Things I learned from my Daughter

“Dad, leave me alone, I’ll clean my room later.”

“No, you’ll clean it now.” I could be so inflexible when it came to such unimportant things. Clean your room? Who cares. I couldn’t even blame myself for ending up like my own father; he never asked me to clean my room. I was simply a jackass. I tended to pick fights with her over things that I didn’t care about. We’re so similar, that fighting was just too easy. Only rarely did I remember that I was her father, and it was in my job description to take the high road. What a shame that I was never good at doing my job. Behind the closed door, I could hear her blasting away on a harmonica she must have dug up from the depths of her drawers. She knew how to play just well enough for me to know that she was now in her room defiantly not cleaning. Living proof that music speaks louder than words. In the kitchen, the sink was piled with cups stained brown, bowls, bits of crisped rice and flaked corn; all memories of the nutritious breakfast that was consumed minutes ago. My wife had asked me to take care of the mound before she left for work. ‘I’ll clean them later,’ I thought and sat down on the sofa to read, accompanied by the music of a wailing harmonica. My daughter’s book was sitting on the coffee table; “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”- I had no idea what the book was about, but I could tell by the name that it was great. Yes; I judge books by their cover. I took the book in my hands and it opened naturally to page 117. Something about a young man taking care of his little brother. The sentences were long and choppy at the same time. I wasn’t used to hearing the narrator’s thoughts so directly. ‘She’ll tell me about this later, once she’s finished the book.’ I don’t know how she became such a literary snob, but when I offered her to read “The DaVinci Code” she practically spat in my face. I put the book down; that was enough reading for one day.

“I’m going out for a while, see you later,” she called from the door.

“Wait! Is your room clean?”

“What do you think?” She smiled at me and left the house, leaving a trail of perfumed scent behind her. It always made me nervous when she left the house. Parenting makes you so vulnerable. I truly wonder if my life would have been better without that trail of sweet scent always lingering in my nose in my thoughts.

I got up to go check her room; for no reason other than to get angry that she didn’t listen to me. The floor creaked under my bare feet; a pseudo-warning: there is no point going in there. As if I couldn’t let her laughter haunt the air too long. Always the masochist. I burst through the door, expecting to catch her in the middle of ignoring me; as if I hadn’t seen her walk out of the house a few minutes prior. Her room was spotless. There wasn’t even an imprint on her blanket from where she sat to tie her shoes. Her desk was clear of any garbage that had inhabited it and I could see a picture of my wife and me, staring back from her mirror and smiling. Laughing at me that I had been so foolish. Why did you come here?

I went downstairs and there was a different book on the table. “Catch 22”. Her favorite. I sat down again. The harmonica started to play. I tried shutting the book hard, as if the opening and closing of the tired pages was what orchestrated the music in the far room. The music kept playing. “Keep it down!” I hate it when she doesn’t listen to me! I got up, furious that my voice meant nothing. I told her to clean her room, and there she was playing her harmonica. Who even bought her that stupid little instrument? I banged on her door, losing all sense of proportion. In all honesty, I liked hearing her play. There was something so sincere in her music, even if the notes were random and had no lyrical coherence. But I was already angry, and she knew it. War. Louder and louder the little harp was blasting from the other side of the door as my banging became uncontrollable. I opened the door, my fist pink and raw from the abuse it had just endured against the wooden armor that stood between my daughter and me. The room was empty. The music stopped. Her bed was made. A streak of golden sunlight crept through the closed blinds, and gently hit a spider web in the making. I stepped inside to brush away the silky strings, and flicked the spider away. She never liked spiders.

I sat down in the living room once again, and held the book close. Still “Catch 22”. This time the crease was on the last page of the book. My eyes started to read.

Yossarian gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.

I could smell her from the yellowed page; a defiance to the cold existential claim in black print. She was there; I just heard her music. I was angry with her a moment ago. The front door opened and closed, “Hi Dad!” I looked up, and saw nothing. Before my very eyes, there was absolutely nothing. The music started to play again. I knew that matter could be taken away. I remembered. But I also knew that the music was mine to keep, and that was absolutely everything. I closed my eyes trying to consume the notes in the air. Her audacious melodies not willing to leave her father alone in the world.