I was standing with a group of friends, not even listening to what they’re saying. My eyes are focused on the posters, millions of them plastered all around the school. I glance at my friends and faintly smile. The posters read “Father Daughter Dance.” It’s not fair. They held these kinds of events for the whole school to enjoy but, what if someone didn’t have a father to go with? Someone like me.
I refocus; I hear Stacey’s voice “What do we have next?” She’s directing the question to me. Unfortunately I have every single class with her.
“Math,” I say under my breath, wishing she would vaporize into thin air.
The bell rings, much too loudly for my taste. I drag my feet to the room down the hall. Math is my favorite subject, but the hour I was stuck in that room, staring at my teacher drawing triangles on the board, I wished to be anywhere but there.
It’s unbelievable how such things upset me. All my friends have perfect families. They see their father every day, and I’m here wishing I could see my dad. Tears cloud my eyes and my vision begins to blur. I can feel my face getting tomato-red trying to hold my emotions in, as though I’m trying to capture a million butterflies in a small jar. Joseph looks at me, back at the teacher, then at me again, a worried look upon his face. I use my sleeve to wipe one tear that trickled down my left cheek, hoping he doesn’t notice; yet he does.
“You alright?” Joseph says, looking into my emerald-green eyes. I nod and flash him a modest smile. Sometimes I can’t help it. I think too much, all of my thoughts and emotions take over. It really hurts me, how I don’t have a dad to run up to and hug when he comes home from work. The last time I saw my dad was five months ago, at a funeral, my uncle’s funeral. To see my entire family in tears, there is nothing worse than that.
I get so sad. All I can do is cry, sleep, and crawl into a little ball, nothing else. I need somebody to talk to. A true friend, who can sit there and listen to me, without creating false judgments. My sister and mom are too busy with school and work. My brother? Forget about it, he doesn’t care, he completely blocked dad out of his life. I don’t even know what’s going on with him anymore.
Joseph’s voice brings me back to reality.
“Are you sure?”
Generally, I’m a very happy person. My smile brings out the best in people, but many things make me unhappy, some of them are silly, but even though I might be sad at times, I always try to put a grin on everyone’s face.
“Yep,” I say, stopping the flow of questions.
Knowing he cares give me hope. It makes me realize that even though my father might not care about me, there are other people that do.
I find it funny. One stupid piece of paper made me acknowledge all of this. I think about it. Father’s alcohol addiction truly blocks me from seeing him. Alcohol is how he deals with his problems, gambling too. Wasting money that he barely has, that’s all he does with his life. He can’t even keep contact with his family anymore, and whose fault is that? Whose fault is it that you’ve fallen into a deep, dark hole and can’t get out? No ones but your own. With every single thing he does, it hurts the both of us. Dad’s had many jobs, made lots of money, and has a wonderful family. Will he ever get back on his feet? What if he doesn’t? What will happen then?
I turn my head to see Joseph, who’s actually paying attention to Ms. Simmons, taking notes. I decide not to, I’ll just get them from Stacey later, complaining about how I can’t see my dad won’t help with anything. I decide that I have to pay him a visit.
That’s when the bell rings- time for lunch. My friends run out of math class, as though they’re escaping from a terrible monster. I lug out, too lazy to catch up with them. They don’t even wait for me- just leave. I end up walking downstairs alone. The stairwell is empty, just the echoing voices of screaming middle school kids remain. I stop and stare through the window as a tear sheds down my face. I immediately wipe it off. I wouldn’t want anyone to see me crying. I walk into the cafeteria to where I always sit with my friends. All the seats at the table, taken. They look up at me, and Stacey says “Next time, don’t be so slow”.
My stomach comes up to my throat, I can’t say anything. My eyes fill up and I sprint out of the cafeteria, into the bathroom. I collapse onto the floor. And I just cry. Now and then, some younger kids come in, look at me weirdly and leave. I try not to pay attention. I feel like I don’t have anybody. No family or friends. Georgia walks in, I have biology with her, she doesn’t notice me at first but when she does, she helps me up “What’s wrong?” She’s shocked. I’m always that happy girl having fun. She hands me a paper towel to dry my face with. I refuse to tell her what’s wrong, so I just reply with “I’m fine”. But I can see in her eyes that she knows I’m lying. I feel no need to bother her, so I just say thank her for her consideration. She leaves and I look in the mirror. I fix my hair, which looks as if I just awoke from my sleep. I walk out of the bathroom and stand in the hall waiting for the bell to ring letting me know when to go to class.
