Hell is probably an endless road trip through a desert with you at the wheel and your father at your side. Every time you press on the brakes too early he gives you the look he gave you the first time you tried to ask him for help. Merciless and far too removed for the gaze of a parent on a child. You’d rather open the window and let the sand blind you both than have him bear witness to your every mistake but even though it’s your hand on the steering wheel now, it’s his voice in your head keeping you in the seat.
And what's worse is the silence, heavy with all the things you’ve left unsaid. Words that simmered right at the roof of your mouth, ready to fly and pierce and hurt but never set free. Where does the anger go, after you’ve swallowed it? Does it leave you with every breath you take? Apparently not, since that same anger is filling the car right now. It’s the same anger making you press your foot to the accelerator, refusing to give in to your father’s cold, removed gaze.
Hell is an endless road trip with your father by your side and a busted radio. No old nostalgic songs to distract him from his never-ending disappointment in you. He doesn’t have to say a word about how you’ve always let him down. He doesn’t have to say why he stopped loving you, because you already know. You already know.
And maybe it would have been easier if you both had cried into each other's arms. Maybe it would have been easier if at least one of you succumbed to the silence and begged for forgiveness. But you see him in yourself every time you glance into the rearview mirror. When you get angry and rage and scream you hear his voice instead of yours. You are made in his image, and the fact that you cannot separate him from yourself drives you to despair. It makes you want to slam your feet on the accelerator and crash and burn and die in a blaze of glory.
But you’d rather keep living this hellish loop than give him the satisfaction, right? Youd rather die than lose to him. So you continue staring out of the dirty windshield and continue this endless journey.
Hell is an endless road trip with you at the wheel, wondering if it was your fault all along. Maybe you started this hellish loop when you stopped responding to his harsh scolding, instead of accepting them as constructive criticism. Maybe you fucked up when you decided enough was enough, and stopped saving him as your emergency contact, stopped looking him in the eye. There is enough of your younger self in you to think of giving him another chance.
But the anger, the hatred, the pain of reaching out for his hand and yet being shown no love nor mercy is still there. If you let it go now, what will you live for? What will you do if you realize that you gave him all the love you had in your weak, childish heart, but it still wasn’t enough? Some truths are too much to live with. Sometimes we have to forgive the ones who have hurt us, to move on to the next step of our life. But you still remember the child who cried themselves to sleep because of all the pain they did not know how to put into words. You still think of the child who thought it was their fault all along.
So instead of making the first move, you press your foot to the accelerator and pray for the end of your journey. So you can both go back to pretending you barely know each other. So he can stop looking at you and seeing everything he has lost. So you can stop looking at him and seeing everything you are going to lose someday. So this silence that fills the car can stop devouring both of you. So this legacy of pain, from a parent to a child, can be brought to an end. By your hands alone.
Vanya Nautiyal is a 21-year-old English major who’s tired of explaining to random people what their BA research degree stands for because they’re not sure themselves. They’re also an aspiring writer who posts their prose and poetry on Instagram but hates coming up with titles for their work.