Up here, it’s nothing like it is down there. There’s no light and dark or day and night “In the beginning” kinda moments. The color of everything is the same at all times— a sort of purplish grey that coats over all spaces, regardless of season or moment. The book you wrote about me got it all wrong, and I don’t know how long it’ll take you to figure that out. Perhaps you never will. Although I hope you do. Do you remember what you said to me last night? It was awful. Purely sick. Another disappointment beyond belief. Fuck belief, you really have me thinking sometimes. I’m waiting on you to do something good with it.
“Please, please just let me land this job tomorrow. I don’t ask you for much. But I need this job. I will do anything, anything you want,” one of you whispered before getting into bed with Cecelia, the woman you told your wife was just helping you with planning the occasional office potluck. Your wife knew you were lying. Cecelia has double D cups and lip injections that almost pass as natural— but not quite. She walks like her Victoria’s secret panties kiss her hips with every sashay. Your wife has never owned anything but boy shorts.
“No,” I said back. “How could you be so sick, pleading for a job after fucking another woman? That’s not how it works, and you should know better. I’m done with you until you fix this.”
But you didn’t listen. You kept talking to me like what you were doing could merit my time, and I decided to end things with you.
“Please, just this one time, do this for me, make her miscarry. I am not ready to be a father,” another one of you said to me, shortly after your girlfriend showed you the little pink plus sign on her EPT pregnancy test. You looked at it, still glistening with the holy water of her lemonade tinted piss, faking a broken smile and telling her “Wonderful baby, wonderful,” while really, wishing you were dead. You never told her your true feelings, that you never wanted any kids. You lie and lie and lie and break her down slowly. You’ll leave her two months after she gives birth to Juniper, a healthy baby girl weighing 9 lbs, 8 ounces, with your mud colored freckles and dark grey eyes.
“I’m not helping you,” I said back to you. “You are cruel and dishonest to your girlfriend, and she’s carrying your goddamn child! What makes you think your wrongdoings could be looked past? Who do you think I am? I’m through with talking to you, this is done.” I left you still on your knees and I didn’t look back, but I make sure to kiss Juniper on her soft peachy cheek each night before she drifts off into a sleep. I ensure holds no dreams of you.
“Please forgive me for the ways I’ve wronged him. I want to fix it. I don’t know if I can, but if I can just show me how! I beg of you! The guilt is eating me alive!” Another one of you cried while kneeling on the concrete behind a child sex trafficking den, littered with needles and condom wrappers. You sold your ten-year-old son Harrison to your coke dealer, who is in charge of things there. You like the way he sniffs it up quickly, faster than anyone you’ve ever met, then says “Right to the mind hunny girl, it goes right to the mind.” You think it does. You’ve been doing it since you were fifteen, but were never caught, not even once.
You didn’t want to have Harrison but you couldn’t afford an abortion, so you popped him out like it was no biggie and have been abusing both him and your body ever since. Everyone’s asked you to get help, mom, dad, even the UPS man who walked in on your unconscious body after you overdosed and screamed loud enough for him to hear you outside. He heard you yell at Jesus to stop choking you and he heard you scream bloody murder, and he didn’t even know someone could scream like that. You shocked him, really scared the uniform right of his asthmatic chest. They have all begged and begged you to save yourself before you ruin your whole 19 years of living but your blood tells you you’re too weak, so you give in and give in and break yourself into pieces. White powder blood stained pieces that drip outa your nose in a pink plasma at least four times a day. And you sell your son.
“I can’t help you,” I said with immersive sorrow. “You’re an addict and although I feel for you and cry for your pain, your illness is spreading like the plague. Your son is infected. What you are doing to him is evil and wrong. I must end things with you until you help your sick self. I am sorry,” I respond. And I am. Situations like those are the hardest. But I am not a doctor, I am not a therapist, and I am not always the answer. You have to be sometimes.
