Letter from the Lost

Dad left when I was born.

I don't know anything about him, but I have old photographs of him with mom when they were in high school. She doesn't know that I took them from her when she went to throw them out recently. All that she knows is that she set them on the kitchen table with the rest of the recycling trash and hasn't seen them since. I don't like having her assume that they were thrown away, but I know that she'd make me get rid of them if she knew that I had them, and that's the last thing that I want to do. I have nothing else to give me hints about him except for the old photographs and letters that they wrote back and forth.

Mom and dad look so happy in the pictures. I wish that she could keep that smile on her face all of the time because she always looks so sad now. If he just hadn't left, everything would be better and she wouldn't be so miserable. Even if things were the same and she was smiling like she did back then, things would be so much easier and better for us, I think. Just comparing the picture to the real thing makes me sad because I know that there's nothing that I can do to make her as happy as she used to be.

Back then, when she smiled…it wasn't forced and it wasn't fake. It wasn't obvious that she was only doing it because it would make people think that she was all right. Back then, her eyes lit up with happiness and the sides of her eyes wrinkled with the smile that she had, even if it wasn't yet on her lips when the pictures was taken. When she was smiling with both her eyes and her lips, all of her teeth were visible and you can just feel how happy she was and how she never wanted the moment to end.

When she smiles now, there is no spark of happiness in her eyes. There are no wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, and there are no teeth visible. It's always a close-mouthed smile, her lips barely pulling back and her eyes looking lifeless.

The only time that I can remember ever seeing her smile like she used to was when she had found an old picture of dad in one of the boxes that we had yet to unpack after moving. Of course, almost immediately after she had looked at the picture, she had thrown the frame across the room and let the glass frame shatter, ripping and scratching up the photograph. When she had cleaned up the glass, she had grabbed the picture in her bloodied hands—she hadn't used anything but her hands to pick the glass up—and then tore it to shreds, shouting obscenities at it. Her hands had been shaking and although the blood had begun to dry, it came flowing as though the wound wasn't closing. Just like the wound in her heart.

I remember watching her drop the pieces of the picture to the ground as her shoulders began to heave with her sobs. I remember watching as she leaned against the wall, her knees weak beneath her weight as she tried to keep herself standing up. I remember when she fell onto the ground and sobbed hysterically into her hands. She didn't even realize that I was in the same room as her. She didn't notice the eyes on her as I silently began to cry, watching her in so much pain because of what he had done to her.

After standing in the hall, looking into her room for five minutes or so, I managed my way back into my room where I sat and hated myself for not helping her. Hated myself for reminding her of him so much. Hated myself for things that I couldn't help like the color of my hair and the color of my eyes. I look back on it now and wonder how I could let myself get like that, but when it happened…I knew that I was worthless to her and that I would never be able to make her smile like he did.

I knew that I'd never measure up to him and be able to fill the hole in her heart that he had left her.

I talked to her about it afterwards; asked her why she still cared so much about him and if she was mad at me for resembling him so much. The answer that I got upset me, but I've lived with it and I know that I will always live with it. I have no choice but to live with it, after all.

She said that dad was a good-for-nothing asshole who she never should have dated or even given a second glance to. I don't think that she completely realized exactly what she said after that, but I remember it almost as if it happened yesterday when it happened so many years ago. Her fists clenched and her knuckles began to turn white with how hard she was holding her hands shut; her shoulders tensed and her eyes held a burning hatred in them that I had never seen before. Sometimes she acts as though she remembers and makes sure that she's cautious of what she says when I'm around, but she usually doesn't care if I can hear what she has to say.

She said that she hated how I looked like him and how I reminded her of him so much. Said that I was just like him and would be just like him when I was older as well, never caring about anyone other than myself. Shouted that she wished that she had never gotten close to him and had never decided that she was "in love" with him like she believed that she was at the time. Through all of this—though she hadn't said it—I knew that she wished that I had never been born or even conceived. I stayed quiet through it all and when she was done with her tangent, I just nodded and walked away to keep out of her way.

If I'm so much like him, why can't she be happy like she was with him? I don't understand how he and I are so much alike, but she doesn't even try to be happy or be anything but upset.

