Creepy / Love / Occult / Sex & Love / Staff Picks

Daughters and Fathers

Alison-Scarpulla-Photography-29

Photography by Alison Scarpulla

According to my grandmother, she spun her hair around scrunchies in tight, purposeful patterns and hid them in my mother’s closet, she put her lips to every cup in our home, she left faint traces of X marks made of cayenne pepper and ashes in our backyard, she placed lace satchels with rose petals, jasmine, and tiny, imperceptible pieces of her nails in my father’s wallet, she asked him for family photos that she never returned.

When I was 12 years old and intent on exploring the effects of my new curves on men, my 39-year-old father was busy running amok as well.

Yes, she was blond.

Yes, she was tall.

Yes, she was 22.

And yes, she was his secretary.

But what saves this story from utter banality is that she was also a witch.

Yes, my father’s porcelain-skinned, long-limbed, emerald-eyed Russian whore was a witch, a vedma.

My consumed grandmother spared my mom, but was relentless with me. I became her vessel and she poured and poured the secrets of my father’s sex life into my ears because she had nothing else to say, until finally there was nothing else I could hear. They went to hotels in Midtown in broad daylight. She left her used underwear in his drawers. He came home to my mother reeking of her. She was on her knees while he took calls behind his desk. He kept her for years after he vowed to have given her up.

According to my grandmother, she spun her hair around scrunchies in tight, purposeful patterns and hid them in my mother’s closet, she put her lips to every cup in our home, she left faint traces of X marks made of cayenne pepper and ashes in our backyard, she placed lace satchels with rose petals, jasmine, and tiny, imperceptible pieces of her nails in my father’s wallet, she asked him for family photos that she never returned.

During this time, my mother delivered my pea-sized sister three months early after a freakish fall at work. She barely survived. My grandfather’s routine surgery resulted in partial blindness. I was dangerously sick that fall and no one could figure out why.

Meanwhile, she fed him apples infused with her menstrual blood.

Another poisonous apple, another envious, lonely, and panicked woman. An amalgam of those other famous apple-eaters, my father was both entranced and naked.

He would not, however, be ashamed for many, many years. Not when my mother finally confronted him in the lobby of the hotel room and he casually told her to go home while he finished paying for the room he had just fucked his vedma in. Not when he fired my grandfather after he walked in on them in the office. On the desk. Not when he didn’t make it to the delivery room. Not when I called him an asshole in front of my grandma’s house in Bensonhurst and he threw fistfuls of crumpled hundreds at me.

“Your father thought he could have everything back then. He was so cocky. Money fell out of his every pocket and he made a point of not picking it up.”

No, my father would not be ashamed until much later. Not until he witnessed the quiet dignity and steely resolve of my mother who went to medical school after she decided to stay with him, not until my slow unraveling during a relationship with a boy who slept with every friend I had, not until he had to start counting every dollar.

My mother told me recently of a bloody tampon that she found under their bed during those years. Did the witch put it there to lure my father, to stir him with the iron scent of her fertility? Or was this intimation of death intended for my mother and the baby girl swimming in her belly?

“Sometimes, people make the worst choices during their best times,” my father said, and the palpitating heart beneath this platitude was his apology to me. Despite my grandmother’s most valiant efforts, I forgave him and we moved on. It’s been almost two decades since my father, delirious with success, devoured those apples.

There are times, though, that I suspect this story is not entirely over.

I wonder sometimes if her love spells nested other, deeper spells, XR spells crafted to activate over the course of a lifetime. When a psychic told me that someone had put a curse on me so powerful and ancient that she couldn’t work with me unless I underwent a cleanse, when my parents were forced to sell off just about every asset they had spent decades working for, when my healthy 40-year-old uncle died of a heart attack on the train, when my sixteen-year relationship ended abruptly, I couldn’t help but think of my father’s Vedma and wonder, if just for a fleeting moment, just how far her hatred can reach.

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