Story:The Talk: Part 1
The Talk: Part 1
Written by Shataivian
Sunday, December 23th. Queens, New York. Las Vegas vs. Queens. The score at the end of the night: Las Vegas Wildcards 96, Queens Pride 100.
With the loss so fresh on her mind Lisa found it hard to find anything to keep her relaxed. Once the game was over Lisa made her way towards the rest of her team were her eye’s instantly lock on to one of the patrons. She couldn’t ignore the sight of her father. He was sitting right in the middle just a few rows up from Las Vegas’s bench.
David waved her over with excitement, kissed her forehead and congratulated her for a job well done while Lisa tried to take it all with a grain of salt. The cameras were still rolling, and David ate it up, waving back at them while hugging his daughter close to his side. Lisa smiled back at the cameras though her body was stiff. Once the cameras moved to someone else, Lisa gently but purposefully pushed David from her. Without a beat he moved to playing and picking at her now short hair.
“You’ve cut your hair again,” he acknowledged. Lisa just nodded with a forced smile. “It looks nice,” he continued. Lisa looked at him briefly from the corner of her eyes. “But is everything okay?” Lisa did not answer and focused her attention elsewhere. The two mingled individually for a bit with fans and other members of the team while Lisa did her best to try and ignore the fact that her father was right there. Here he was again. She knew he would be. Nothing she can do but to accept it.
Once the crowd dissipated a bit David placed his full attention on his daughter. “Hey, sweetie,” he started. Lisa acknowledged him with a slow glance from the corner of her eye. It was enough for David. “I was thinking you should stay for Christmas. It’s been a while and I just think it would be nice to be together this year.” Lisa shifted her gaze elsewhere. “What do you say?” Lisa started to walk away towards the locker room.
“I gotta go shower,” was Lisa’s only response.
“Oh, okay,” David nodded, and Lisa left for the locker room.
The stadium started to empty out fast. It was like Time Square on New Year’s Eve right after the ball drops; within a matter of minutes, the entire place went empty once people decided it was time to leave. David sat with his head down and his fingers clasped together, listening as the chatter and bustle of the patrons dulled to a low hum. Soon, the smallest movements of the remaining people were the loudest noises to be heard as they echoed throughout the arena. A sneeze. A dropped coin. A whisper. The slow echoes seem to replace the rhythmic ticking of a clock as the seconds passed by. David was the only one still seated, and others started to take notice. Stadium staff members, some volunteers from a nearby high school, and a janitor one by one took turns asking David if he was alright. He’d explain he was waiting for his daughter and continue to sit in silence until someone else would come along and ask him the same question.
His thoughts began to leap from one idea to the next. He was going to convince Lisa to stay no matter what. At least, that was his intentions at the start of the evening. But as the minutes ticked by and the sounds of the stadium grew quiet, his confidence wavered. “She didn’t say yes,” he would say to himself. “But she also didn’t say no.” He questioned his approach, his tone, even his motivation. What would convince her? Could he convince her? Nonetheless, David would wait for his daughter.
After about forty-five or so minutes, Lisa emerged from the locker room fully dressed. She wore a classic long white double-breasted winter coat that stretched to just above her knees, and a grey thick-yarn scarf that was tucked into the top of her coat. Her thigh-high boots clacked loudly against the stadium floor in a confident rhythm that perfectly matched David’s heartbeat. The force of his pulse seemed to be strong enough to shoot David out of his seat to greet her with an overly cheery smile. “You’re still here,” Lisa sternly asked. Her sudden voice shook David that he stammered and failed to find any coherent words to respond with. “Why don’t you go home,” she interrupted. David’s body was frozen, but his throat quickly burned as if he’d downed a shot of whiskey the wrong way.
“I just, I wanted you to come home for Christmas,” he reminded her.
“I’m not coming home.”
“I’d really like it if you did.” David’s posture stood a bit firmer.
“No.” Lisa just barely shook her head as she spoke, her eyes stayed locked to his, and her arms were folded. David threw his head back.
