June, 1995

Gloomy Sunday was the night you died. I was awakened by an angel, I am sure of it. He flew around my room and I swear I could hear his wings buzzing as he passed through the wall to the room where you slumbered in your thick boozey haze unaware that when you closed your eyes you were never again to see the light of day. That night the angel filled me with a terror I had never known before. My throat was tight, my mouth chokingly dry, and my stomach nothing but knots--my entire body reduced to surging ache after ache. No part of me wanted that angel to be there. I wish now that I could have pushed him away, sent him packing to bestow his gift of death onto some other soul. He was not my angel, he was yours. I knew he was not there for me when I sensed the easy peace, the happy tranquility that filled you as the last bit of your tortured life drained from your body. I guess I felt grateful your angel could find his way through the layers of disease and disgust you built around yourself. Your angel fought for you, how can I question anything that would want to bring a moment of grace before you faced eternity? He was yours, not mine and I cannot blame him because he could not, or would not, bring me any of the solace he gave you as the number of heart beats that defined your life became finite. I could do nothing but cry out in anguish and in some measure of joy for your burden was lifted even as mine doubled.

It's been over a year now since that night passed. I still cannot believe I will never see you as anything more than a vision, a flash, always and forever you will be fleeting, never again a solid mound of warm flesh and flowing blood. I still think of that night and wonder...can you hear me now? If you could I know you'd help me. Daddy, I want your angel of death to come for me. I want him to take me into his arms and hold me until I am free. What is the line in the song, "angels have no thoughts of ever returning you, would they be angry if I thought of joining you?" I'm sitting beside the river watching boats fight the swells and eddies of the Mississippi. A man is playing "Amazing Grace" on the saxophone for spare change, and I think of you. In this city where the line between life and death, desire and loss, does not exist, I have found you again. I remember how much you loved this city--how much you wanted to bring me here. The stories (and the lies). The watch you had stolen in a brothel (for mom, it was snatched by some thief in the night from your hotel room). Daddy, I'm glad you knew me when I wasn't such a mess--all twisted up and turned in on myself. Did you know I sold the new watch you left me for about a dozen Bs (for mom it was stolen by some thief on the subway)? Lies, deceit, ugly things that fester (still) between the three of us--always and forever distrustful of one another, that is what you taught me. Looking forward, looking back, its all the same, irretrievably broken, angry and wretched.

The night you taught me my true legacy burns in my mind even now. Two weeks in Hong Kong coming to a close. You--another extended lost weekend where you've done nothing but drink and watch the ferries on the harbor go back and forth between Hong Kong and Kowloon. You call me to your room, fill a bathroom glass with Champagne and place it in my hand. Manic with your latest plan you pace the room, the telephone handset cradled in crook of your neck while you signal for me to sit on the couch. When the call is over you tell me you have made arrangements for a geisha (nevermind this is Hong Kong, not Japan). Swigs of champagne. Fear, disgust, dread.

In the next room I hear you with her. I smell liquor, cigarettes, and sex. Cantonese pop videos on the tv offer a few moments of distraction, more champagne offers a degree of comfort. You stagger from the bedroom--sloppy, naked and stupid. Next, you say to me. I look out the windows at your ferries and wonder if there is anyway to escape this fate--somehow knowing this night will be knotted in my mind forever.

I'd like to think that you pushed me into that room, but you didn't. The girl, pretty, but not beautiful, exchanged a few words with me. I sit in a chair and stare at her naked in a king size bed stained with your cum. My head buzzed from nicotine and liquor. The girl comes to me. There is a kiss. It is tender, soft, surprisingly gentle--the first time I kissed another girl--and I cry. In the bed her skin is unimaginably soft, her hands intensely firm. I want nothing to do with this, but I cannot resist. I let go and I am steeped in a pleasure I would rather not know. My memories are jumbled: rapture, repulsion, shame that I like this too much and then there is your presence. I feel you in that room with me--watching, smirking, knowing. I am 15 and I've learned I will never unravel this night when you showed me who and what I am--a monster (just like you).

I am driven to this spot besides the river by the ghost of that night. Then there are other hauntings as well and they chase me just as furiously as does the one of that night with you. There is the girl who left me the night your angel saved you from your earthly demons. She wanted to punish me for my sins and when I could not be helped she moved on to someone who could. There is the one I truly loved but could never tell her the secrets that bind me to my rage. I wanted to save her from myself and in so doing, I wounded her as well. There are others whose stories are just minor variations on the same tired theme. Would any one of them recognize me now? Dirty, thorny and and ugly from the years of hate that have passed through me? I dream of them and sometimes I only see sweetness and light--the roads I wish I could have travelled if I weren't so lost and lonely.

The other night, I felt your ghost with me. I met this girl in a bar in Elysian Fields. She had long luminous hair the color of goldenrod. She drank, she swore, just like you. She looked at me and i felt her eyes probing my soul--searching and knowing just the way you used to burn through me. When she brought my drink, she touched my hand and traced a vein. Did she know the exact measures of pain that flowed within?

Back at her apartment on Frenchman, music from the bar across the street mixed with the bitter smell of butane and a cooker. The girl with goldenrod hair shot me up. It wasn't anything I hadn't already felt and craved, but that first night with her in this city that you loved, it was sweeter than ever. The heady rush, the enthusiastic babble, and I feel irrationally close to the stranger lying next to me. In her bed, her arms wrapped around me, I drift in a sloppy, happy daze. Days end, nights begin and we trace the tracks of our past on one another's body. We cling to one another, living our pain, worshipping our ghosts. Daddy please save me from this. How can I kill you when you are already dead and gone? I pray for salvation and I don't find any. There is no road out of here today by the river when the girl with the goldenrod hair comes up carrying the only grace I know and hands me the bags I wish I could do without.