by Su Hwang
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Feet on dashboard, god-awful music blaring from mixed
cassettes, my father let me have my way as he played
chauffeur, never easing his grip on the wheel down straightaways.
Four hours to my college dorm across New Jersey and the Poconos,
up through Scranton to the gulch of Broome County in upstate
New York, not a word passed between us, mile after
mile markers on fence posts, yellow dashes, streaks of trees—
blurred liturgy of autumn, spring. Summer into winter into
summer, ticking off hours that measured the distance as he drove
and I watched the road that held nothing but our widening gulf.
My father taught me willful reticence, folding desire
into cellular spaces. Perhaps one day I will enter this dusty
warehouse filled with neglected boxes, find the one labeled
For My Daughter, and unpack its long-held secrets. For now, I let
him seal their seams with tape, stuff them into corners. Recently
when I visited, he sat across the dinner table as Mom prepared
our holiday meal, both of them aging exponentially like radioactive
particles. Wisp of his former self, barely recognizable, recited
the Lord’s Prayer: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
They had just taken out his kidney: the half. Life of
failure. Suddenly he opened his eyes, looked straight into me,
and said, I know you, you have a frontier spirit. Where did he even
get that word: frontier. We nodded in agreement, then ate in
silence like we always do, losing our nerve. All I’ve ever wanted
him to say is: Tell me something. Tell me—everything.
"Cancer" by Su Hwang, from BODEGA by Su Hwang, copyright © 2019 Milkweed Editions. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions.