by Alexis Vaughen-Barnes
“I hope you die soon.”
The man in my parent’s room doesn’t react to my thoughts. He continues to stare at the wall with a dull, unfocused gaze. On first glance, you’d assume it was a corpse, not a living man; there is no life or joy in his sunken eyes, no wide smile that matches my own. His skin is tinted an inhuman color, devoid of warmth as it stretched over bones with no muscle.
The man in front of me is bald, with a fresh line of stitches stretching from the front of his head to the back. Hair may not be important for some, but the man I am told this is supposed to be, has a military standard hairstyle since long before I was born. The biggest loss Cancer can give me is taking my dad’s life, but seeing all semblance of who my father is leaving him is somehow so much worse.
“If you can’t get better, please die soon.”
I’m not a bad person. I’m an eleven-year-old who is tired. Tired of strangers’ prayers that don’t work, tired of the illness that takes more and more from my dad and leaves an unrecognizable husk behind. Tired that all of his suffering will be for nothing—there is no cure, there is no “remission” in the near future—he’ll die regardless of how many treatments or surgeries we try.
Before his diagnosis, he was alway holding or playing toddler soccer with my little brother, and I remember him doing the same with me. Now, here my sister is, the same age as his diagnosis— and developing just as fast—, and the man in front of me can barely lift his arm to touch her. She has to be placed on his chest and held up so he can give her what I’d barely describe as a hug.
I avoid my mom when she comes in to check on him. I can’t look at her without imagining how she’d react if I told her what I’ve been thinking. I’m a terrible child, wishing for my dad to die, giving up hope that he’ll get through this. This isn’t something he can just “get through.” This is stage four Melanoma.
Maybe if it was caught earlier. Maybe if it hadn’t already spread to his brain, or his lungs, or a majority of his organs. Everyone still expects me to hope he gets better when all I see is how much pain he’s in. We’re beyond recovery. We’ve tried all the standard procedures, and all of the experimental ones too.
I know my dad isn’t getting better. I hope he dies soon so he no longer hurts. I hope he dies soon because every new treatment meant to help him live longer is taking a part of what makes him who he is with it.
I hope he dies soon. That isn’t my dad.
by Josh Stein
Alexis Vaughen-Barnes is a queer writer who recently graduated with a BA in English. In their free time, they like to spoil their cat and add to their excessive collection of books.
Josh Stein (b. 1973, Hammonton, New Jersey; currently residing in Napa, California) is a lifelong multi-mode creative artist, musician, writer, professor with multiple advanced degrees from the University of California and the University of Liverpool, adult beverage maker, and current MFA candidate at School of Visual Arts in New York City.