Daddy and I (Story by Risa Peris)

Hello, Daddy. Have a seat. Well, you can’t really sit. You’re dead and we’re in Paris. It’s easy to get to Paris when you’re dead. You snap your bones. Voila. I took an overnight from LA. Squashed in coach. I was in the aisle seat. Steward kept bumping my arm. I was trying to read a Camus. A toddler kept crying. I popped three Valium. No sleep at all. Now I’m at a cafe eating strawberries with a croissant. Coffee with milk. As I recall, you drank your coffee black. Not even a crystal of sugar. You would say, I like my coffee strong and black like I like my women. Mom would whine. ‘That’s racist and I’m quite white.’ You just laughed. You were always laughing. Or so it seemed. But I remembered some dark moods, yelling, the smacking of mom’s older kids (some you adopted). You got really down sometimes. You’d lay in your lightless room and breathe. I’d crawl next to you. Put my arm across you. I could feel the thump of your heart. I couldn’t keep quiet for long. Tell me about the Navy. Tell me about all the countries you visited. Well, there was Paris…you said. Your heart thumped a little faster. Did you love it? You inhaled. I loved it. I love you. We fell asleep. At some point, mom would come in and yell. She’d yank my arm. She didn’t like me sleeping next to you. Oh, just let her stay, you would say. Mom said, no. Daddy, we will always have Paris I would as momma monster drug me out of the room. This would make you smile. You died when I was nine. You were my friend. Oh, father do sit down at the cafe table. Let’s look at the shadow of the Eiffel. I’m quite changed. Physically, emotionally. Some bad things happened to me. Some bad things I was born with too that you didn’t know about. Mom got very ill. Physically, emotionally. But you knew she wasn’t perfect. Your heart was large though. That’s why I could feel your heart so clearly as a child. I miss its beat. I’m missing something. That’s what happens to kids when they lose a parent young. They always feel like they are missing something. No, no. I won’t cry. It’s just…I love you. Are you happy, after all these years, I love you and desperately long to feel the thump of your heart? I don’t intend to live much longer. I came to Paris to die. I have the poison. The anti-emetic. Paris will become a coffin. Stay in this city. I will be with you soon. We will always have Paris. You and I. Daddy and I.