Chapter 27 | It's Not Over Yet
| Mark’s POV |
I can’t believe I’m about to do this.
I haven’t seen my father since the day he left. I’m sure he won’t even recognize me. Yet here I stand, staring up at the run-down apartment building, waiting for my feet to move.
I told everyone that I needed to do this alone, because they insisted on joining me. Naveah was very adamant about coming with me, but I practically had to force her to stay home.
I won’t be able to handle it if my father rejects me again, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to handle it if all of my friends were watching.
Red and Callie are still here, but they leave tomorrow morning to head back home. It’s weird having two friends that live in two different states. I’m happy for them though, I know they’re happy with their lives.
An older woman rushing to get inside of the apartment building, nearly knocks me off my feet as she struts past me, her arms full of paperwork. It snaps me back to reality, causing my feet to begin moving again as I make my way inside of the apartment building.
As soon as I step inside, I’m engulfed in the scent of cigarettes. I wrinkle my nose as I slowly begin to move my feet, trying to find a working elevator. The floors are clear, but stains cover the outdated carpets lining the building. There’s 80’s-themed wallpaper on the walls, sitting behind a bunch of old paintings scattered in no particular order all over the walls.
How long has this place been here? More importantly, when did my father move here from Florida? My mom and I moved here when I was in the ninth grade, and my father was long gone before then.
Something definitely doesn’t add up.
I mask my thoughts and continue walking until I find a staircase. According to the paperwork from the hospital, my father is on the third floor of this apartment building, apartment 712.
I take the stairs up two floors, opening the wooden door that leads to the hallway of the third floor. I step into the hallway, the smell of cigarettes still prominent. The third floor looks no different than the main lobby of the apartment building. I should be in an 80’s film.
I continue walking until I finally reach apartment 712 all the way near the end of the hallway.
I stand in front of the worn down, wooden door, my right leg bouncing anxiously.
What if he doesn’t even live here anymore? What if I’m wasting my time when I could be with my mom? What if I knock and he does live here? What if he answers the door, and then slams it in my face?
So many what-if’s.
Thinking of my sick mother, I return to my stoic expression as I slowly lift my arm and knock on the door. I hear movement from the other side, followed by a, “Give me a minute!”
I patiently wait, and a few moments later, the door swings open, revealing a middle-aged man.
My eyes blink, but no words come out. It’s as if I’m looking into the future, and I’m staring at myself.
His dark hair is beginning to turn grey, his beard following suit. He’s got a cigarette in one hand, and a beer bottle in the other. I shouldn’t be surprised, alcoholics tend to run in the family.
Then realization hits me. If my father is a drunk, his liver will be of no use to my mother. She needs a healthy liver, not a tainted one.
I immediately begin shaking my head.
“I-I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here.” I say, turning around to walk back down the long hallway.
“Can you at least say hello to your old man?” I finally hear, causing me to immediately cease from moving.
Hello? My old man?
I slowly turn around, taking large steps until I’m standing directly in front of my father.
“Are you serious?” I ask incredulously, “Hello? I haven’t seen you in over ten years, and you want me to say hello?”
“It’s a start, get in here.” He steps aside, opening the door to the apartment further, giving me enough space to walk inside.
“Why should I come in there? I don’t know you or what you’ve got going on in there.” I say, rather harshly.
“Do you want to talk or not? I ain’t got all day. The only thing going on in here is football and booze.” He states casually, “So you coming in or what?”
I consider going inside for a moment, the need to hear what he has to say overpowering everything else. Maybe this can be my chance to tell him how I feel. To tell him what he’s done to me, to my mom.
Fueled by anger, I storm inside, rushing past him. Once I enter the small living room, I begin looking around. There’s a small TV resting on a wooden desk near the center of the wall, just opposite of the small love-seat on the other side. There’s about a dozen empty beer bottles scattered on the stained carpet, some still with beer inside of them. I see an ashtray full of cigarette butts resting on the short, wooden coffee table.
How can he live like this?
“You can sit down, ya know.” He finally says, snapping me back to reality.
“I’d rather stand, I don’t plan on being here very long.” I reply coldly.
