My dad isn’t just missing.
It’s three in the morning the day after Christmas, but it may as well be noon for how awake I am.
Closing my eyes and forcing my body to relax—even as it wants to shake and tremble—doesn’t help.
Remaining as still as possible in the darkness of my silent room offers no relief.
Sucking down air like I narrowly avoided drowning does nothing.
I look up at the ceiling, black in the night. It offers no suggestions on how to give up this urge. To go see. Just once. One check. As if it might be different this time.
But between knowledge and hope is the anticipation of pain.
And anticipation is a cancer.
The dream that woke me up wasn’t hazy when it held me in its grip, and even now it is as clear as the bed beneath me and the blanket on top of me.
Other people talk about their dreams as if they have trouble telling them from reality, but I never do. Until now. Until my dreams assault me with the one thing I’m desperate not to become real.
Pushing aside the blanket, I climb from my bed.
Maybe I’m wrong.
Please, let me be wrong.
I need to be wrong.
Walking into my parent’s room, I half expect to see him waiting for me, lying next to her and snoring.
But he isn’t.
She’s sprawled across their bed, half out of the covers. The smell of the party she was at while I opened my presents is a thick miasma in the air.
Grabbing the blanket, pulling it loose from where it tangles around her feet, I choke on the hope that flies away from me.
Please be wrong.
Not that it makes sense, but I check in Grandpa’s room too.
He is fast asleep. The TV in the corner is blaring some Christmas movie.
Yet my dad isn’t in here either.
The bathroom is empty.
Back in the hallway, the bathroom light off, the glow from the green lights on the tree in the family room illuminate my way.
I swallow and take a step.
My hands shake and somewhere, deep where it echoes from my bones, I know that if he isn’t sitting on the couch, he’s gone.
While I slept, my dream stole into my mind and showed me a possibility I didn’t want to acknowledge. One I managed to block out. Until tonight.
But the hall is longer than usual, my steps less steady.
Almost a month ago, my dad didn’t come home. Right after my birthday and Thanksgiving, he just…didn’t come.
The police, me, Mom, and Grandpa all assumed he was somewhere getting high and would come home soon enough.
Loving an addict, I know that sometimes the call comes instead. The call that says they took too much and the addiction’s day is better than yours.
Now it’s Christmas. His favorite holiday. And this morning he wasn’t here.
This afternoon, he didn’t come.
In the family room, I look at the tree first.
I allow the green of the lights and the shine of the ornaments to fill me with the hope I once had from the season before I look to the couch.
He isn’t here.
The kitchen is empty. The table only holds some empty candy wrappers. Even the tree is barren underneath now, the gifts already given.
“Dad,” I say to the empty room and sink to my knees, digging my fingers into the carpet.
My eyes close and I try to find my dad in my mind, the echo of him, calling my name— Andi.
But I hear nothing.
Instead, my dream plays over again.
There’s no escape as the tears pour down my face and my breath hitches in my chest.
And my dream of giving the eulogy at my father’s funeral plays again, this time shrouded in a green mist.