“Oh, come on, Lisa! Are we going to do this every time we see each other? Just come home.” David moved to grab Lisa by the wrist in frustration.
“Abso-fucking-lutely not!” Lisa snatched her hand away. “I’m not interested in coming home. Not now. Not ever. So, go home.”
“I thought we fixed things already,” David grumbled.
“In what way did things get fixed? Alright. I’m going back to-“
“Cette fille va être la mort de moi,” he said out loud to himself over Lisa.
“What was that?”
“Come on! Are we seriously going to do this?”
“You know what-?”
“And what’s with the short hair,” He interrupted. “Are we acting ‘tough’ again? Is this some kind of stance against me?” He then suddenly stopped to quickly grab his composure. Arguing like this was pushing them further apart. This wasn’t the way to convince her to stay. “Okay. Okay… What will it take to convince you to come home?” David gently grabbed her wrist to try and be a little sincerer and to get her to turn and face him more. Lisa guffawed.
“I’ve never heard you ask me what I wanted.” She snatched her wrist back again.
“I’m serious. Whatever you need, I’ll do it. I promise.” Lisa scoffed but her eyes became unfocused. They shifted between different seats in the stadium, the individual floor boards, the bench, and her chest filled to capacity and emptied every time they fell on her father. After a few unintentional cycles of this her eyes remained locked on David. “Give me this chance,” David pleaded. She let out an audible sigh and started walking back towards the locker room. “Lisa. Please? I just want you home for Christmas.”
“I know my way home,” she called back. David could feel his heart drop into his stomach, but all he could do in response was nod and turned around for the door.
“You… you sure you don’t want a ride home,” he turned back to ask. “Would be a helluva lot safer than the MTA.”
“I know my way home,” Lisa reiterated. David nodded in response again and left the arena towards the parking garage. That was that.
The garage was, in no surprise, not completely empty. There were cars that seemed to have been there for years: decrepit, rusted, missing hubcaps, the normal fare for New York City. However, there were no other vehicles that seemed to belong to any of the attendees of that night’s game. Because of this the garage felt utterly empty.
David slowly pulled out his keys and got in his car. Once his steering wheel was unlocked and he was strapped in, he took in a deep breath and let out a slow, shaky sigh. He took his time starting the car, hoping that Lisa would change her mind and ride home with him. But as he slowly pulled out of the parking garage, it was clear to him that Lisa was not going to reconsider his offer.
The drive home was tense and quiet; the radio was turned off, his grip was tight on the wheel, and miles went by without him noticing. The old mouse ran different scenarios in his head, hoping to find the best way to talk to his daughter. “I want to make things better,” he practiced to himself. “I want to fix things.” “I missed you.” “I’m proud of you.” “I’m… I’m sorry.”
The drive back to the Bronx seemed to be the perfect time to get it right, but it wasn’t long before David was pulling up to his neighborhood. His street ran perpendicular to the road he was entering from, with a cul-de-sac on either end. To the left of the entrance road was where he lived. There sat three tall apartment buildings with his being the first one on that cul-de-sac. It was late, which meant that there weren’t many parking spaces available, but after an hour of circling and praying he eventually found a spot. David locked his car up for the night, locking his steering wheel, hiding any visible valuables, and tucking his side mirrors in so that a shady parts-dealer wouldn’t steal them and try to sell it back to him later.
With how long the drive was plus the time spent looking for a parking spot, Lisa couldn’t be far from home. David wanted a little more time to practice what he was going to say to her. Once in his building he unlocked the door to the lobby and waited inside for the elevator. “Welcome home,” he continued to practice as the elevator doors opened. “How are things?” “Are you hungry?”
The elevator slowed to a stop and a voice called out “28th floor” just before the doors opened. At this time of night, the bare white hallways that branched out towards each apartment felt especially empty. Though there were enough people in each building to fill a small town, the night made it feel like he was completely alone. Maybe it was the florescent lighting hitting off the bland white floors, walls, and ceiling that made it feel eerily like a dream. David stepped out of the elevator, and the elevator repeated itself, “28th floor, going down,” before the doors closed behind him. His steps echoed loudly through the halls as he finally made it to his front door. He unlocked it, entered, re-locked the door behind him, and sat neatly on his couch, waiting, hoping for Lisa to ring the intercom buzzer.
