The Rubble

Contributor: Victoria Elizabeth

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He worked 70, 80 hours per week, but never missed a track meet. He grew a beard overnight, yet he was the one who braided my hair every morning. He held me when I cried, succumbed to my puppy eyes, and believed the lies I would weave about unfinished homework and missed curfews.

I knew if my mother said no, my father would say yes.

She always said no. He always said yes. Yes.

Affirmation was our language, a shared secret. He was my mountain, the foundation on which I built my childhood.

Under my father’s approval, I casually drank my first beer as a teenager. With my father’s encouragement, I spent my afternoons in a shithole bar playing pool until the smoke burned my eyes and my hair smelled like ash. With my father’s unspoken consent, I learned to hate my mother.

An affair turned serious when an unplanned pregnancy declared my existence. My mother’s ultimatum: leave one family to start another. A sacrifice or his attempt at a second chance, I’d never know. He told me he loved his daughters all the same.

I knew he loved me more.

The cancer started in his kidneys, metastasized to his lungs before the results could return for my donor test. A perfect match. We always knew we were the same person occupying two bodies, but the cancer was too fast.

Strong, indestructible, my father couldn’t die. The man who carried me off the softball field when I sprained my ankle couldn’t be the same skeleton looking up at me from those crisp, white sheets. Shallow breaths, glazed eyes; the rubble of a broken body and a man unprepared to die.

A mother I hadn’t talked to in years suddenly knew the right words to say. A woman gave an approval I’d long forgotten I needed. She wasn’t him, but she was there – concrete and whole – when my foundation crumbled at its core. A god fell so she could fulfill her role.

We’ve never shared a beer, but she saw me walk down the aisle through blurred eyes. I never felt the victory of beating her at billiards, but she cheered when I gave the speech at my college graduation.

She wasn’t him, but she was there – and that was what I needed all along.

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Victoria Elizabeth Ann is a lifetime student of the arts, literature, and life as a whole. She completed her BFA in Creative Writing in October 2013 and is a current MLS student at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl.
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