'Nothing' Is the Answer
This is weird. I know I have to have this particular talk with my father, I've been thinking about little else for days, but now that I'm sitting in front of him I just don't know how to get this particular ball rolling and I don't think he's doing much better... plus the fact that I really don't want to have this conversation is not helping either. What am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to paint anything remotely resembling an impartial picture of my own life? How can I balance the good, the bad and the ugly? Well, maybe not the ugly but the average. All my life I was told that bringing up the past brings nothing but pain, and even though I've learned that that's not always true there are some memories it still applies to... and I believe that some of the ones that are likely to be a part of this encounter qualify. Having this conversation with my father goes against that upbringing. I know I cannot be honest with him without causing him pain and I'm not looking forward to that.
We've been here for almost an hour already, we've talked about the weather, sports, the girls and we've also debated a couple of theories about how demons helped shape some human traditions in remote places. We've talked about everything we can think of and ten minutes ago we ran out of subjects, so now we are both staring quietly into our mugs of tea and we'll be here until tomorrow unless one of us says something so I decide to face the inevitable.
"This is absurd."
"I guess this conversation won't take care of itself if we just wish for it to go away."
"No, I'm afraid it won't."
"Okay, then ask away."
"What? Me? I'm really not sure what I should ask."
"Then we have a problem 'cause I don't have a clue as to what to say."
"How bad was it, really?"
"Everything I guess. It's strange but until Naomi's visit I never gave much thought to what your early life was like."
"It was different, that's for sure, but I'm not sure I would describe it as bad, not even when things got rough. I just want you to understand that none of it was your fault."
"I should have been there... and don't try to make this about me. What do you mean by 'when things got rough'?"
"Nothing really, it wasn't that bad most of the times, just sometimes, and everyone has those 'sometimes' no matter what. It's no big deal."
"If it's not a big deal then tell me."
"Well, we used to travel a lot and that was really cool. I got to meet lots of different people and..."
"And these were the rough times?"
"Then, if it's not that bad, why won't you just quit stalling?"
"Because you can't change those."
"Would you quit trying to protect me?"
"Yes, you are."
"Okay, maybe I am, but I just don't see the point."
"The point is that I need to know. I'm your father and I should have been there, I failed you and..."
"That's the thing: You didn't fail me, you didn't even know me."
"But I should have."
"No, you shouldn't."
"What do you mean I shouldn't? I'm your father, it was my responsibility to be there for you."
"Maybe, but if you had been there for me, we wouldn't be here... literally. I seriously doubt that Buffy's life would have unfolded as it did with a different watcher, that would almost certainly mean that she would have died long before now and do you honestly believe that another slayer would have been able to do what she has done? That a slayer brought up in the traditional way would have been able to defeat the First Evil? She wouldn't, if only because another slayer wouldn't have had the help of two powerful witches and without their help the battle would have been lost."
"That's true, but without those witches the battle probably wouldn't have taken place at all. It was the spell they used to bring Buffy back that set things in motion for that confrontation in the first place... and that's not the point."
"Yes it is. The point is that, for whatever reason, we met only a couple of years ago and if you had known about me from the start both of our lives would be completely different now. How different? I don't know, just like I don't know how our lives would have been if we hadn't met at all. Would our lives be better or worse in either of those instances? I don't know, do you?"
"I know I like my life better with you in it."
"Yes, well, I'm really glad I met you too, that's not what I mean. I just don't know how to say what I'm saying."
"That's a new one... you not knowing what to say."
"God, you are starting to sound like Jim."
"I'll take that as a compliment, and now stop trying to change the subject."
"Yes, you are. You've been trying to change the subject since long before we got anywhere near the subject. I understand what you are saying about the fact that we can't measure the changes there would be in our lives if things had been different, I even get that you wouldn't want to risk any of those changes, but I still need to know."
"Okay, as I said, there was a lot of traveling. I never really had a place to call home at least until I moved to Cascade, maybe not until I moved in with Jim, but that was okay for the most part. I mean --without going into too much detail about Naomi's boyfriends-- I'll admit that a few of them were jerks, but none of them was around for a really long time, so it never got too bad."
"Can we set some parameters here? What would have been 'too bad'?"
"I don't know, anything beyond getting smacked every now and then for being smart or being in the way or simply being, I guess."
"They beat you?"
"Not all of them, in fact not most of them, and even with those who were a little heavy-handed it was not an everyday occurrence... besides it never went beyond a couple of bruises and that was less than what I got from school bullies on a regular basis. If it had been any worse than that Naomi might have noticed and they didn't want to take that chance."
"So that makes it okay?"
"No, it wasn't okay but it wasn't really a big deal either, besides things weren't all that bad.... at least not as long as Naomi was around."
"Are you telling me that those were actually the good times?"
"No they were not the good times, though some of Naomi's boyfriends were kind of cool. For the most part I just wanted them to leave me alone and they were happy to oblige so it worked out just fine for all of us. The good times were when I was traveling with Naomi, just the two of us. It didn't happen all that often but when it did it was great."
"You said things weren't bad as long as Naomi was around... what happened when she wasn't? You've hinted several times at the fact that she was gone often."
"Well, yes, she did leave me behind on a fairly regular basis, and for the most part nothing bad happened to me while she was gone either. I usually stayed with some of her friends and most of them were okay. I had a roof over my head, three meals a day and a library card, if there was a library within walking distance, that is. I learned to cope with different situations, that's for sure, but in the end that turned out to be a good thing. I learned to fend for myself and I learned a lot about people, things most kids never see. Look, dad, I won't lie to you saying everything was great but I made it. I just don't want to see you blaming yourself for something you couldn't possibly have known or prevented."
"The problem is that I don't even know what am I supposed to be blaming myself for, and that's what's driving me crazy."
"That one I can answer: nothing."