This time there was an actual loud ticking coming from the clock hanging in the kitchen that counted the slow seconds that passed by. David was no longer practicing what to say. Instead, he did his best to keep his heart from sinking any lower into his stomach. David normally found Lisa easy to talk to, even during arguments. It didn’t matter the mood, David never found it difficult to speak his mind. But the bond between the two had been mangled in the past few years, and deep down he knew that it was his fault. Why couldn’t he just shut up and listen to what she had to say? Why did he always have to speak up and diminish the value of what happened to her? Maybe that was it. Maybe this time, David would say nothing. Maybe this time, he’d let her speak.
The buzzer rang.
David quickly ran to the kitchen where the intercom was, tripping over one of the kitchen chairs to reach it. “Hello,” David spoke into the intercom as he held down the “speak” button. He let go and pressed the “Listen” button to hear the response.
“It’s me,” Lisa’s voice sounded through the shoddy speaker. David held down the “speak” button.
“Ok. Come on up.” David pressed the third button labeled “open” that electronically unlocked the lobby door to let her in, and then pressed the “listen” button again to make sure the crappy old thing worked this time. Once he could hear the beeping from the lobby door, he left the kitchen to wait for Lisa by the front door.
It was quiet enough to barely hear “28th floor, going down,” from the hallway, but it didn’t need to be quiet at all to hear Lisa’s boots clacking towards David’s door. The rhythm of her steps reaching closer to his door filled his stomach and throat with a pressure that no matter what he did, would not go away. Lisa was almost home. For the first time in over four years, Lisa was almost home. Just take a breath. You can do this.
The doorbell rang.
David waited a second to unlock the door so that it wouldn’t seem like he had been standing right there the whole time. “Lisa, hey,” he greeted. Lisa pushed passed him and dropped her baggage on the tiny golden shin-high table sitting against the wall next to the front door that, for some reason, only had two legs. The back of the table was supported by two nails jutting out from the wall it was leaning on. Maybe it was a hand-me-down or something left over from when they moved to the city. Neither of them knew its origin, but it was an iconic piece of furniture. It was the same table Lisa would drop her bookbag on when she came home from school. That memory alone was reason enough to keep it.
“Hey,” Lisa softly responded. She was home. But something about it felt off. Everything was as she remembered. The TV sat awkwardly in front of the large window, blocking its gorgeous views of the bay below. The pleather couch was still cracked and deflated. The “Look! Do you have everything” posted note taped to the front door with the meticulously drawn pair of glasses on it was still there. The parquet flooring smelled of the same pine cleaner they’d use to mop the floors while dancing to classical rock. Everything looked the same, but the air around it was different. This air was heavy. Thick. It was like a primordial soup of what once was, and they both could sense they were drowning in it.
Lisa removed her coat and hung it on one of the hooks on the wall opposite the front door. “Welcome home,” David awkwardly said. He stood close to Lisa waiting to help in some way, but what could she possibly have him do?
“Yeah,” Lisa tiredly sighed.
“No. I had some pizza on the way here.”
“Ah. Good ol’ New York Pizza. Ya can’t beat it,” David lightly chuckled. Lisa took off her scarf and hung it over her coat. She was wearing a gray knit turtleneck that, of course, was covering her neck. David stared at her collar and sighed. “Lisa. We do need to talk.” Lisa didn’t look up at her father and continued to settle in. “I… I want to clear the air between us. But… I realize that I’ve never given you the floor to speak, to tell me what you went through, or what you’re currently going through.” Lisa stopped moving. “I’ll listen.” David let out another shaky sigh, waiting for Lisa’s response. At first, she did nothing. She didn’t move. She didn’t say anything. But before David could open his mouth to try and break the silence Lisa snapped to face her father.
“You want to talk,” Lisa asked.
