The last time my dad saw Joe, it was the eve of Thanksgiving 2012. He was waking him up from the couch over on Ellis Street for the final time.
“Get up, Joe,” Daddy said, shaking him. “Wake up. Miki has to go home.”
I can see it now, in a round portal viewing window of distant memory. I can see it, sitting at the computer, listening to that Incubus song, “Drive.” I don’t have a Chevy Impala like Sam and Dean Winchester. I don’t have a little red Saturn with Hello Kitty floor mats yet, either. I still have a big green Crown Victoria. It looks like a cop car, or a taxicab, and it’s built like a tank.
I flip over to Youtube and make the Incubus video repeat, because I need it to write with.
“Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there, with open arms and open eyes,” the refrain repeats. Brandon Boyd isn’t wearing a shirt, because men were allergic to shirts in late 90s and early 2000s music videos. This is something having to do with men, and little girls who miss their fathers.
“Lately, I’m beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel…”
“Get up,” Dad tells Joe. “Miki has to drive.”
I can see it all going backwards and forward, everything that has to do with little girls and how we love our fathers. My daddy didn’t teach me to drive until he took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Vallejo, California when I was thirty-eight years old. Once, when I was twelve, he tried to, but I messed up and backed his baby blue Lincoln Continental into a ditch.
Joe was always sleeping, like a cat. Me, I’m usually channeling Anthony Kiedis, or Martin Gore. Who is this Brandon Boyd, anyway?
“I thought I was the one who was channeling Anthony Kiedis,” Flynn said. He had a point. According to Somnalia, Red Hot Chili Peppers was Flynn’s favorite band.
I turned around and took a look at him. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m stuck here until you finish going through whatever it is you’re going through,” he answered. “I know what you’re thinking, I should be in books. You should be writing me. But no, you have me running around holding your hand. No wonder we have writer’s block.”
“We?” I asked, incredulous.
“Oh yeah,” he sighed. “I’m you. Duh.” He started laughing uncontrollably, like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, and he as perhaps, a bit tipsy. “Well, a part of you, at any rate. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You writers are always talking to yourselves.”
“Whatever, dude,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“You need to go back to 2012 and get your ex off the couch,” he said sternly.
Joe got up off the couch, and I gave my dad an awkward hug. Dad was so fragile lately, and in so much pain that I was afraid to squeeze him very hard. I would regret not hugging him more, after he died. My brother was always touching Dad in those final days. We would be sitting by his bedside, and Scott would be closest. He would be rubbing his back. Scott and Dad were always the closest to each other. On January 3, 2013, my father died in my brother’s arms. Scott bought him back to life for a little while. He was giving him CPR. He restarted his heart. But it couldn’t last. My daddy died anyway.
“It’s going to be okay,” my dad says. He’s dead, but he believes he’s still living somewhere in my molecules and, frankly, I have so many voices in my head already that I’m sure it’s true.
“How the hell it’s going to be okay?” I asked him. “Joe’s ass is out in the streets getting high. He’s been doing meth. No wonder his teeth are rotten.”
“Well I can’t see how you’re supposed to write fiction with all of this fact going on,” my father admonished me, looking simultaneously bored and distressed. “Hey! I heard Franchesca is writing these days.”
“Yeah, she is, dad,” I said with a little grin.
“You got this, Miki,” Dad said, but he didn’t really sound like himself. He sounded like me. “You got this, Miki,” he said. “You’re a pimp.”
I laughed. “Really, now?”
“Yeah, a pimp,” I said. “Stop crying, girl, you know you run this.”
But I knew I was full of it. I wasn’t running shit. I should have been writing. I had three quarters of a novel. I had several requests for short fiction that I was completely unable to write. I wasn’t at home writing, I was out at karaoke bars screaming angry music along with the voices in my head.
It was the Foo Fighters this time, “The Pretender.”
“It’s true,” dad somberly confirmed. “We are temporary, but what are you going to do about it, right? Be angry? I practice radical acceptance here. I’m dead, and I accept that. Now, maybe you should try and relax. Your acid reflux is acting up.”
I relaxed a little, because Flynn was rubbing my back again. I would calm down soon, and all of us could go back to bed. We needed to go to bed. It was almost five in the morning. What were we doing up again, anyway?
“You were mad,” Flynn explained. “You were trying to set boundaries with Joe or something, and your friend couldn’t understand.”
I nodded. “My name is Sumiko Saulson. I’m the adult child of an addict.”
Flynn frowned. “You know you can’t save them, right?”
“I know,” I mumbled under my breath, folding up my cape and putting it away.
Anticipatory grief is what they called it when I began to mourn before my father died. Anticipatory grief is what I felt when Joe called me up two months ago, to let me know he checked himself out of his program. It’s what I felt when he let me know he was out running the streets, not taking care of his health. If you met someone when he was twenty-two, and you dated until he was almost twenty-nine, could you feel nothing about it? I can’t feel nothing about it.
But he needs to stay on his cocktail, and I can’t make him. I can’t fix him. I can’t fix anyone. I’m doing good to take care of myself, out here on my own.
“You don’t have to fix everything, little girl,” he said, giving me a hug. “It’s not your fault.”
“But what if he dies?” I ask. “Norman’s been on chat freaking out about this – what if he dies? As if me ending up in the hospital is going to really help Joe. As if I can’t or won’t end up in the hospital. As if I don’t know that Joe’s guilt tripping the fuck out of me, hoping I’ll feel so bad I’ll let him do what the hell ever.
“He’s not going to die,” Flynn insisted. “At least not today, and I know you’re upset, because your dad wanted to die, and you couldn’t stop him.”
“He wanted to,” I mumbled numbly. “You’re right, I couldn’t stop it.”
“You can’t make people want to live,” he cautioned.
I got really quiet all of the sudden. “Do you think he really wants to die?”
“Hell no,” Flynn scowled, “He wants to punish you. He doesn’t want to die. He wants to punish you for leaving him.”