“Why are you here? How did you find me?” He begins asking questions, tossing his now empty beer bottle in a nearby trash can. He walks into the small kitchen just beside the living room, grabbing a fresh beer from the medium-sized refrigerator.
“Shouldn’t I be the one asking questions, like why are you here in Cali and when did you move here?” I fire at him, his face remaining stoic.
At least now I know where I get it from.
He actually had the nerve to laugh. “I guess your good old mom never told you the truth.”
“Don’t you dare speak of her.” I threaten, “What do you mean?”
“I moved here first, kiddo. When your mom and I split, I moved here to get away from her. She got so hooked on booze, so hooked on other things, I couldn’t deal with it anymore.” He begins to explain.
“Oh right, because she’s the one who started using and drinking, you did absolutely nothing wrong… right?” I glare, my fists clenched by my sides.
“Look kid, I don’t know what she’s told you, but I’m sure our stories are very different.” He replies, walking over to sit on the love-seat.
I take the single chair from the fold-up dining table, and place it beside the love-seat, not wanting to sit directly next to him. I don’t want my anger to get the better of me. I don’t want to do something that I’ll later regret.
“Oh really? Enlighten me then. What’s your story?” I challenge, crossing my arms over my chest.
He looks up at me, studying my face. His eyes soften for a moment, the bags under his eyes finally noticeable to me.
After a while, he takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. After that, he takes a swig of his beer.
“Your mom and I weren’t always like this. When we first met, we were smart, focused, we had a plan. We graduated high school, we both got jobs, we found an apartment that we could afford, and then one day she told me that she had missed her period. Nine months later, out popped you. We fell behind on bills, very fast. With your mom out of work taking care of you, all of the financial responsibility fell onto my shoulders. I had to come home with a check every week, just to put food in our mouths, yours especially. I didn’t care if I skipped a meal or two, as long as you were fed.”
“How noble.” I mutter.
“I’m not proud of what happened, alright? We were both drowning in debt, we couldn’t get ahead of it. Your mom got tired of staying at home all day with you, so she told me to rearrange my schedule so I could be home more to help take care of you. I did what she asked, but after a while, she changed into a completely different person.”
“Figures, you’re putting all the blame on her.” I glare, holding my arms tighter around my body.
“That’s not what I’m doing. I’m just explaining to you what happened.” He sighs loudly, slamming his beer bottle onto the coffee table.
“What happened, was one day I woke up and you weren’t there. What happened, was my mom turned into a raging alcoholic who brought home a different guy every night, a different guy that wasn’t you. What happened, was you deserted us and we never heard from you again. That’s what happened.” I rant angrily, my fists still clenched.
“That’s only part of the story, Mark.” He says calmly.
“Fine. Continue.” I urge, “Tell me everything.”
“When I noticed the changes in your mom, I tried talking to her, but she kept shutting me out. Eventually I just gave up trying. There was no use, we weren’t getting anywhere. As you got older, your mom and I grew further and further apart. The both of us were drinking and using by then, and I knew that I couldn’t continue living my life like that. I thought that maybe if I left, she would feel better. I thought I was suffocating her, and making her do the things we were doing. I thought I was the problem, because she told me that I was. Our marriage was over by this point, so, I started sleeping with my secretary. By then I had built an amazing company from scratch, and we had plenty of money. We were finally well off, but our marriage wasn’t. Our marriage was over.” He sighs, looking conflicted.
“When your mom found out about my affair, that sent us over the edge. She filed for divorce and told me to leave and to never come back. She wanted me to take you with me, and maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t. I gave her majority of my money in the divorce, and told her to use that money to take care of you. I thought that if I left, she would get better. I thought that if I left, your lives would get better.”
“They didn’t.” I interrupt him, “They didn’t get better. They got worse, a lot worse.”
“Is that why you’re here? To get more money or something? As you can see, most of my money is long gone. I was fired from my job, and I used what money I had left to move here. I wrote your mom a letter, telling her where I was going, so I assume she followed me.” He explains.
I felt numb. He thought I was here for money? Of course he did.
“I’m not here for your fucking money, I’m here because I thought that-“, but I stop myself, shaking my head. “It doesn’t matter anymore, you can’t help me.”
