Updated: Nov 17
By Flor Vega-Castillo–
I’ve been trying to remember what the instructions he gave me that day were. Nothing too complicated as building a fortress for a zombie apocalypse, not even the best mac and cheese recipe. It was more like how to create a comic book by cutting cartoons from a newspaper, adding glue, and putting them together on a different piece of paper. That was all I needed to comprehend; he was passing some knowledge to my stubborn head that wasn’t in the mood to eat what my momma served me.
If I pay enough attention, I can go back to that moment all the times I want and find new details in that scene: his teacher attitude, even if he was unemployed and with no degree that supported him. There’s also his understanding eyes and his calming tone of voice. Different from my mom, who was mad and yelling at me to go back to my chair. But my dad already said it was OK and that we could continue creating what we were making on the table in the living room.
The round table was pretty small and pretty guilty of my first scar. One day, my dad and I were playing something very similar to hide-and-seek, and, running, I fell. My chin was crushed on that table, and I started to bleed. I have no memories of it, but I was told that. That’s why I smile when I see my chin and notice that mini scar. I smile because it reminds me that we were playing. We were together, discovering how we could navigate from joy to suffering in a matter of seconds.
“You have to cut carefully; scissors are dangerous,” he said while teaching me how to do it. His skin was dark, but I didn’t notice the transition in that darkness. I didn’t notice his body was about to suffer a huge transformation. The only visible things to me were his lullaby words and bright eyes. No other thing mattered. Not even my desperate mom nor the food I wasn’t interested in. I can’t blame the food quality because everything else got vanished once I entered my father’s protection.
Days passed, and he could no longer sit around the round table. Instead, he moved out to the living room, or that’s what I thought. He spent entire days on our large couch, and a small bell became his best friend to call his mom or my mom when needed help. His aspect made me feel he wasn’t the same man I loved, but his voice and tender eyes found their way to keep my feet on Earth. Who needs hair when having a big heart? Who needs to walk when being a devoted father, brother, and friend? My mom was not around enough times to remember her role, but my grandma showed me a different meaning of braveness while being beaten for devastation.
This is another day, and it’s actually at night. The night when my father seemed to be too tired that he decided to fall asleep in a box made of crystal. Why is he in the dining room, and why are all these people here? “Let him sleep in his bedroom!” I yelled. My mother answered something I cannot distinguish, but all the grown-ups seemed to have lost something more important than their tears, which were taking the main act on that candled night.
Four years old is not the proper age to say definite goodbyes and ask complex questions about why the heaven they cared about was underground. I could not explain to myself why people wore sunglasses when it was cloudy enough to see each other’s eyes. The only piece of this memory that makes me feel thankful is the one of me and my grandpa playing on the cemetery’s grass. He distracted me from being sad, but little he knew I was going to be blue for the rest of my life. At least he tried, and that’s more than fine.
I’ve been trying my best to remember, grabbing any picture, video, or testimonial from my relatives to learn more about my dad. I cannot affirm that we would have had a perfect relationship because of his temper, character, and overall personality. So I tend to think that it could have been an all-or-nothing, black or white. Who knows? I don’t. The tendency is to believe that at least we could’ve made it work. He wasn’t the perfect husband, and I am not the ideal daughter my mom wanted.
Cloudy skies have been following me for years, and I don’t believe in heaven anymore. I only visit my memories when I want a clue, a second opinion, or a potential answer. I’m destroyed, yet standing. Family is not what I used to think, but I can rebuild an old concept and make a new free-from-suffering one for the kids I’m already expecting to expect someday. Maybe, they’ll also have cloudy skies and cartoons that can’t stick to time, but they’ll have me. We will have each other to learn about comics, the forecast, and life far from a disappointment.
Flor Vega-Castillo is a Peruvian graduate student at Montana State University. She is working on her second master's degree while making time for other passions and interests, such as writing fiction and poetry and advocating for first-gen students and SDGs. She had a cat called Darcy, so she likes to take that name when gaming online. She has published some of her works in The Rook magazine and Feverdream Magazine. Follow her on Instagram: @florvega.c