“I want you to talk,” he clarified. “It’s only-“
“Then shut. Up.” Lisa interrupted. “That is the only reason I agreed to come home. You asked me what you can do to get me to stay for Christmas? You can keep your mouth shut. ‘Cause you’re right.” She stood nearly chest to chest with David. “All you ever do is talk over me and give me excuses why I’m overreacting or holding a grudge or something,” she spoke calmly. “We are going to sit down, and you are not going to say a word while I speak.” All David could do was nod.
Lisa kept eye contact with her father. “It’s warm.” She then took off her turtleneck sweater and dropped it on the floor. Under her sweater she was wearing a pink tank top, and there was now nothing to hide the scar on her neck. The scar started from one side of her throat and swept across to the other side. David fought not to look at the scar. He chose to instead continue looking his daughter in the eyes, a much easier task than to face the truth of what happened. “Go on. Look at it,” Lisa challenged. He would not. “Look at it.” His eyes shook but eventually made its way to her neck. It was the first time he had seen her neck since it had healed. He figured there was a scar there. He had made the connection once before but talking about it was nothing compared to seeing it. His eyes went watery as he tried to keep his composure. “Why don’t we sit down at the table,” she gestured with her chin.
The kitchen table was small and placed against the wall. There were only two seats. Afterall, it was only ever the two of them living there. Lisa sat down first, taking the seat facing out towards the living room, and David soon followed, sitting opposite of her. “You have no idea what I went through…” David’s breathing continued to shake. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you shaking? ‘None of this was your fault,’ so why are you shaking?” David struggled to keep his composure as a tear flowed down his cheek. “Dad. This is so unlike you,” she taunted. “Normally you’d have something to say.” David remained quiet. Lisa nodded in approval. “Good. ‘Cause I want to tell you exactly why what you did was the shittiest thing you could have done to me…”
Lisa had rehearsed her speech so many times before, but never thought she’d get the chance to say it all at once. She wanted so badly to ring him out. She wanted him to suffer. She also wanted to understand why things happened the way it did, but her own eyes started to well up. She tried to look at her father but couldn’t, and every time she did, she’d start to break down. With all her anger, with all her rage, she couldn’t stop crying. She decided to turn sideways in her chair and lean against the wall. This way, she’d be able to speak without looking at him.
“I feel like sometimes it is all my fault,” Lisa began. “Like when I think back to how everything got to where it is, it’s my fault. I wanted you to be happy. But I never thought that my wanting to help would end up hurting me in the end.”
“What are you talking about,” David spoke up, but then quickly stopped himself and gestured for her to continue. Lisa waited for the silence to settle in before continuing.
“Remember when we found out mom got married again, how you were so depressed that you stopped going to work? It started then. I said, ‘hey dad, you should start dating again.’”
“Lisa, please,” David tried to defend himself.
“And you did,” Lisa shouted over him with a sarcastic smirk on her face. “You brought them home with you almost every night! Really you just stopped dating altogether and just had the girls from the lounge spend the night here. I’d come home from school and there’d still be a girl here from the night before, eating from the fridge, showering, or just watching TV like it was fucking normal. Or! I’d come home, and you’d be busy with a girl in my room!”
“Now you listen here. I was-”
“What? ‘doing this for me?’ Or how about ‘I’m trying to find you a mom,’ or ‘you should be grateful.’” Lisa turned her head slightly towards her father. “Do you know I spent nights waiting on a bench downstairs, just waiting for you to be done so that I could come back and get some sleep and get ready for school the next day?” Lisa sat back in her seat and rested her head against the wall.
“Lisa, I was young! And these girls, you know… I got carried away!”
“Ne parlez pas quand je parle,” Lisa finally snapped while trying her best to hold a confident posture. David clasped his hands together and held them in front of his mouth. “I will leave. I will absolutely leave.” David stayed silent.
