go.
This was your fault.
…I was once ice.
I liked being cold, I flourished in the quiet of my winter shell, the darkness of my snow-covered cavern. I could have hibernated forever, icicles clinging to my hair and lashes like crystals adornment. I was beautiful, I was safe.
I couldn’t feel anything.
…Why did you come?
Why would anyone so full of heat come crawling into this cave? Why would you wrap your arms around a frozen beast and melt its crystals adornments?
…Did you think you were saving me?
This fire will be the death of me.
Breathe in, pause, purse—
Force air through tight lips and extended cheeks.
One in blue, one in green,
Others in red, orange, yellow, and pink.
A cacophony of floating, kaleidoscopic spheres—
It’s a fête,
It’s a festival.
I am everything that you are not.
I’m such a twisted, tortured soul, and every inch of me is blackened.
I don’t have anything to offer anyone,
I breathe in warmth,
And exhale ice.
You’re such a vibrant, brilliant mind, and every thought of yours is golden.
You give everything to everyone,
You breathe in sins,
And exhale light.
I want to keep you all to myself.
I’ll trap you in a glass sphere and put you on my shelf,
Breathe my coldness onto you so you can make it into something soft and pure.
My eternal snow globe,
My forever trophy.
You are everything that I am not.
I know that this will kill you.
Holding you with these cloth-covered hands, I know this theft spells your death. But there is no help for it, you were too beautiful not to touch. This is your fault. You did this.
I picked you from among dozens, you special, crystal dagger. You were the longest, you were the finest. I plucked you from the rafters like a thief stealing a slim and frigid diamond.
But you’re not a stone.
Stay with me, ice, until I can show you to the world. Wait for me to show you to the others so that they may know that you were real, that my run-down, dilapidated house produced you. That beautiful things really can come out of that place that I call home.
Let me show them… please.
Then you may melt in my hands. I’ll even hold you to my chest, if you like. You can thaw in the warmth of my soft and grateful embrace.
That would be a nice way to die, I think.
Just let me show them, first.