As I walk to class, remembering Stacey. I have to spend two more hours with her in the same room until I can go home.
Those two hours are a blur to me, and all I worry about it surviving. I try not to make any direct eye contact with Stacey; her face expressions are almost as mean as her personality. I don’t know what I’ve done to her but figure that I probably deserve to be treated this way. I pack my things into my bag and put my coat on. I head downstairs, but as I’m about to leave, I see Stacey and her clique glaring at me. I try to ignore their negativity. On my way home my only thoughts are about how stupid I am for ever believing that Stacey Holton was my true friend and how I can schedule a visit with my dad. I might be able to ask my sister to come with me, but first I think it would be smart to call my dad and tell him.
I get home, drop my stuff, take the phone and sit on the couch. I remember the number my heart now so I dial it and wait patiently.
The phone rings for about a minute and I hear something.
“Hello..?” I say confused.
“Who’s this?” He says, sounding even more confused than me. Not only does he not recognize his own daughter’s voice but he’s been drinking too. What a surprise that is.
“Dad… it’s Claire” I say quietly.
“Who!?” His raspy voice hurts my head.
“It’s Claire your daughter?” I say loudly. I can’t do this.
“Oh, Clairey! Finally decided to call your father, huh?”
I put my hand over the phone. No, I can’t do this right now. I hang up. I can’t have a conversation with my drunken father when he doesn’t even know what’s going on. I lie down on the couch and next thing I know, its five thirty and my mom is back from work.
I get up and walk to the kitchen to see her cooking dinner.
“Hi” I say.
“Hi Claire, how was school?” Oh school, I completely forgot about what happened.
I respond with “Fine.”
I walk to my room and on the way there, I realize that my brother’s home too. Of course doing nothing but staying locked up in his room, playing video games, he barley even talks to me anymore, and we used to be so close. My family is falling apart
I sit down on my bed and send her a text message asking her when she’s free.
Time passes slowly and a text from my sister pops up on my phone screen, “Why? What’s up?”
“I want to visit dad, mind coming?” I tell her.
I take out my history text book and open to the page with questions on it, which I have to answer. Now is when I start to regret not paying any attention in class today. But there’s nothing I can do now. I get another message.
“Oh okay, how about Saturday? I’ll pick you up at twelve?”
“Works for me” I’m satisfied. All that’s on my mind now, are those girls. I have no friends in school now, ugh. I get my homework done, shower and go to bed. Scared to see what will come the next day.
My school days go by fine; I spend my time with Georgia, and her friend Ruby, and at times, Joseph. I try not to pay any attention to Stacey, and try not to be miserable. By Friday, she’s forgotten all about me and acts as if we never even met. To be completely honest, I feel better without her in my life. Friday night comes, and I call my sister to tell her the plan for tomorrow. She agrees with me, she wants the same thing. And together I think we can accomplish something.
My sister, Lily told me that she called my dad and let him know we’re coming so everything’s set. My mom and brother, Fred are aware too. Fred tries to act as if he doesn’t care about dad, but I know that he is only doing that because he misses him very much.
I start getting ready for bed. I finally lie down but can’t seem to fall asleep. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m nervous about how tomorrow will turn out or just excited. I end up falling asleep at around twelve thirty and wake up in the morning to the sound of my alarm buzzing. I get dressed and eat the breakfast that my mom prepared for me. Just a matter of minutes before my sister picks me up. In the meantime, I’ll watch some stupid show they’re playing on TV.
My phone rings. It’s Lily telling me to come down stairs. I do so, get in the car and spend twenty minutes driving to my dad’s house.
We ring the doorbell and he opens the door.
“My girls! I’ve missed you so much!” I smile and hug him tightly holding back my tears. We go inside. Our conversation starts awkwardly but Lily and I finally get to the point of why we’re here. We tell him. He looks surprised. I don’t think that he knew that we cared so much about him, and it made me happy to show him that we did. I said “We’re going to help you. And we’re going to try to come every Saturday to see you.”
“Okay” He said. “Deal.”
I held out my pinky to him, and he wrapped his finger around mine. “Pinky promise” I said.
