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Dying Embers

Sitting on the cold metal chairs with all the other basketball players on the team, I scanned the bleachers looking for my father. All the people standing in the bleachers looked the same, since the game was away. They wore orange t-shirts with black lettering and occasionally I saw people wearing red and black representing fans from my school. I didn’t see my father the first time, to make sure, I scanned the bleachers again, this time just focusing on the males. Kids ran away from their parents to join their friends, people laughed and taking photos. There were friends getting together to get ready to take their place. Friends and parents cheering loudly for the opposing team players. Everybody appeared to be having a great time and enjoyed seeing their child play. Before I can finish looking through the crowd, I’m interrupted by the loud, harsh voice of my coach, a tall, skinny man calling us over for a last pep talk before the game begins. Coach tried to act like he didn’t care about his players but I knew he cared about us players. I usually focus on what the coach has to say but today I’m preoccupied by wanting to find my father standing somewhere in the crowd, wearing school colors to represent me. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted him to hear him cheer for me and to know that I could make him happy.


My dad called this morning to tell me that he was going to be at my game. He asked for the address, what time the game started and colors he should wear to the game. He said he would be there no matter what. When my father says he is going to do something I try to believe him but I know he is a liar. My dad was a lair and as much as I didn’t want to admit it out loud I knew he wouldn’t be there. I was taught to never question my dad’s word. If I did question him it was simply because I was wrong or something was wrong with me. I was trained to take blame for everything even if it wasn’t my fault. I remember the very first time that my dad made me take the blame for something. He picked me up from the spot where my mom and he would meet so he could have me for the weekend, since my parents were divorced. My dad wanted to go to a football game with his friends from work but he would have to show up late if he wanted to go. I was asleep when he got there so it took a while for me to get my things together. I had to go to the bathroom, and wanted to get something to eat before we left. By the time that was all finished, an hour had passed and my dad was late for his game. We got in the car to leave and he told that it was my fault he was late and made me say it out loud for ten minutes before he told me to be quiet. He went on to say that if had been a good daughter they would not have gotten divorced. It was all my fault. I was the one responsible for the divorce and for my dad not being happy. I sat there in silence blaming myself for everything. “Megan I don’t know why you have to make things worse. I knew the moment you were born that my life was ruined. You will never be good enough for me and I don’t want to call you my daughter. I don’t want someone to realize we are related, I don’t want to be your dad.” He said as I sat there in silence, tears falling slowly from my face. “Dad no matter what you say to me I will always love you. I will always try to be that perfect daughter for you. I want to please you and make you happy. Can I please try to make things better? I will do whatever you want. Please dad I want to be your daughter, I want you to be proud of me” “Megan just stop, I don’t want to hear it. There is nothing you can do to make me happy. You were a mistake and I wish I wouldn’t have gotten your mom pregnant. Stop trying to please me. You are just going to fail. Don’t say another word until I ask you to speak.” He said never even looking at me.


Coach usually doesn’t let me play since I’m not as fast as the other players and I have a problem with my knee. I’m so nervous I start tapping my foot against the hardwood floor, wiping the sweat from my face, taking deep long breaths over and over again. My dad has never been to any of my games. We have to win this game if we don’t then my dad will blame me. I’m scared to play, I have the pressure of doing well in front of the coach and my father. There is no way I can play today. I hope the coach doesn’t put me in the game. I would rather not play than face the possibility of disappointing my coach and father. Once again my thoughts are broken up by coach yelling my name. This is the first game I have played this season. The pressure to perform well is overwhelming. My heart is racing, and my palms are sweating. I don’t know if I can do this but I know I have to. I have to force myself to do this, if I don’t then my dad will be disappointed and disown me as his daughter. I have to play this game as if my life depended on it. I’m capable of being a good player I tell myself over and over again that I can do this. As much as I tried to convince myself that I would be a good player and would make my dad proud, I failed. I played terribly. I was trying to shoot a basket and when I went up to shoot it I was fouled. I stepped up to the free throw line, I had to make this shot. The team depended on it. I took a few deep breaths looked into the crowd for my father. He wasn’t there, not even thinking about it I threw the ball at the backboard missing. I try to call my breathing and tell myself that if I don’t perform well my dad is going to be mad. Nothing seems to be working, I shot the ball again. I miss this shot as well. I went on to play the rest of the game poorly. I missed another three free throws, let someone steal the ball twice and tripped and fell over my own two feet. Any time I had a free moment or even when I should have been pay attention to the game, I was too busy looking for my father. Coach knew I was playing terribly so he pulled me out of the game. Great, I blew my one chance to please my father. I couldn’t believe I let my dad down, how could I do this. Why did I allow myself to be so caught up in finding him and not just focus on the task at hand? If I would have just focused on playing the game and not been so worried about finding my dad I could have seen him after the game. I still don’t even know for sure if he is at the game or if he was just lying to me.


I had written out in journals everything I wanted to do with my dad and dreams I wanted to come true. I wanted my dad to say he loved me before going to bed. I wanted him to question guys that were interested in dating me. To wipe the tears away when I cried. I wanted a relationship with him. I wanted him to walk me down the aisle when I get married. I spent hours every night, before I went to bed thinking about these things really happening. If none of my other desires came true, I at least wanted him to say he was proud of me and loved me no matter what. I would pray every night before I went to bed “God, if you are real and you are who you say you are then please let one of these wishes come true. Please allow me to have a relationship with my dad. I want one”. I would cry myself to sleep almost every night pleading with God with every ounce of energy I had. Over time I realized my prayers to God were not getting answered and I gave up. The more time that passed, the more I realized those were just empty dreams that I was still holding onto. I knew I had to let go of those dreams but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to allow myself that my dad was a liar. That he would never play a role in my life. He would never be the things I wanted him to be. Even though I knew all these things were true I couldn’t face the truth. My dad would never truly be in my life.


I hated that at the end of the game we had to go and tell the other team good game, especially on games where we lost. Today, it was harder to go and say congratulations or good game when I played so bad. I’m the reason the team lost the game. I was so mad at myself. I could have done better, I know I could have. I walk slowly to my seat, head down low. I walk slowly to the locker room tuning everything out besides my own thoughts. Why did I have to be a failure? I’m so stupid allowing myself to actually believe that my dad would be here. I was never good enough I’m still not good enough. I will never be good enough for anybody. I will never be good enough at anything in life. I’m a failure. That’s all I will ever be. I will never amount to anything. My life will just be a show that people will laugh at. I’m useless. I let everybody down, nobody will ever be able to count on me. I’m so stupid. I’m so blinded by the things I want that I can’t accept reality. I’m never going to amount to anything. Coach walks up and I immediately tell him I’m sorry and explain to him that I can do better. “Coach I’m so sorry, I could have done better.” I said I know I could. It’s all my fault we lost. You should have never allowed me to be on the team in the first place. All I do is mess things up, I will never be good enough for you coach. I will apologize to the team on the bus.” As I said this I expected coach to yell at me or tell me I was right. He said, “We win as a team and we lose as a team”.


Photo by Rachel Coad

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