Permanent Record—Clark Humphrey
Here you are, dear. Thanks for coming to see me. And thanks for setting up this video setup.
When you said you wanted a “permanent record” of my presence and my voice, it made me think of the “permanent record” I got in school. A pretty bad one. Do they still keep those? You wouldn’t know, I know.
Damn I did a lot of crap back then. A lot of it, maybe most of it, I didn’t mean to.
SInglehandedly turning my father from a maintenance-drinker stumble-bum into a full-bore rage machine? Just a side effect of my childhood devotion to me-myself-and-I and maybe my buds but nobody else. I didn’t even notice him gradually turning from a detached but essentially carefree dude into a guy with a beef against the whole universe for allowing someone like me into his life. A guy who’d rather work late than come home to find out the latest thing I’d stolen, trashed, or almost OD’d on. Either that, or I just assumed that’s what happened to all dads as they got older. Just like the heart attack, and the nasty divorce.
Getting engaged to Janice, and then knocking up Sue Ellen? Sure didn’t mean to do THAT. Janice was supposed to be the Forever Girl; Sue Ellen was just this momentary thing, you know? I was a slave to my dick, I’ll admit it. And how was my dick to know that Sue Ellen wanted to take away anything that Janice had, even if Sue Ellen only wanted to take it (me), use it (me), and throw it (me) away in the trash?
Mind you, I sure felt like trash.
I deserved to be with Sue Ellen, the two timing schemer. She had the same name as a character on a TV show that was full of two timing schemers, and I must say that turned out to be very appropriate indeed.
I sure didn’t deserve to be with Janice. But, as if the gods weren’t through tormenting me enough, they had her take me back.
Of course, I fucked it up that time too. It just took a little longer. But eventually I drank and drugged and idled myself out of that episode of my life.
At least I sobered up, five years and one divorce too late.
But not before I got the letter from Sue Ellen’s lawyers. The baby she wouldn’t tell me a thing about, she was now telling me about. And now she wanted full retroactive child support, and she wanted it the day before yesterday.
What she got was a hearty belly laugh and a spot down toward the bottom of my creditors’ list.
At least that was something I meant to do.
And so was finally getting to be a part of your life, daughter. Even if the part I’ve been playing was that of “example of everything not to do.”
I must say you’ve done a hell of a job of not being like me. Here you are in these fancy clothes of yours, with your nice car and your beautiful girlfriend.
I’ll tell you one thing: the first thing I thought of when you said you had a girlfriend was how I used to jack off to girl-on-girl pornos. I was probably thinking about one of them when I conceived you. Maybe that’s how come you turned out that way. Something else I didn’t mean to do, but here you both are. Now don’t pretend to get embarrassed. You’ve been an adult for a few years now. You’ve heard worse things I’m sure.
Hey, we’ve got matching colored gowns on, almost. Yours of the evening kind and mine of the hospital kind. You’re probably the best dressed daughter of a terminal liver patient in this whole place.
I sure as fuck didn’t mean to end my sorry existence this way.
Or maybe, on some level, I meant to all along.