Love, Dad | Alex Sese
I dread opening that letter in your desk.
In fact, every time I even have to open the lowest drawer where I keep my extra office supplies, a low wave of acid reflux plagues me the rest of the day. There it is behind a box of staples, tucked in a neat business envelope, unsealed.
Of course it would be a business envelope, Dad. Even on your deathbed, life was but a series of transactions and invoices that needed to be taken care of. Instead of imparting wisdom and regretful goodbyes, you delegated the funeral arrangements to me and instructed me to bring you all the hospital bills to take care of before you go, as if you were just going on a business trip again and you were leaving me in charge. You even read your will to me without so much as a tremble in your voice. I couldn’t hear you past my sobs, couldn’t answer your questions about what else I needed. I couldn’t even begin to understand the prospect of being orphaned, and there you were, reading it like the agenda of a meeting about sales projections. There wasn’t much to leave behind anyway. Bit of life insurance, mom’s jewelry, the desk. The conversation was longer than it needed to be and not long enough for what I wanted it to be.
You were so adamant about the desk. For a moment, I was a senior again and you were dragging me to every college tour in the tri-state area like it was your job.
Then you died, and all I had left to worry about was grieving you. That was the job you left me. That’s also when I learned why the desk was so important. There’s a letter in it, handed to me like cash under the table. A secret transaction from a serious father to a carefree daughter who dropped out of college after all your efforts. My name was on the flap in a shaky script. Still yours, but without its straightness, its usual neatness, its no-nonsense, follow-these-instructions-to-the-letterness. Unlike the printed memos you sent me when I moved back in without a job or even a prospect of it, and you couldn’t even look me in the eye for weeks. I don’t know any other person who’s received memos from their father with announcements of upcoming family events, what I’m expected to bring, rent negotiations, advice on how to land a job, advice on how to find what I want to do, reminders of how to keep my new apartment safe, and a list of emergency contacts. Each memo tucked in a sealed envelope, left by my door, reminded me that parenting is a thankless job.
Not this time though, the envelope in your desk just had my name. No subject, no date. When I first held it, the flap came open and revealed several pages folded neatly inside. In the light, your handwriting in heavy black ink peeked through the paper. I put it back and shut the drawer. What else was there left to say between us? What last instructions would you leave behind? How else could I fail to meet your expectations now? I had to take an antacid after.
But sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic and my work keeps me on your desk late at night, I take the envelope and hold it. I don’t dare open it. Its weight in my hands fuels memories of you before you took that job, before the business trips and missed soccer games, before conversations about futures and GPAs, degrees, and MBAs. You wrote, Dad. You sat on this desk and scribbled on notebooks and used a half-decent typewriter you and mom haggled for at the flea market. No matter how many deadlines loomed, and how many rejection letters littered your desk, you always found time to write me a bedtime story. Short ones, like the notes you left in my lunch. You remembered my tests at school and left me poems like a lucky spell. You wrote me little reminders when mom’s absence was all I could fill my mind with. You wrote about a path that the heart follows, the one that led you to mom and, eventually, to me. It was the last letter you had written that started with Dear Kit and ended with Love, Dad. The following year, you bought a suit for work and we moved from the apartment with the roaches to a house with a yard. You bought a car and traded the typewriter for a new laptop.
It’s enough to make me want to unfold your letter, Dad, but I never do. If, for some reason, your old muse had returned to you in your last days and you wrote me goodbye and if, for every reason I can think of, it doesn’t offer the comfort you meant it to, how am I supposed to write you back?
About the Author:
Alex Sese is a full-time copyeditor in medical communications and a freelance fiction and nonfiction editor at Subtle Script Editing. Born and raised in Philippines, she now resides in Illinois where she gardens, reads, and goes to the occasional metalcore show. Her work was published in the microfiction horror anthology, 206 Word Stories (Bag of Bones Press). She’s on Twitter at @subtle_script.