when your life doesn't fit into a story
Prologue - Saturday, July 18th, 2015 “What’s going on, Dad?” Morde asked, resting his elbows on the table in front of him and leaning forward in his chair, leaving his coffee untouched — despite the exhaustion he felt. He had been at JFK since five o’clock that morning, approximately fifty-nine minutes before his father’s flight from Sea-Tac had been scheduled to land, and — having slept no more than a few hours in three days — he should have been fading fast by the time they seated themselves at a table in the food court two hours later. However, the same anxiety that had kept him awake since receiving his father’s panicked emails prevented his heavy eyelids from drooping, and he knew that there would be no chance of rest until he got the answers he had been promised. “Not that it isn’t good to see you,” he continued, “but what couldn’t you tell me over the phone?” Morde’s father, Natan, seemed not only reluctant, but incapable of making eye contact with him. Slumped over his coffee and stirring more sugar into it than his youngest son had ever known him to take, it was as though he needed something to occupy his hands while he grappled for the courage to speak, his somber expression accentuating the tired wrinkles on his face. It was a side of his father that Morde had never seen — and that alone was enough to scare him. “I knew that if I told you over the phone, you would never forgive me,” Natan replied, finally, his voice weaker than it should have been, almost inaudible over the din of the terminal around them. “I suppose I thought that if I came here, you might be less likely to hate me for what I’m about to tell you.” “I could never hate you,” Morde said, furrowing his brow and watching his father attentively, as if Natan’s feverish coffee stirring would give him some indication as to what kind of shadows had been cast over him — over both of them. “I know we haven’t always agreed about things, but... I mean, come on. You’re my dad.” Natan looked up at him, managing a weak smile, which — unfortunately — did little to circumvent the fact that he had the distinct look of someone who was about to break down in tears. “I used to think about having this conversation with you all the time when you were a child,” he admitted, his gaze shifting downward again. “I watched you grow and I knew, one day, I would have to tell you the truth. But then you were a teenager, and now you’re an adult, and… somewhere in the midst of all of that, I let myself believe that I could postpone this day indefinitely. I should have known better.” “What are you talking about?” “I’m so sorry, Morde. I should never have kept this from you for so long.” “Kept what from me?” Morde urged him. Letting out a shaky sigh, Natan pushed his ruined coffee aside and — still needing something to occupy his hands — took to twisting his wedding ring around his finger. “Your mother had an affair,” he said, soberly. “After she had Eliya, she suffered from severe postpartum depression. She was hospitalized for a long while and shortly after she was released, she stopped taking her medication. She became irritable, erratic; it was the worst manic episode she experienced for the duration of our marriage. She had an affair with a man she dated in high school, and when we found out she was pregnant, we decided—” Morde could have asked for further explanation, but he didn’t need to. The truth hit him like an unexpected downpouring of cold water on his bare skin, producing a shiver that reverberated throughout his entire body. “W-What about the guy?” He managed to ask, without thinking. “Did he ever—” “He wants to meet you. He called me at my office on Wednesday. I didn’t know what to do. He asked for your contact information and I—I refused to give it to him. I told him not to try to find you, because you were my son and it was my job to protect you, but… I realized how selfish that was, how selfish I was for not being honest with you about where you came from or giving you the opportunity to see for yourself.” Unsure what to say in the aftermath of his dad’s confession, Morde decided not to fight the silence that settled between them, taking comfort in his inherent knowledge that it was temporary. Struggling to collect his thoughts, he let his eyes wander beyond their table, surveying their surroundings. The space was full of families — mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. For a moment, he found himself wondering what percentage of those families were made up of blood relatives. Then, he found himself wondering why it should matter. “I am your son,” he said, after a few minutes had passed. “Even if you aren’t my father, you—you are my dad. It doesn’t change anything for me.” “I love you and your brother more than I have ever loved anything or anyone,” Natan replied, reaching over the table and their forgotten cups of coffee to place a firm hand on Morde’s shoulder, imploring him to look at him. “You are no less important to me than he is. You never have been and you never will be. Being your dad has been a privilege. It is a privilege. I am blessed to know you.” Morde nodded. “So, fuck him,” he muttered, straightening up in his chair and folding his arms against his chest, staring at the tabletop with such intensity that Natan might have thought he was intent on boring a hole through it. “Abel—” “Dad,” Morde interrupted, “I’m twenty-three years old. Even if he’d wanted to wait until I was eighteen and you couldn’t stop me from seeing him, it’s been five years. You welcomed me into your—” he stopped, correcting himself before making eye contact, “—our home. You raised me as your own even though you already had a son, even though you didn’t have to. What good does it do that he suddenly cares about me now? He’s nothing more than a sperm donor to me.” “Morde,” Natan started in again, referring to him by his preferred nickname as opposed to his full name, something he only did when he was heartfelt. “I don’t want to see him,” Morde insisted, unable to disguise the frustration in his voice. “If he calls back, tell him that. I don’t want anything to do with Mom’s mistakes.” “Okay,” Natan said. “Okay.” And with that, he took his hand — as if to tell him that he wouldn’t argue, that he would support whatever decision he made in relation to his newfound, albeit unwanted, familial ties. This was where it all started.