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A Guarantee in Life
By Justin S.
age: 17
Pennsylvania

Everyone at some point in life says, “I regret that ever happening,” or “If I had one thing to change, it would be ...” Well, I suppose you feel that way until you realize that there was a reason for those events to happen. Looking back on my childhood, I realize that those situations had a big impact on the person I am today.

It was a cold day in November, 22 days after my fifth birthday. I sat motionless in a bathtub full of bubbles, deep in thought, staring blankly, wondering this and that. Suddenly the phone rang. When the phone would ring I would run frantically, hoping it was that mysterious caller who would send a message once or twice a month. But this time, for some reason, I didn’t bother to move. It was as if the ringing of the phone never happened. Eventually I drifted out of thought and listened. The phone stopped ringing and my mother was speaking. Vaguely, I recall hearing, “This boy has been waiting for a call from you for weeks.” I was a little curious, so I slipped out of the bubbly liquid, put on my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas, and wandered into the living room.

“Mommy, who’s on the phone?” I asked, tugging at her shirt. She whispered something into the phone then looked down at me.

“It’s daddy, honey. Do you want to talk to him?” (Why even bother asking a question like that? I thought to myself. You know the answer)

“Really? Daddy’s on the phone?”

She nodded her head slowly, her face still, and handed me the phone reluctantly.

“Hello!” I exclaimed.

“How doin’ buddy?” said my father.

“I’m OK. I have a sore throat.”

“Oh, that’s not good. So I hear it was your birthday a couple weeks ago?”

“Yep,” I said excitedly.

“How old are you now, twelve?”

“Five, dad,” I said with a smile.

“I was thinking, maybe you would like to come over to my house and spend the night.”

The words I had been waiting to hear finally came.

“Yeah, I’ll go get ready, I’ll bring my Ghostbusters toys and my Ninja Turtles cartoons and my sleeping bag and I’ll go make pizza rolls so we have something to eat and...”

“That sounds great, buddy, and you know what else you need to do?” he said as though he cared. “You need to go and drink lots of orange juice to fix that sore throat.”

“OK...”

Suddenly the phone was taken out of my hands.

“Hello, Frank, I’m not going to let you...” my mother said, looking down at me. She stopped in mid-sentence. “Honey, go dry your hair,” she told me as she covered the receiver. I tried to listen to what she said as I returned to the bathroom. In the distance I could hear her voice get a little louder, but the words were too muffled for me to understand.

It was about 7 p.m. and I had just finished packing my things. My mother had told me that dad had said, “Tell him I’ll be there at a quarter after seven.” So I began my wait. I sat on the couch and watched some of an episode of “Full House.” Waiting...waiting. I could smell the pizza rolls in the oven. Having almost forgotten about them, I hurried into the kitchen to find my mother taking them out of the oven. She put them on a plate and wrapped it in foil. Mom began to say something, but I wasn’t listening. The radio was playing the song “Lay Down Sally.” My dad was in a band and they always would start the evening with that song. This made me even more excited to see my father. I sang along as I ran back to sit by the window.

It was 7:20 and still no sign of my daddy. I sat on the chair closest to the front window, watching all the cars that would pass, hoping that each one of them would be my dad. With each passing of a car, wind would slip through the crack underneath the window seal, sending a chill through my body. I turned around every so often to look at the clock. While panning from the window to the clock, I caught a glimpse of my mother’s face. She looked upset. I didn’t really care, though. My mind was occupied with the thought of seeing my dad. The seconds of waiting turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into an hour. I decided I would call to see if my dad had fallen asleep or something. My dad didn’t have a phone at his house, and I knew he had to have called from somewhere else, so I quietly picked up the phone and hit star 69.

Once the recorder told me the number, I hung up quickly and dialed. The phone rang and rang. Finally, someone picked up.

“Helllooo,” a drunken voice spoke, party music booming the background.

“Can I talk to my daddy?” I said.

“Whhattshyer dad’s name?” she asked.

“Frank.”

“Oh, Frankie. Yeah, suuure, I’ll go and find him.”

I could hear the phone being laid down. After what seemed like ten minutes, that strange man’s voice came through the line.

“Yeah, this is Franko,” he said, sounding drunk himself.

“Daddy, you said you were coming to get me,” I said, my heart beating faster.

“Ah, did I? I’m sorry, buddy, but you know what?” he said, slurring his words.

“Daddy, I made pizza rolls, I got my things together, and I drank three glasses of orange juice, just like you told me,” I said, my eyes welling with tears.

“What?” he said, sounding confused. “Sorry, feller, but things came up and I can’t get you tonight. Maybe next weekend.”

In the background I could hear a woman’s voice. “Frankie, come on baby, come back to bed.”

“Daddy, I love you...”

Click. The phone went dead. As I stood there trying to absorb what had just happened, the line began to beep.

I placed the device that enabled me to hear that mysterious man’s voice back on its holder. I tilted my head to the side, and the tears flowed. I turned around to find my mommy standing in the doorway, her arms out. She had known what would happen even before it happened. It was ten o’clock that cold November night when I went to sleep. For some reason, crying always had that sleepy effect on me. “No more tears for Daddy tonight,” my mommy whispered as she rubbed my forehead, knowing I would fall asleep in her arms.

I knew that night that the phone conversation had been backward. I may have been only five years old, but I knew what that mysterious man really was — just a very lonely and confused child. Now I realize that conversation took place between a thirty-year-old child and a five-year-old adult. Things happen for a reason, at least that’s what I believe, so I would like to thank my father for never being there for me, for when he would pop his head into my life just long enough to give me pain. I don’t regret all those times I would get my hopes up and be let down. Without his influence in my life, I may not be the person I am today. People say the only guarantee in life is death. That’s not true. There are two. The other is pain.

Today, my father tells me, “I wish I had a part in your childhood.”

I reply, “I wish I had a part in yours.”

 

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