My uncle goes directly to the TV after inhaling his dinner, searches for the channel broadcasting horse races, and starts watching. He has a bet on one of the horses. His shouts and the annoying voice of the commentator accompany my aunt, my cousin, and me for the rest of our dinner: Come on! Run! Move your ass! My cousin laughs at the word “ass”. My aunt, tired of his husband’s gambling, warns my uncle to watch his language as he busily waves her complaints away. The phrase “move your ass” is now stuck on the tongue of my cousin, who repeats and laughs at it until my aunt yells at him to shut up. My uncle’s defeated words, No! God damn it! drown our voices. My aunt asks how much money he has lost this time. He wears his jacket instead of answering and leaves the house. After dinner, my aunt allows us to watch a Bruce Willis movie with her. My cousin falls asleep on the carpet before long. I ask my aunt if my mom called today. She’d talk to you if she did, she says, probably busy with the job search. We both watch as Bruce Willis kills a bad guy, barefoot and in his white undershirt. Why did my parents get divorced, auntie? I ask, craving for an answer I can understand. Bruce Willis lights a cigarette. My aunt gives me my mom’s version. Your father didn’t work while your mother worked too hard. He didn’t go to the job interviews your mother found for him. He stayed home and looked after you, but your mother couldn’t stand his irresponsible behaviour. Bruce Willis talks to a police officer through a radio. Didn’t my dad say anything when mom wanted a divorce? Bruce Willis runs into the villain. Of course, he did, it all happened here, in this house, she replies. Bruce Willis doesn’t realize the man is the villain. He came here to talk to your mother, got on his knees, begging her not to break their family apart. He swore he’d find a job and share her burden. She didn’t believe him. Bruce Willis is fighting. Why? I ask. I’m surprised that my father actually fought for us. I don’t know, she probably feared he wouldn’t keep his promises. She was tired of fighting against life all alone. Bruce Willis is bleeding. He looks very dirty and in pain. But she’s alone now too, I say, fighting. While dad has a new wife and a new kid. He works very hard for them. He’s too busy for me now. Bruce Willis finds himself in a bathroom and pulls out glass shards from his bleeding feet. Sometimes life goes in a different direction than any of us can expect or predict, my aunt says. Your mother made her choice, thinking this would be best for you. It was your happiness she was thinking, don’t forget about that for one second. I don’t answer. I can’t say whether this is better for me. All I know is that I miss my mom a lot, and I can’t imagine a life with my dad in the picture. Come on sweetie, time for bed, my aunt says, turning the TV off. I wonder what Bruce Willis will do from now on. Not knowing it makes me sad. My uncle comes home as we get up from the couch. My aunt gestures toward my sleeping cousin, so he goes to his son, lifts him up from the carpet, and carries him to his bedroom. I walk the long corridor on their tails. I’ve never been carried to my bed by my dad as I slept so deeply. I get into my bed by myself, as I always do in this house. My aunt kisses me and whispers, She’ll call tomorrow, don’t worry. She turns off the light as she leaves the room, closing the door. The orange night light, which is always on since my cousin is afraid of the dark, oozes into my tired thoughts. My cousin’s deep breathing accompanies me. I imagine my dad, handsome as always, going down on his knees in front of my mom, and begging. I imagine my mom’s cold and distant face, telling him no. All the while, one-year-old me probably sleeping in this same bedroom, in my cousin’s cradle, only six years ago. I lift my hands toward the ceiling. My arms are too short. Both mom and dad are now out of my reach. My hands fall back to the bed, defeated. She’ll call tomorrow, I whisper to myself. Yippee-Ki-Yay little girl, says Bruce Willis in my dream, smiling.
*Desiderium: an ardent desire or longing; especially: a feeling of loss or grief for something lost.
Ecem Yucel (she/her) is an Ottawa-based Turkish writer, poet, and PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Evergreen Review, Salamander Magazine, Stanchion, Idle Ink, The Daily Drunk, Kissing Dynamite, Autofocus, and more. Find her at www.ecemyucel.com or on Twitter @TheEcemYucel.