I BUILT A HOUSE | Dani Fink

  1. CONSTRUCTION

Walking into the framework of the new house, I avoided the patches of white powder that created clouds of dust on my feet when I walked through them. As we went into the foyer and stood beneath the chandelier that had been hung just the day before, I could see the sheer excitement on my dad’s face, as his grin stretched from ear to ear. 

He walked me through the kitchen slowly, guiding me under the high beams to make sure he could highlight the grey tiled backsplash of the kitchen behind the stove, the tall double doors that would hide the pantry, and the granite countertop he and Her spent hours picking out. There was a symphony of construction workers around the kitchen and dining room, hustling with buckets of paint and cords connecting through the walls like a retro game of telephone, so I stuck close to my dad’s hip. We passed by men patching drywall and ventured upstairs on wooden steps that I didn’t yet trust, soon to be covered in plush carpets, so I made my dad go up them first. 

Like a giddy child, he peeked into every room of the house, pointing out which was to be mine when the building was all done, ignoring the stench of mortar and paint in the air. Since he was engaged to Her but not living together yet, it was taking much longer than expected for the new house to finish. Everyone was ready to finally move in all together.

Lurking in my house is the spirit of Hephaestus, the sculptor and inventor everyone in the world chose to laugh at. He blacksmiths weapons from hard metals in my basement to catch mortals, lurking to prepare for battle day after day. 

“If you’re engaged, why aren’t you living together yet?” I asked my dad over our breakfast. He made scrambled eggs for us both, letting the eggs glide off the pan onto two paper plates. I sipped my coffee while my dad guzzled down his cherry-red energy drink. She had just dropped us both off after going to the gym together, so it was back to being just us two again. 

This was a common conversation between the two of us, and I already knew the answer before he finished chewing. “The house isn’t done, Danielle, you know that. And I’m not living with my wife in a rental condo at almost fifty-years old.” He got up to wash the dirty pan. I started my defense, “I understand, but I think it looks weird if you’re married and living separately.”

 I knew I couldn’t rush the process of how fast we moved, but I was ready to get out of the condo we were temporarily living in until the house was fully done. Thin walls, a small fridge, and a broken oven were not characteristics of a home I would search up on Zillow. 

In one of the bedrooms, there was a bucket of paint set over a taupe tarp. They had begun painting, which was a good sign. I wondered if this room would be mine. I would be living in the new house with Her and my dad, and her kids would sleep over from time to time. In their sixth year of dating, this was the final step in their relationship, and I was thrilled that my dad was so excited to be in love. 

Clink, clink, clink. The subtle clash of metalworking echoed through the ceiling tiles.

Carrying the weight of so many others on his back, he began to walk with the assistance of a cane.

  1. DEMOLITION 

April, right when quarantine began. 

I didn’t even know if my dad’s divorce had gone through the legal system yet, but it didn’t really matter. When the world ended and life shut down, I figured I would spend some time with my dad. I didn’t expect to find a whore living in my house. 

When I got back to West Bloomfield, everything had changed from my last visit in December. I knew that my dad was seeing the woman he cheated with, but now she was living in my house. Her name was Poison, and she was lethal.

I parked my car on the driveway, because my parking spot was already filled by a Black Jeep Cherokee. 

Sitting at the dining room table, to my complete fucking dismay, were two children, Her, and my dad. It was a lovely family dinner, and my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. 

The kids moved into the house and stayed every other week.

I began hearing a routined explanation from my dad, that, “It’s her house now, Dani. And her kids’, too. Just like it is yours and mine.” 

But I had no interest in getting to know the rat in my house. 

Born deformed, he was cast out of heaven by his parents when they saw that he was imperfect. 

8 a.m was before anyone woke up, besides my dad and I. He woke up early to workout in the basement, and I was awoken by the anxiety rattling my brain; this was a typical morning in the House. We ushered around the kitchen in silent harmonious tension, as I sat eating my breakfast with my back turned to the stranger I used to call dad. 

He was the only ugly god, known as the god of fire and destruction.

In complete honesty, I had expected him to pull up a chair and apologize for the torture he had put me through. Foolish, stupid girl. 

He began his strike, “Honey, you’ve been making things really hard on me here…” 

His accusations latched on my shoulders then, gripping their claws into my flesh as I pleaded for him to say anything to relieve the pain of “you, you, you.” 

He didn’t. With an accusing bite to his tongue he continued, “Didn’t you learn any coping skills in therapy? Can’t you use them?” He met me with a stern, frustrated look as he paced around the granite counter island that he and Julie picked out together only a year prior. 

“You can’t keep running back and forth between here and your mom’s whenever you don’t like something going on. Have you considered that you’re the one creating problems wherever you go?” 

That last line has stuck with me since the words left his mouth, every phoneme and morpheme and syllable broke my heart in two. They still do everyday. 

I had to change rooms in the house to accommodate Her youngest child; previously I stayed in the room with a Jack and Jill bathroom, but now that room belongs to a little boy. Obviously, I didn’t have a say on the matter. I came back from my mom’s after a huge blowout one day, and my bed was, well, no longer mine; it had moved across the hall into another room, where my clothes had been sprawled across the floor for me to organize. Fucking bullshit. 

He was married to Aphrodite, yet she had many affairs with both gods and men. Her true love was Ares, god of war. Hephaestus was destined to live a life of solitude and rejection. 

Walking downstairs one morning for breakfast, my feet felt unfamiliar in the same house that I saw being built from a shallow hole in the ground. No longer mine, strangers voices’ echoed through the halls of a whore’s house. 

While my breakfast cooked on the stove, I stepped over to the armoire that held all of the picture frames I helped place there when we moved in. I felt sick then, filled with rage and disgust and an intense urge to pack all my shit and get out, because those pictures no longer held memories of me. The picture frames that used to hold pictures of my dad, my sister, and I had been replaced by photos of the lethal poison that threatened to fill my throat. 

I couldn’t stand in the kitchen one moment longer, as my feet felt hot on the intruders’ floorboards. I burned my breakfast and discarded it anyway, but it didn’t matter because my appetite was gone. I went upstairs to pack my suitcase. 

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