You want me to dig up the seeds of this conflict? This breakup with a humanity that has been going on since the world gave birth to itself, and goes on endlessly—it never ends. It is older than time. Going back to my previous point, your book really got it all wrong. I don’t want to be a hero, I just want to be myself, and I thought that after the flood, you would start to understand. I don’t have a bad heart— I never wanted to hurt anyone. Ever. The flood wasn’t even some magic flood I just cast upon you, like your book made it out to be— it was the accumulation of me crying for days on end. It’s so hurtful how you all treat each other sometimes, and how you then come to me, muttering a few words like that’ll fix things. It doesn’t fix things. You need to look to yourselves sometimes. Stop leaving it all up to me.
And really, stop calling me your father. Stop making me out to be punitive, masculine, or anything other than what it is that I am. You all have this ridiculous tendency to understand things purely through their associations with other things— like “Oh she’s so beautiful, she looks just like Lindey’s ex-girlfriend, or “That film wasn’t that good because it was a sequel and sequels always suck.” Well, let me tell you something that will give you a whole lot more appreciation for this world full of really fucking beautiful things— let things exist independently of other things. Most importantly, think of me not as someone of qualities. someone composed of heavenly bodies or purity or scary stories about hell and eternal damnation. That isn’t me at all. I mean it.
It is all these requests that get me, too. These prayers unlike any I’ve gotten in a long time. You’ve lost touch with yourselves and only want me to sedate you falsely with a piousness that is poison. Yeah, you heard me right. Stop putting up your palms in church and saying I believe I believe like that’ll save you, and then go home and hit your sons when they tell you that they don’t want to play football or roll around in the dirt, as though their manhood relies on a filth that washes off just as easily as it rubbed on. Stop leaving the suburbs to take photos with Ugandan children when you ignore the homeless man who is hungry and alone on your street. Heaven isn’t a birthright and neither is pride. Anything of value is something that is earned, and that you work for. Stop telling your daughters to stay with men who treat them as though they’re disposable, because You can work through anything if you really want it badly enough and love is pain. Pain is a part of everything and yes, love is no exception, but love is a whole lot more than pain, and you best believe that, because I know love better than I know myself. Love is reciprocity and patience and it’s not always up to a goddamn woman to fix a backbone where there never even was one to begin with.
In the end, I am only I, and you are only you, and what that means is a little bit of nothing and also a little bit of everything. I am up here, which is something you did get right. But at the same time, I’m everywhere all at once. I am in your fingertips as they warm up against the heating vents of your car after freezing in the winter’s sharpness. I am in your tap water, because if that’s something you have— smile. You’re lucky and blessed. I am in the warmth of other bodies whose touches make you feel loved, alive, and full of pulse. You know that way your child asks you questions and seems to never run out of them? I am in the question marks, wrapped all the way around a spirit of never-ending desire to know. That is more holy than your Walmart crucifix. Treasure it and foster it and protect it like it’s a goddamn sanctuary. It is.
The truth is, I didn’t want to leave you. And I still don’t. But Nietzsche proclaimed my death for a reason. It wasn’t all philosophical bullshit. It isn’t just the cold calluses that modernity has coated over your hearts, your souls, your eyes, making you blind to the places I sit resting and waiting for you to hurry the hell up and find me. You have always been broken— and that’s okay. But the brokenness is becoming an oblivion. You need to start finding me again and putting yourselves back together. I will not help you when you plead to me from knees covered in incessant, mindless harm to others. Your wounds are also the wounds you slice into the skin we all share, because we really are all one big collective body, despite how it is now impossible to say that without sounding all new-age and cringeworthy.
I want to make things right with you, just as I know many of you want to rectify yourselves with me. And maybe at some point that will be possible but right now, God, I just need a break. I am so tired and worn and want to sleep through the contagious levels of pressure holding down your hearts, seeping into my chest and holding down my own. Nobody is entirely impervious, you know. Not even me. Just be kind to one another. Don’t yell at your dog when it barks, thank your bus drivers when they get you to your stop safety and, most importantly, pay attention to your teenage daughters. They’ve got a power even I would wanna watch out for.
BIO: Channa Goldman is a junior creative writing student at SUNY Purchase. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rookie Mag, Grl Mag, Teen Ink, Pinstriped Zine, Gutter Magazine, Variant Literature, Small Orange Poetry Journal, LandLocked Magazine, and Running Wild Press, Anthology of Short Stories, Volume 4. She currently works as a poetry editor for Italics Mine, and as Editor-in-Chief for Submissions Magazine.