“It’s funny! ‘cause no matter how bad you were, there was always something else adding to my stress,” she laughed. “School was kicking my ass. Coach D’Souza hated me because I was a rodent.” Lisa started counting on her fingers. “I was trying to graduate valedictorian so that I could get into a good college. I was working at Family Foods ‘cause you weren’t working as much. I got my appendix removed. I broke up with Jake and you tried to hook me up with his brother just so that I’d be dating one of Melissa’s kids. I was burnt out, dad! I had to take care of me, I had to worry about my future, I had to take care of you when you were too depressed to get out of bed. And all of this while my teachers and coach were telling me that I wasn’t going to make it through college.”
Lisa wrapped her arms around herself and hugged them close. “Then one night I was just at the end of my rope…,” she accidently said. “I needed you and you were, of course, out with a group of girls. I broke… I felt like ‘why am I fighting this hard if no one cares?’” David tried to compose himself again. “’Dad doesn’t care, my coach doesn’t care, my boyfriend doesn’t care. Now the rest of the world wasn’t going to care? Why the hell should I?’ So, I said, ‘fuck it,’” her voice went breathy. “And I bought a rope… And I hung myself in that closet. Right there. Right in the living room with all your stupid shit from the lounge!” Lisa pointed passed her father and out of the kitchen at the closet in the living room. The closet was wide enough for two doors, however, they were both missing as well as the shelving and hanging rod.
David couldn’t hold it back anymore. Tears streamed down his face and his shoulders began to heave as he silently sobbed. “It was a really… really low moment for me,” Lisa continued. “I just needed an escape… And then everything in the closet breaks and comes crashing down on me and I black out. And when I woke up, I was on a gurney in the living room. There were cops all over this place, and Eric was talking with one of the cops right here in the kitchen.” Lisa pointed towards the opposite wall from where they were sitting. “One of the EMTs saw me wake up. I tried to sit up and he shoved me back down on the gurney. He yelled at me not to move. Yelled. And I knew why they were there. I mean, how could I not? I was completely embarrassed… I knew what I had tried to do and now here I was, already beaten down, with cops and EMTs looking down on me. I remember being wheeled out through the door, passing Eric. He didn’t say a word to me.”
Lisa’s face was flat, but tears continued to flow down her cheek. “At the hospital everyone treated me like shit. I got yelled at, the nurses patted me down like I was a prisoner, I had all my stuff taken from me… All I could do was cry… just cry… I was being treated like the lowest of beings because I had a hard night. I needed someone to tell me it was ok. I needed a hug. Anything! I just wanted to feel like things could get better.”
“Then you show up.” Her voice got sharp. “And what do you do? You yell at me. ‘What have you done?’ ‘After everything I’ve done for you this is what you do?’ ‘If you what to kill yourself so bad, then go ahead and do it.’ ‘No daughter of mine would be so willing to give up so easily.’ ‘If that’s what you want, and this is who you are, a coward, then you’re not my daughter.’”
“I… am so… so very sorry, Lisa.” David’s words were barely audible. “I was an idiot… I’m sorry.”
“I never forgot those words. I think about it all the time. My dad telling me I wasn’t worth it. That I wasn’t his daughter. I just needed my fucking daddy to tell me it was gonna be okay.” Lisa wiped her eyes with her forearm.
“After that they took me to the Urgent Psychiatric Center, and every kind of person was there: drunks, crackheads, people high off their asses. And I… I got to share a room with one of the crackheads. Me. The hardworking, valedictorian who was getting ready for college, being treated like a goddamn crackhead. And you remember? Two nights. Had to stay there two nights. People were tackled and tranquilized right next to me. And the only person to treat me with any kind of respect was the counselor I was forced to see. But even then, she made me feel like a damn baby. Like ‘poor little girl, that’s too bad you felt upset.”
“Lisa, please forgive me,” he pleaded.
“But after all of that, the thing I want to know most of all is why? Why weren’t you there for me?”
“I was an idiot.”
“No. I don’t want your apologetic excuse. I want to know what was going through your head. I want to know the exact reason behind what you said. I want to know what made it okay to disown me.” For the first time, Lisa turned in her chair to completely face her father. “Tell me why I stopped being your daughter that night.” David closed his eyes so that he could speak.
