by Elissa Bowles
(Oakland, California, USA)

If you ask me about my biological father I will recite to you a condensed explanation of how he died and the drama that surrounded his circumstance. It’s the same story I’ve told ever since I can remember. It’s the story my mother told me and I say it now with no emotion or connection whatsoever to the actual human being that he was. I have no memory of him or really any idea of him other than a few pictures my mother saved. There is one picture of my mother, father and I that was professionally taken when I was about two and a half years old. We all look overcome with sadness and I wondered why out of all the pictures to save my mother chose that one?

The story is simple; my father was stabbed to death the day after my sister was born. He was celebrating her birth with his cousin at a local bar when three men walked in and asked my father about one of his brothers. My father had three younger brothers who were all involved in some sort of criminal activity; drugs, cockfighting, or anything illegal to make a few bucks. My father said that he didn’t know where his brother was, but if the men had a problem they could go outside with him and settle it. From the stories I’ve heard my father was not the type to back down from a fight. The men postured and the fight worked its way across the street from the bar into the local bank’s parking lot. This is where one of the men grabbed a sharp object from the back of a construction truck that was parked in the lot. The men knocked my father’s cousin unconscious and then turned on my father, stabbing him thirty-two times in the chest. The cousin came to in time to see my father lying in a puddle of his own blood and despite his attempts to rehabilitate my father he was pronounced DOA at the hospital. My father lay dead on the first floor in emergency while my mother was nursing my little sister on the third floor in maternity.

During my early childhood my father worked as a national motocross champion, meaning my family toured every week from one racetrack to another. My mother tried to erase my father after he died, destroying pictures and trophies and anything that could remind us of him. I guess she thought that it would be easier for us that way… simpler. Her plan to eliminate his memory from us worked, for the most part, except for one small detail. Every time I smell the exhaust from a two stroke motorcycle engine I am transported into my father’s arms and I almost feel him standing next to me, holding me, like he never left. I am safe and comforted. That is until the vapors fade and I remember that I never really knew him at all.

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