I stand up, ready to bolt out of the apartment. The air is suffocating.
“Oh come on, sit down, what’s going on?” He asks, and I find myself sitting back down onto the chair.
“When you left, things got real ugly, real fast. She stopped using, but continued drinking. The first thing she’d do in the morning, was open a bottle. Every night she’d bring home a different guy, some were abusive. I had to fight a lot of them, even at the early age of eleven. Some stole from us, others thankfully left before the sun came up.” I begin explaining, my father’s eyes widening as the story unfolds.
“I kept wishing that you would come home and stop them, but you never did. Eventually I gave up wishing, because I knew we’d never see you again. Her drinking got worse, and last year she almost burned our house down because she was too drunk and passed out on the kitchen floor. I was able to save her and the house was repaired thanks to our insurance, but it could’ve been worse. She could’ve died. After that, I forced her to go to rehab, and she did. It was working for a while, but she relapsed. It got out of control again, so I forced her to go back to rehab a few weeks ago, where she’s been ever since.” I finish explaining.
“So why are you here exactly? Is this her way of trying to reconcile or something?” He finally asks, taking in everything that I’m willing to tell him.
“Not exactly. She has no idea that I’m here.” I confess.
“Well why are you here? How did you find me? What’s the reason for this?” He urges for answers, and it makes me mad that he’s so worried about why I’m here, rather than acting happy to see me after all these years.
“She’s sick.” I will myself to say, my face now stoic. “She’s sick, and it’s bad, and I thought that if I came here, I could convince you to help her. Judging from your alcohol intake, I’d say you can’t even help yourself.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t understand.”
I can tell he’s getting angry, myself as well.
“It means, she’s in liver failure, and she’s dying.” I reply in a low voice, my tone icy.
“Shit.” He mumbles, “And you thought I would donate a portion of my liver to her?”
“Don’t worry, I knew you wouldn’t do it, even if you could. Your liver is probably trash anyway.” I glare, standing up again. “It was a mistake to come here. I’m leaving.”
“Wait a damn minute!” He shouts, standing up.
“Why should I? You’re a drunk just like her! You can’t donate your liver, it’s probably as bad as hers is! You left us and never looked back, and now when I finally need you for something, just forget it! It’s pointless to have this conversation! I knew coming here was a bad idea! You’re good for nothing, absolutely nothing!” I shout, both of us now standing, both in front of the other.
“I… I’m sorry.” He finally says, his voice softer. “I’m sorry that I left, I shouldn’t have. There were many times when I thought about finding you. I wanted to find you both, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m a coward, and I’m sorry. I wish I could help your mother. If I could, I would absolutely donate part of my liver to her. In a perfect world, I’d donate my liver, and our family could reconcile, but this isn’t a perfect world kid. This is our reality, and all I can say is that I’m sorry.”
I’m taken aback by his sudden apology. My breathing is heavy, so much so I can see my chest rising and falling through my shirt.
“I never meant for any of this to happen. We had such a bright future. I don’t know what happened. We just lost ourselves. We stopped fighting. We let go.” He says, speaking up once more.
There’s tears in my eyes now, but I keep them from falling.
“It’s too late for apologies.” I finally reply, shaking my head slowly. “Ten years too late.”
I don’t even give him a chance to say anything, before I rush past him and leave his apartment, slamming the door behind me.
My mind is spinning, and I have no idea what I do now. He can’t donate his liver, so I’m back to square one. My mom is going to die, and I can’t do anything to stop it.
As fresh tears fall from my eyes, I yank my phone from my pocket and call the one person that I need right now.
“How’d it go baby?”
Her angelic voice instantly soothes me, but also allows me to finally break down.
I cry loud, painful sobs into the phone, Naveah silently listening on the other end.
“I can’t do this Nave, I can’t. My mom is going to die, and I can’t stop it. I can’t do this.” I cry, my voice hoarse.
“She’s not going to die. We can figure this out. Once you’ve stopped crying, please come home. I promise we will get through this somehow, someway. It’s not over yet.” She says soothingly, her voice my lifeline.
It’s not over yet.