“I… I was worried that if…” David choked on his words. “If people knew what you did… You… you wouldn’t look like a DuPont. That ‘The Family’ would see you as a blemish or a problem.” Lisa’s eyes grew wide. Though she tried, she couldn’t seem to open her mouth to say anything. “I thought it would make us look bad to them. But it was an in-the-moment thought! I don’t really think that anymore.”
“I,” She finally squeaked out. “That is… What?” David expected his answer wouldn’t be satisfactory in her eyes, but this was more than she could bare.
“I know… It’s not a good enough reason. I was just so upset that I didn’t think…”
“What... the hell…. is so important about our name? Like…” At this point Lisa was hysterical. “Like, like, like… Are we actually related to ‘The DuPont Family?’ Like, tell me we’re actually related so that any of this can make sense!”
“’It’s complicated.’” Lisa covered her eyes with the bridge between her thumb and index finger and shook her head a couple of times. She then silently and slowly got up and walked out of the kitchen. David, however, did not move as she walked passed him. He could hear her steps down the hallway, and then the very distinct sound of their bathroom door close. And for a moment as she was passing by, David could swear he felt her intent to punch him. He wouldn’t have stopped her if she had.
“God, I’m an idiot,” David whispered to himself. “I have to say something to her. I have to.” He stood up quickly and waited outside the bathroom for Lisa. When the door opened, he quickly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close for a hug. Shocked, Lisa did not move. “Look. I was an idiot. You went through so much. I’m so sorry, baby girl. I really am.” He pulled her out of the hug to look her in the eyes. “I’m gonna make things better, I promise. Baby, I promise.” Lisa’s body felt limp in his hands.
“It’s fine,” she said softly. Her head fell to one side and her gaze was off in the distance.
“No, it’s not. Listen to me. I’m done, you hear me? I’m done. I’m done with the DuPont name, I’m done with the girls, I’m done with Melissa, I’m done, I’m done, I’m done! I’ve lost so many important things in my life, but I can’t lose you. I fucked up. You hear me? I admit it! I fucked up! This is all my fault. I just had to be there for you and I wasn’t. I was an awful father. But I can learn.” Lisa tried to push past her father, but he blocked her. “Baby, please. Please, baby listen to me, listen to me, I’ve changed. I’m different now. I promise you. I’m gonna be there for you all the time now. I’ll go to all your games, I’ll buy you whatever you need, I’ll be there when you need me. Whatever! Baby, please. Give me this chance.”
When Lisa couldn’t get passed her father in the narrow hallway, she turned around and headed for her room. It hadn’t changed at all since the last time she was there. The bed was still made up with her light purple comforter and the porcelain teddy bear-shaped lamp sitting on the nightstand still looked funny with its chipped-off nose. Not able to stop her from going into her room David hastily ran into his bedroom and ran back out with a small wrapped gift.
“Look, look, look,” he stammered. “I was gonna tell you to wait to open this on your birthday, but I want you to open it now. I’ve been thinking about you all the time. I’ve even… I’ve opened two new lounges. I named them ‘The Pink Rose’ and ‘The Daffodil.’” Lisa took the gift from her father. “Open it.” Lisa instead shifted her gaze from the box to her father.
“You know, I’ve been debating for weeks about whether or not I should speak to you. Whether it was worth it to get all of this off my chest. But I think… I think what I really needed was to grow up and stop seeing myself as a little kid. I’ve been so afraid to stand up against you, my dad, the ‘authority figure.’” Lisa chuckled. “Guess I learned something out of all this.”
“Just… open the gift,” David begged.
“Goodnight, David. I guess… I’ll see you in the morning.” Lisa then closed the door in front of David, and the light the shined from under her door went dark.
David rested his forehead against her door and didn’t stop himself from silently sobbing. “I’ll change, I promise,” he whispered to himself. “I promise, sweetie. I can’t lose you, too. Not you, too. You’re the only one left. I promise you I’ll be better. I promise this time. I promise.”