If Only We Could | Melissa Ren

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His mouth moved mechanically like a ventriloquist doll perched on someone’s lap. He suddenly stopped speaking and my gaze flicked from his lips to meet his stare.

He could only sigh. His eyes squeezed shut as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “How many times are we going to have this conversation?” His voice held a monotone quality. Wonk, wonk, wonk.

I recalled the first time we had this ‘conversation.’ This, dressing down of shoulds and shouldn’ts, of expectations and failures, of moulding me into him. It happened on a Sunday afternoon, a month after I moved in with him. I was nine. We sat in this very spot, though I felt much smaller then. I clutched my hands over my lap, nodding. He wore a beige knitted sweater. I remember this because it was the only time he wore it, as if specially for the occasion. His arms swayed through the air as he postured good intentions. He even smiled. That smile disintegrated over time, as did my nodding. God, that was ages ago.

He sighed again, finally opening his eyes. Clasping his hands over the oak desk, he asked, “Do you have anything to say?”

To piss him off, I sighed even louder.

He stood at once. The chair screeched across the hardwood like a bow to a cello. He leaned forward, clutching the edge of the desk. “Why?”

The question should have stirred something inside of me.

Should have induced remorse.

Should have urged me to apologize.

But I felt nothing. He wasn’t my father and I wasn’t his legacy.

I stood to meet him eye-to-eye.

Then I left his dim office, knowing this wasn’t the end. It never is.

Melissa is a Chinese-Canadian writer. Her writing has appeared or forthcoming in The Nassau Review, Metonym Literary Journal, Door Is A Jar, and others. Find her at linktr.ee/MelissaRen.

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