Father F*cker! - Prologue
June 15th, 2003–Father’s Day
Huddled in the cold Malibu sand with my knees hugged against my chest, I stare out at the Pacific Ocean through swollen eyes. Tears mingle with snot, drip off my chin and onto my leggings. I don’t care. In the 5am hour, the sky is still dark, dotted with shimmering stars. A biting chill cuts through the thin, oversized T-shirt in which I slept. I tremble, not from the bite, but from the undulating sorrow crawling through my body. I have contained this fucking torment my whole life. Now I simply refuse to house it any longer. Out it comes. I am falling apart as I am coming together.
I have set this scene on an exquisitely excruciating stretch of beach by the Malibu Lagoon at Cross Creek—a place I have romanticized so deeply and for so long that, on sight, it conjures an unquenchable longing—greater than words can describe—for a certain someone to hold me and make me feel safe. No! My brain screams at my anguish. I won’t hold you in. Get out of me. Fuck you. Fuck me. Take me. I surrender.
I am so tired of longing.
Somewhere along the way, I have relinquished the power to defend myself. I am depleted of the strength, the massive amounts of energy it takes, to keep this God forsaken grief out, or in, or whatever. I have no choice but to let it engulf me. So, I tremble. My gut rushes toward the earth. My teeth clatter in my head. And it feels strangely good.
The sounds of my sorrow, joined by sporadic first-call-of-the-morning seagull squawks and the rolling crash of low-tide waves on the horizon, create a backing-track for an enormous blanket of black silence. I feel small, and alone, but no longer afraid.
In my hand I clutch a crumpled pile of stationary onto which, at 3am, a letter to my father poured from a pen I had plucked off my bedside table, after I’d awaken from a dead-sleep, hit by the knowledge that the pipe by the pen’s side was empty. I had no weed. I had gone to sleep the night before completely sober. This drama is not even driven by a hangover. This drama is pure.
I am determined to face Father’s Day for once.
I have spent my life not talking about mine. I have ignored his existence, or lack thereof, since I was five years old. I’ve become a master at changing the subject of conversation. As soon as I know the flow of someone’s words is headed toward a remotely daddy-related topic, I suddenly have profundity I must share and that just so happens to be un-daddy-related. I have figured—by ignoring the most gorgeous, breathtaking, God-like image of a man I’ve ever seen not even close to enough of—I could make his absence go away, and it has worked. Or, has it?
I have managed to suppress my feelings by various methods that have evolved, as I’ve grown older. When I was a girl, I vanished into books, reading away my feelings and escaping my fucked-up, grief-soaked childhood whenever possible. Reading inspired the writing of fantastic stories that whirled me away from reality. The Cabbage Patch Kids and Furskin Bears, with which my grandfather had spoiled my sister and me to make up for the inconvenient fact that we had no daddy, had become my first subjects. I gave them dialects and dialogue, personalities and passions; with them I kept grand company. Fantastic stories transformed into poetry. Poetry morphed into the worship of boys, unrequited love and obsession. All of which led to self-medication—like dropping acid for the first time when I was fourteen and realizing it carved open a certain can of creativity in me that lent nicely to my penchant for staying far away from actuality. Cocaine, crystal meth, hallucinogens, marijuana, pills and alcohol were glorious tools for constructing my walls of denial.
Five months before now, I turned twenty-seven and took a sharp turn in the “spiritual path” I had discovered in college. I had been practicing yoga for a few years , but it had been about “working out,” twisting into poses, stretching and sweating more so than communicating with the divine. Then a friend turned me on to Ezra Stern. Ezra Stern. Sigh! Ezra had been taking his yoga bag out of the trunk of his car, in front of The Dane Moss’ Power Yoga Studio, where he taught in Santa Monica, when I noticed his surfboard peeking out. He’s a surfer like my dad was! I thought excitedly.Ezra walked toward us through the morning marine fog, and I was certain I was in love with him by the time he approached and my friend introduced us. From that point forward, I dove headfirst into a spiritual practice of Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan Chanting (call and response chanting to Hindu Gods), guided by God-like Ezra. He was the perfect Guru, and just the object my obsession needed to continue not looking at myself. I knew I was circling a key, I could sense it, but I had no idea what was behind the door that key would unlock.
Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan Chanting were said to reach an individual toward enlightenment, and I was all ready to go, as long as I got to drool over Ezra at least six days a week on my journey. During chanting sessions that bookended my daily yoga practice with Ezra, I was flooded with childhood memories. My daddy. Schoolteachers who had scarred me. Relationships gone wrong. The first time I got drunk and woke-up in vomit. Drug trips. Moments my addictions had melded. And a burning fucking desire to communicate with my father. My father. The most beautiful man I had ever seen. Yes, he was even more beautiful than Ezra. He was more beautiful than any of them ever were, but I couldn't reach him.
