Just like that, he was gone. Again. He always has the habit of leaving when I need him most. I’m hypnotized by the emptiness of the apartment and I just stare blankly at the door. The slamming rings loud in my ears and I’m reminded I have chores to finish. As I make my way to my room, I notice the pictures of my dad and I hanging on the mantle. The fake smiles and hidden anger jump out from the frames. I knock them down the same way he’s knocked down our relationship.
“Amber, I have to go, she’s my patient.” My dad’s words from right before he left still stain my mind.
“And I’m your daughter,” I had said, “You’re always picking your patients over me.” That wasn’t a fair statement, I know. It just made me so mad. He was always leaving. Today was my birthday; my eighteenth birthday and he had promised to spend the entire day with me but instead ended up leaving when he got called into work. I spent the majority of my eighteenth birthday sitting in my room. As always my mind revolves to images of my mom. It’s been three years since her death and still I feel the wounds are fresh. She had suffered from depression for the majority of my life and on May 14, 2009 she decided she couldn’t take it anymore and took her own life. I swear the moment she jumped I felt it. It sounds ridiculous but its true; around the time, she did it, I had a panic attack. I’ve suffered from anxiety since I was little but never have I had an anxiety attack that severe.
Two hours later, I was called down to the office. I found my dad, two cops, and the principal waiting for me. Automatically, I knew something was wrong. Every instinct was telling me to turn around. Somehow I knew that what I was about to hear would change my life forever.
“Amber, there’s been an accident. Your mother…” The two cops tried to explain to me. My father was looking down and couldn’t bear making eye contact with me for more than two seconds. The principal was silently waiting my response. The next words would be the soundtrack to my nightmares for years to come: “she’s taken her life.” I never understood that, one part of me was furious with her. Absolutely livid with her for leaving me alone with my father when she knows we’ve barely gotten along all these years. I’m angry with her for leaving me completely alone. Another part of me is sympathetic with her. I never truly understood just how unhappy she was until those words were said to me. The permanent stain of tears imprinted on her face never stood out to me until after she was gone. And finally, the last part of me is angry with myself. I should’ve tried harder. I should’ve been a better daughter. It’s too late now. Hopefully, she’s found her peace, while I’m still trying to find mine.
The next day, I’m determined to make it a better day. I’m tired of dreading the morning and the school day that follows. I wear the nicest clothes I have and actually make an effort with my looks. Today is going to be a good day, I think to myself. I utter those words to myself all the way to school, up the school stairs, and into my first period class. I take my seat next to my best friend Dave and prepare for the day that awaits. Dave has been my best friend since we were little and still he doesn’t know everything I’ve gone through. While he obviously knows of my mother’s death, that’s as far as his knowledge goes. I think he knows of my unhappiness but he isn’t much of a talker and frankly, neither am I. I’ve always wanted to tell him though. I felt like he deserved to know as he tells me important things in his life but whenever I try the words get caught in my throat.
I arrive home and turn on the television. 10 minutes into my program, the jingling of keys at my front door lets me know this day is going to turn out like the others.
“Wow, you’re actually home. I haven’t seen you for what, only three days straight.” My words to my dad shoot out of my mouth like bullets and by the look on his face I can tell it was an assassin-like shot. Quickly, a smile emerges on his face, “I’ve got something for you. It’s a birthday and a ‘I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend more time together’ present.” He always does this. He tries to buy my forgiveness and my love as if I’m that shallow.
“The movers are on their way up here with a brand new piano!”He practically shouts. I cannot believe he would do this. I have no words to say. Tears are almost spilling out of my eyes but I refuse to let them loose. I rush towards the door and walk out. He will never understand.
“Sweetie, try and curve your fingers like this.” My mom’s words echo through my mind. I walk aimlessly and before I know it, I’m at a park thinking of my mom once again. Music was always her thing and she got me into it too. She was a music major in university and when she played the piano, angels were jealous. It became a common love for us with her teaching me how to play. At first I played just to be like her but soon the black and white keys became my second home. Five months leading up to her suicide I didn’t play as much and when she died I stopped playing completely. My dad always begged me to continue and often hired people to continue my lessons but out of anger one day, I destroyed it. I took every possible weapon in my house and I destroyed the piano and every painful memory of my mom that lied inside. I thought that would get the message across to my dad but he waspersistent. For three years, he’s been trying to convince me to pursue it but him buying the piano was his way of forcing it on me. He just doesn’t understand, it doesn’t make sense without my mom. I can’t play it without her here with me. God, I miss her so much.
Suddenly I’m aware of where I am. This playground has been closed for months for renovation and yet nothing has been done. The other swing set on the other side of the playground is broken with half of it on the ground and the other half barely standing up. The grass has been plucked out by small animals and those who trespass on the now private property. The rest of the actual playground is rusted from years of damage by kids smashing their feet and the downpour of rain. I look up at the skies and it looks like it may rain yet again. It resembles how I feel right now. The sky is hazel. The sun is non-existent hiding behind the clouds. The park is just empty. It just looks forgotten. The renovations were supposed to start nine months and yet very little have been done. None of the equipment has been replaced yet and it seems the entire community has just forgotten about this place. Even the animals that used to be common visitors on this playground now barely come around. Raccoons and bunnies, and me apparently are the only things that come here anymore.
Memories and anger fill my mind though, so I get up. I try to empty my thoughts and walk around. Before I know it I’m running. I’m circling around the playground numerous times without realizing it. My feet are guiding me into oblivion and I just can’t stop running. Suddenly, the state of the playground becomes apparent to me even more. I stop running and just look at it. Everything about this place is so somber. I realize then why it’s been bugging me so much: the playground reminds me of myself; it too has been forgotten. Everything from the broken swing set to the plucked grass reminds me of myself. I have to fix it. Suddenly, I feel the need to do something, to fix something as a reminder of the love and joy this place used to bring kids.
