Before today, I hadn’t seen my father in nine years. My mother hadn’t let us visit him in the Proximus Twelve State Mental Facility. She’d remarried. I’m not sure what compelled me to see him. I’d missed him years ago, sure, but after time he was just a ghost. I guess I was just curious to see if the memories even matched.
As a child, I remember him being like something out of holo-film, like an old Lazgun Samhai master or something. He was always fun to play with. He had the imagination of a child. Through games and stories, he taught me and my brother to stand up for ourselves and what we thought was right, but he had another side. My mother would call it a darker side, but I never saw it as that. It was more of a secret side, or a side like he understood something.
He encouraged play fighting, which was something none of my peer’s parents allowed and my own mother purged almost religiously. He told us to play like puppies. Practice the kill and hit without force. On hikes through the woods, we seldom followed a trail, and we were always playing a game as though we were being hunted. By a beast, or by the Imperial forces of some fictional world like “Jedhian,” or something. There was always something after us, something to fight, and he would frequently quote the warrior masters of holofilms or eBooks to us.
When I was ten, we learned of his secret side. He and my mother had kept us from it. He was a paranoid schizophrenic, held together by medication that he despised, but without it he couldn’t maintain calm through his anxiety. As far as schizophrenics go, he had done very well in life, working as a wireless power transmission engineer for TranCorp, the government contractor which maintained our planetwide radio-power grid, and the grid of several other planets and star systems.
In his fractured mind, he believed himself to have another job. In that he was an agent of the Beureu of Interstellar Security, tasked with identifying sex-trafficking victims while traveling for cover job, which to the rest of the universe was his real work. I suppose living in hotels so much he must’ve seen or learned of a few, especially in some of the densely populated and more lawless worlds he visited. But it was a delusion. That is all it was. BIS could have testified at his trial, if he had been after all, but they did not.
In any case, he was walking back from a cantina one night when a mugger stopped him. My father, in his paranoid mind, had assumed it was an assassination disguised as a mugging. The whole thing was caught on camera. His right hand had reached for his wallet, while his body rotated and his left hand slyly latched onto the back of the plasma disruptor pistol. The mugger panicked and fire, but my father had already moved offline of the muzzle, so the shot destroyed an empty hoverbus-stop across the antigrav-way. By then my father’s right hand had gripped the gun. His left hand flashed out and struck the mugger’s throat. His right twisted the pistol, rotating the man’s arm and as his left hand returned, he dropped its elbow into the man’s locked out elbow, dislocating the mugger’s forearm. My father then stepped in, using his core to rotate the pistol out of the mugger’s hand. He had taught me and my brother the move. We’d seen it done a hundred times. He told us he had learned it from a retired orca of the Interstellar Navy.
Dad’s mistake had been that as the man drew a knife and lunged at him in desperation, my father fired a single shot into the desperate methoxynill addict’s face. His lawyer had told us, had dad fully unloaded the magazine, the self-defense claim might’ve worked, as the overkill would’ve demonstrated frantic fear, not measured deliberate action. My father had been adamant about the self-defense claim, and that he was an asset in anti-trafficking cases, leading him to fear the mugging was a hit. His lawyer had seized on this too, against my father’s will, to make the insanity plea. Successfully. My father wasn’t even allowed to speak at his own trial.
My father was given a life sentence at a state mental hospital. My mother, completely shaken by the loss, did her best to move on, and did her best to ensure we did as well. Which was why I had to go see my psychotic father. I wanted to know the person I had lost so much time with.
I didn’t know what to expect. A part of me feared he was raving mad in a straightjacket with feces on the walls, but what I found was an old, broken man in a hospital gown. I don’t remember the awkward hello’s and his general questions about what I’m up to in life. What I do remember is this.
“I didn’t want you to see me like this. That’s why I never returned your letters.” He said instead of greeting me. I later found out he had kept all of them. “But I guess I’ll make the best of it. You’ve grown up into quite the young woman.”
“It took a long time to understand why you are gone. That you did what you did. It’s funny, seeing you is like meeting someone from a long-forgotten dream, so familiar and so different.”
“It’s the same for me. There are little things. The way you tilt your head when you smile. Subtle motions I haven’t seen in so long, from memories I held onto, not knowing if they were real but seeing now that they are.”
I told him about the time my brother Brandon’s pant leg got caught in the hollophoner. He laughed, told the story about the time that senator Tom Cawtern held me at a rally when I was a toddler and I’d nearly yanked off his toupee. I’m not sure if he told it better than mother or if hearing a different version made it seem that way. Maybe it wasn’t, and I was just happy to hear it from him. He told me about dating mom too. How on one of their first dates their driver had gone over a speed bump while they kissed and he’d knocked the crown off his front tooth. So many missed stories. Too many memories. I told him I planned to come back.
He looked at me, and said, “Elen, I’m disappointed I wasn’t there to guide you through your life, but there’s one piece of advice I wish I could’ve had time to make you fully understand. As people, we grow up around people who know us and care about us and treat us as people, but as adults, we have to interface with society, something bigger than our family and friends and mentors.
To the rest of the world, the people who don’t fall into those other categories, you are nothing but an avenue for profit. The system is not designed to be fair, equitable, or to have any form of humanity. It is designed to make someone money, and that is all anyone acting professionally cares about. The man who pulled a gun on me is no different from the man who owns the bank. The difference is I had no choice but to use a bank, and the man from the alley had to find a less subtle way to force me to give him my money. No one is going to help you if you don’t make it profitable for them. No one is going to give you anything if you don’t make it profitable for them. My lawyer forced the insanity plea on me because he would be compensated more for that plea than if he let me plead self-defense and lose. What I did was not considered self-defense because it is more profitable to jail people than not to. I haven’t been declared sane enough for release because the doctor who signs the form is paid more when more beds are full. The college you’re going to go to will treat you like a number, and you’ll find does not care if the degree helped you find employment or not, just that your loans are repaid. Your landlord won’t care if your apartment is livable, just that you pay rent and do not assert your rights in court.
That is really all the advice I have left for you in life. People tell you your worth is not measured by your assets, but to those who don’t know you, that is all you are. Take it from me, a man whose sole purpose in life is to provide a check from the state into an account that funds a medical backed security.
“If you want to be happy in life, you need to make yourself as financially useful as possible, and that use must come from doing something you enjoy doing. I was a fool when you knew me, thinking otherwise. Thinking that I could be more than a vector for profit.”
“Dad, you’re more than that to me.”
“I’m hardly more than a familiar stranger to you now.”
“That doesn’t mean you aren’t more.”
“Still, it doesn’t matter. My life is spent pacing a hallway and staring at a holoprojector monitor that shows me all the worlds I’ll never have the chance to walk. I agree with your mother. You shouldn’t waste your time and energy fretting over me. I have nothing. Nothing to do, nothing to give, nothing to live for. I’m a patient number on an invoice. Let me be.”
“Dad, I’m not here to get something from you.”
“Then why are you here? What worth could I possibly have after all this time?”
“You’re family. You don’t need worth.”
This story hits me in from a lot of angles, from feeling like so many people only care about what they can get from you to the rigid callousness of our legal system, if you have any thoughts please comment below.
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