I tried to imagine you at thirty. Curled up in a fetal position in bed, closing my eyes in the fog between wakefulness and sleep, working to conjure an image of a more mature you.
Each time, you were different. I've never been able to create an imaginary version of you the same way twice.
But, every time, you're still broken.
Every time, you still die.
When I try to imagine the man who might have been, it hits me. It's easier to think up pretend versions of a live, future you than it is to remember you at twenty. The pale, waxy mannequin face you wore at your funeral has blurred.
Two decades, I've been mourning a stranger.
I try to imagine you at forty. It's been a long time. Now I hate you too much to dream up a flattering future for you. I think it's because I hear so many versions of "I hate you" each day. Our daughter, she's the same age you were when you, well, you know.
She's creative, but not in any useful sort of way.
She inherited your kind of creativity. I learn about the drugs she's doing by checking the urban dictionary online.
You'll never know what that is.
Our drugs were simple. Remember when you dropped those hits of blue blotter in my beer? I was furious, but after it kicked in, we ran to the elementary school and pushed one another on the playground swings.
That night created the before and after. It drew the line between "what if" and "what the fuck have I done."
Some fathers leave. Others can't help it when they die. You did both. Overdoing it, don't you think?
Last week, she gave me some photos of herself. "In case I disappear," she said.
This is the person we created. The person we're still creating.
I don't know how to make her better. I try to picture myself as a decent human; to create a good, future version of me.
Nothing comes to mind.