I've lived with it though. I will live with it.

I still can't help but wonder why dad even left mom in the first place. Was it because I wasn't what he wanted from her and figured that there was absolutely no reason to stay around to take care of me? Did he just stop loving her at that moment? Or had it been something that built up from many events that had long passed and that I will never know about?

Sometimes I hope that he left her because he didn't love her anymore. I know that it's a horrible thing for me to hope, but I do and I can't help it. I hope that she was ungrateful for all that he did for her and that she was just asking to get left behind like she was. But I know from the letters and photographs that it wasn't because of that. And no matter how much I wish and hope that there are more letters to tell me otherwise, there aren't and the most recently dated one is a week before my birthday.

It's talking about how he loves her and will always love her. He's saying all of these kind things to her about how he can't wait for the baby to come and how he has so many plans for his child. He said that he was glad that they hadn't been told the gender that I was going to be because it was an element of surprise that made things that much more magical. There's a lot more, but it's all just pretty much repeating what he had said before and things that bored me too much to finish reading the letter.

Then there's her response, which I won't even think about since it's almost the same exact thing that he wrote. Obviously they shared a brain and she couldn't think for herself.

I'm sitting in my room with the cordless phone in my hand, staring down at it as I press the talk button to turn it on, only to press it again to turn it off. I've been staring at it for the past hour and nothing has changed at all about the situation.

I'm in the same position that I was before, except moved a little to the left because I moved around a little about ten minutes ago. The pictures that were supposed to be thrown out are all around me and a phone number is sitting amongst them that I managed to get when I asked a technological friend of mine to find it for me. I've been trying to dial it for the past three days, but I'm never able to; I always freeze when I get to the last number (if I even get that far) and turn the phone off.

This time I've vowed to actually dial the whole number and wait until someone answers it so that I can stop wasting my time by sitting around in my room every day until I get the courage to dial the whole number. I'm hoping that it works this time because I'm tired of hearing the beep that the phone makes when it's turned on and off; I'm tired of just staring at the phone, willing it to disappear so that I can't use it. Nothing will change and no answers will be given unless I actually do what I had set out to do. But doing that has proved to be harder than I thought that it would be and I find myself going crazy with anticipation and unnecessary fear.

It is unnecessary…isn't it?

Of course it is. There's no reason to be afraid of calling him. It's not like he's going to hang up on me, so why am I so afraid? He'll answer it and we'll talk; we'll catch up on all of the things that we've missed since I was born and he and mom will get back together. Mom will be happy again and I'll be able to meet my dad and get to know him for who he is and really know him instead of just through the letters that he and mom wrote back and forth.

Looking at the paper with the ten digits on it, I turn the phone on, cringing at the beep, and then dial all ten of the digits—plus the necessary one at the beginning—and listen to the ringing. It seems so much louder than it usually is and after about the third blaring noise, I'm about ready to hang up, but the voice on the other end stops me.


Well, he sounds nice like I expected him to be. That's always good to know.

But even though I'm trying to open my mouth and say something, there's only silence from me, which prompts him to speak again.



My voice is shaking and I can hear the annoying squeak that gets added whenever I get nervous and I'm wishing that I could have at least calmed down before opening my mouth. The silence that I get from him worries me and I can't help but want to hang up since I've gotten no answer, but—just like before—he speaks before I'm able to take the phone away from my ear and shut it off.

"Who is this?" he asks. The kindness that I heard before is suddenly gone and replaced with annoyance and anger.

Maybe this is what I was afraid of the whole time? Maybe I did have a reason to be afraid. But I give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's afraid that someone is playing a trick on him and getting his hopes up, but I can't understand why anyone would want to do that to him.

"It's your daughter—"

There's a growl, silence, and then the line goes dead.

He's one step ahead of me, as usual.

At least my question was answered.

I put the phone down on the bed after hanging up and sigh, staring at the pictures in silence as I start to clean them up. "Why did dad leave?" I ask myself, forcing a laugh and smile as I throw the photographs into the trash can by my bed. "Because of me. Because I'm a girl. Because I'm not what he wanted."

Now I can see why mom hates him.