I pick up all the trash on the park. It looks like everyone used this place as the city dump with the amount of trash I see here. Diligently, I dispose all the trash. I scare away the animals that have been gnawing away at the grass. I make my way over to the broken swing set. I put back, take away, and fix as much as I can until I am exhausted. Before I leave, I take a glance at the place so many people have neglected over the past few months and come to the realization that the same way I’ve fixed up this playground, I must do the same thing to myself.
After leaving the park 30 minutes ago, I bused to Dave’s house. I just need to talk to someone. We’re both sitting in his room and I know it’s my turn to talk, but I’m nervous. I’m afraid of what his reaction will be. Dave has been in my life since we were young and yet he still doesn’t know everything. He takes a seat beside me and I don’t know what to say.
“You want to talk about it?” Dave asks me.
I shake my head. Afraid of what will come out if I try to open my mouth. I just stare down at the ground. I can feel his stare on me though, watching and waiting for me to start talking. He always does this. So do I; I pretend I don’t want to talk, he stays quiet and then I spill everything out.
“My…” I struggle to get the words out. He stares patiently at me, waiting for me. “My dad got me a piano.” The look on his face displays his confusion and before I know it the words become oil richly running out of my mouth.
“Ever since I can remember,” I begin to tell Dave, “my mom has been suffering from depression. She was just so unhappy, I could never understand why. The only time she seemed to express any kind of joy was when she was playing the piano. She loved it so much so I started playing it too. I figured I could find a way to make her happy and that was to play and so I practiced day and night as much as I could in hopes of her finding some kind of joy with my playing. Three years ago, she committed suicide. She took her own life Dave. She jumped out of out of our old apartment building and honestly, I can’t even look at windows anymore. Even after we moved, I made sure to take the room with the smallest window and I never go near it. Anyways, ever since she’s been gone I just haven’t found the will to keep playing, so I stopped but my dad always encouraged me to continue playing. I got so pissed one day I destroyed the piano we had. I remember him walking through the door, seeing the destroyed piano and just walking into his room. We’ve never talked about it since and now he gets me this piano. I can’t do it, Dave. I can’t play anymore. I only ever played for her, I only played for my mom and I can’t do it without her. It just reminds me too much of her. I…” I can’t speak anymore. My voice grows hoarse and tears threaten to fall out. For the first time since I started talking, I meet his eyes. He gives me a sheepish smile and embraces me into a hug.
Two hours after school ends the next day, I arrive home to find my dad sitting at the piano he bought, playing random keys.
“Amber, can you come here real quickly.” Reluctantly, I walk over and notice my mom’s music book. For what seems like the millionth time in the past couple days, I again am speechless.
“I found this music book and thought that maybe you’d like to play. You know, like old times. You used to have such joy playing with your mom I thought you’d want to play again.”
I can’t even respond to him. I’m so angry; all I can see is red. I can feel my face heating up and I all can do to not throw something is walk away. So that’s what I do; start to do anyways.
“Amber, just come try,” my dad says to me.
“Why do you do this?” I ask. I can feel where this is going and I can’t stop. The words pile out like vomit and the stench is overwhelming. I start picking up things around the house and just throwing them. Not in his direction but every direction. I pick up vases and picture frames and books. The entire time he doesn’t even flinch. He just keeps his eyes fixated on me.
“You are not here for entire weeks at a time and then when you are here all you want to do is pressure me into doing what I don’t want to do. Don’t you get it? I don’t want to play anymore, all right? Do you not understand how hard it is for me to even think about playing? This was her thing. Hers. Every time I pass by a music store, my heart aches. Every time I even watch a music video, it reminds me of her. Every melody that rings loud, every note of every song of every musician reminds me of her. I can’t do it without her. More it importantly, I won’t do it. You don’t know what it’s like for me: playing the piano used to make me so happy and now it is the one thing that hurts me the most. Then you decide to buy this stupid piano. How could you?!”
Tears fill up my eyes and I can feel a rush of water trying to rush out of a dam. He gets up and stands in front of me unmoving and not saying a word.
“Every time I see this piano, I can’t breathe. Literally, air gets trapped in my throat and all I can think about is her.”
I am now officially crying and he puts his arms around me. I start sobbing and in between the heaving, all I can manage out is “I miss her so much.”
It’s been two weeks since my anger and sadness overtook me and I yelled at my dad. I expected him to get angry or concerned that I would have the same outcome as my mom but he didn’t. He let me cry. He just held me and let me cry. He didn’t try to convince me of my feelings or talk me out of what it was I was feeling. Instead, he did something I’ve been needing the most from him: he listened. I talked to him about how hard the past three years have been on me and never did he interrupt me. While I was looking at his face, I was moved to do something I haven’t done either: I asked him about the past three years for him. All this time I’ve been caught up on my own sorrow and my own unhappiness, I never thought how hard it’s been for my dad. Every single time he sees me, it’s a reminder of my mom and how he couldn’t save her. That’s why he’s been pushing so hard, that’s why he’s been so insistent on me returning to the piano; he’s been trying to save me.
My dad has now put me in therapy. We have sessions together and I have some apart. It turns out talking is the one thing I’ve been in need of this entire time. Although my dad tried to make me go to therapy before I never listened. I always thought talking about it would make it hurt more. It’s been three years without my mom. I felt like an orphan the moment she left. Now, I don’t feel as alone.