How the fuck am I supposed to deal with the fact I will never see him again? Never? Not even a peek? How the fuck could he leave me like he did? No. Not Never. Please. Just once? Denial. I have a hard time accepting the forever-ness of never again. I want to fucking see him. I want him to put his arms around me. I want him to tell me I’m pretty. I want him so badly it’s almost unholy. Like, not seeing him throughout my life has planted seeds of wanting to be with him in ways a girl is not supposed to want to be with her father, but what else can I do? I have no fucking ability to grasp him and there is nothing I can do about it. So, for, say, sixty more years I have to contend with the unrelenting fact I will never again get to touch him or hear his voice? Well, that sucks but I can’t not face it any longer.
Five months into my heart opening, here I am, huddled on the sands of my dreams and nightmares, a heap of razor-sharp, raw emotion. Exposed nerves zap up and down my spine. It is time to release all I have never been given a chance to say to my father.
I unfold my body, look down at my letter and watch my black-inked, cursive scrawl smear with tears. I want to read it one last time before I send it.
I haven’t referred to anyone by that name in a long time: Daddy. I suppose I used to call you that, but it’s hard to remember because I was so young when you left. I likely fantasize my once use of that word more so than I remember it. Daddy. I’m not sure if I more miss the word or resent it.
Daddy, I got to know you through photographs, in case you’ve wondered. Almost every memory I have of your face is connected to a picture I’ve seen in Mom’s or Grandma’s photo albums. I have seen some video footage of you, too. So, I’ve gotten to hear your voice, but not enough, not even close to enough.
You left me with a void I have never been able to fill, although I keep trying. This drink, that drag, some guy, some new heartbreak, which is just like the last, but always seems to hurt more.
I am not angry with you, or at least I haven’t allowed myself to be angry with you, yet. Maybe what I’m trying to say is I’ve missed having you around—a lot. Maybe I just want to tell you, I love you. You gave me your dimple; I notice that in photographs and that you were beautiful, so beautiful. I compare every guy to you, but they never compare.
You were going to drive us to the zoo that day after you did what you did. Were you really going to drive your two young daughters in that condition? You must have been so high you thought you could fly. By the way, I do have a few memories of you. I remember our trip to Catalina, searching for seashells. I remember you pulling Hannah and me around the lagoon at Cross Creek on your surfboard, and I remember the day you died—it’s my most vivid memory of you. In fact, it has replayed in my head for twenty-two years. You were wearing a pair of faded Levis the last moment I saw you, and nothing else. You were lying on the bed; I tried to see you for as long as I could before Mom pushed us out of the room and slammed shut the door on which we had been knocking all day long. Hannah and I were six and five years old then, respectively.
Oh, yeah, and you gave me a dozen red roses on my fifth birthday; I’ve always thought that was a class act on your part. Mom has a Polaroid of the roses, but it’s fading.
For years, living in that house where you died, I fantasized about you coming home. I wasted birthday wishes on you until I turned eleven. At last I got it, you were never coming back, so I wished to make it to the Olympics as a gymnast instead. I blew out my candles and finally understood the finality of death, but I still don’t fully get it. I never made it to the Olympics and I still fantasize about you, sometimes, when I’m feeling really lost, really alone. Like now, I fantasize you will receive this letter.
I’m working on writing a novel titled, Daddy Issues. Lord knows I have them.
I love you, Daddy.
P.S. I’ve always hated Father’s Day.
I finish reading my words and feel empty, which I guess was the goal. I stand up, dizzy with some sort of lightness, and pull out a lighter I had tucked under my bra. I walk to the water and light my letter on fire. I watch it flutter into the ocean as ashes, like I watched my father’s ashes flutter into the ocean twenty-two years ago.
The rising sun sheds a hushed light on the budding day. I fold my arms across my chest and breathe in the baffling never-ending-ness of the Pacific, of God.
I have no way of knowing what he has in store for me. My act of writing a letter to my father has been innocent. Later I will look back and wonder: had I known whom my ceremony would summon, would I have written that letter?
title: Father F*cker!
genre: literary fiction / women's literary fiction
age range: 25-55
target audience: women / fans of hollywood tales and music (specifically seventies laurel canyon)
word count: 133,890
author name: Franki Pineapple - age: 46
hometown: Los Angeles
why your project is a good fit: it's timely and it has all the elements
platform: www.frankipineapple.com / @frankipineapple