“Pinky Promise” He repeated after me.
I smiled. So just like we promised dad, Lily and I came every week. We took away all of the alcohol he had stored and found a job for him as a construction worker.
Things at school were going great. I became much closer with Georgia and she’s the person I can call my best friend. I was so proud of myself that I was accomplishing something that I have been trying to change for a while.
The next time that we came to visit, before leaving, I left my dad a little note. It read “Thank you for everything. It makes me so happy that you are starting to change and get better. I just ask one more thing from you, will you come to the Father Daughter dance at my school in a couple weeks with me?” I was hoping that when he discovered the note, he would call me and confirm his decision.
A couple days passed, I thought that maybe he didn’t have time to call since he had been going to work now.
Just as everything was going great, I receive tragic news. Lily calls me panicking “Claire, grandma Helen just died in the hospital!” I knew she was in the hospital but I thought everything would be alright. I start crying hysterically with my sister on the call.
After a while, I start to calm down, but a thought occurs to me. Dad. His mother just passed away. He would be crushed. My sister and I were too afraid to give him a call, but we agreed that we would comfort him on Saturday and stay longer in order to make him feel better about the incident. Inside, I was just begging for everything to be all right.
We get to his apartment; we knock on the door a couple times, no answer. So Lily finds her key, at first she struggles, but then succeeds in unlocking the door. We step in, close the door behind us and walk into the living room to find empty whiskey and vodka bottles on the table and floor and gambling tickets spread out on the counter. I also notice the note that I gave him lying on the table too. I pick it up and stuff it into my back pocket. We continue searching the apartment, and my dad is nowhere to be found. We decide to ask his neighbors, who my father is good friends with about whether they know where he is. We knock on their door and see Ms. Montgomery opening the door.
“Sorry to bother you Ms. Montgomery… But Claire and I are looking for our father; do you have any idea of where he is?” Lily says to her sounding extremely worried.
“Yes, Lily, actually. My husband told me that he got arrested last night… I think for drunk driving…” She says.
My jaw drops. I am speechless. I can’t tell whether I’m angry or mournful.
“Thank you for your help, we have to get going” I hear my sister say as I’m already holding the door to the elevator for her.
We climb into the car, looking up on my phone where the closest police station is. “Thirteen minutes away” I say and Lily starts driving. I feel the tension. The anger building up. I’m mad at my grandma for dying, mad at my dad for drinking, gambling and drunk driving, mad at Fred for not caring one bit or putting any effort into at least trying to help dad, but mostly, I’m mad at myself for believing that all of this foolish behavior would end and everything could be normal again. I just stare at the road. We finally come to a stop and my sister parks the car. I jump out of the vehicle and slam the car door, a little too hard. I run to the police station and wait impatiently for my sister to catch up to me. We stomp into the lobby and as my sister is about to ask the police officer, I see my father. My terrible, stupid, ungrateful father. I stare at him with my wet eyes.
Standing about three feet away I scream “You promised!” I hated him, at the moment I hated him so much. I walk closer “You swore to me that you wouldn’t do this. I did everything. I tried. Dad I tried for three months. Why did you do this to me? Why?” I scream louder “Why would you do this to me? I asked you for one thing. One thing and you ruined it all!”
I take the crumpled up note out of my pocket, and look at it.
I can feel everybody staring at me, silently watching me yell at my own father, whose sitting on a bench hand cuffed not saying a word. And I don’t care at all, whether I look foolish or stupid. Because he’s the one that should feel that way.
His head hangs down, embarrassed to say anything.
“You disappointed me” I say and see him look up at me.
I take the note, rip it into little pieces and throw it at him. I never did and will have a father to go with to the dance. As I look at the pieces of paper falling onto the ground, a tear falls down my cold face and I say “I give up. I’m done with trying!”
I run out of the place, finding my way through many people standing around me. I slam the front door as hard as I could and I breakdown onto the cement sidewalk. I bawl my eyes out. I was so close. I finally thought this would come to an end. But what was I thinking? He’ll always be an alcoholic, gambler, smoker, and an unemployed man. I will always love my daddy. But I just wish that he knew how much his actions hurt me.
Sandra Poniatowski, Age 13, Grade 8, The Clinton School For Writers and Artists, Silver Key