People We Love

Patti Hadad

Patti Hadad has seen more of Argentina than the United States.  Before coming to Tucson, she was, for a few years, an arts critic for the Austin Chronicle and a reader for American Short Fiction.  Her first year as a student , she interned for Kore Press and read for Sonora Review—elbowing in the next year as Sonora Review’s Fiction Editor. Her second year she was asked to be the program coordinator for the first year of UA Reads, a campus-wide common read program for the University of Arizona.

Patti has written two novels, one complete short story and a few non-fiction essays (including one on how much she hates Germany).  None of these have been published as of yet.  Her manuscript entitled Parejo was birthed out of a novel workshop her first semester.  The title means “even,” “equal,”  “fair,” and “partners.”  This novel is about two brothers, one living in the US and one living in Argentina, who come together for their mother’s 80th birthday celebration and find that it is also time cremate their father’s ashes.  The novel spans three generations.

For a sample of Patti’s work, here is an excerpt from her second novel, which continues her contemplation on death:

When I had gotten the call that he died, I was devastated.  “Devastated.” It really is the perfect word for it.   “Devastated” has become one of those diminished words like “awesome” where the meaning has shallowed because of its regular use in conversation.  “I dropped my donut on the floor and I was devastated.” But “devastation” is a state of decay, of destruction, of desolation. After I got the phone call and burst into tears and threw shit and did all the normal things one does when you’re punched in the gut with death’s news, I waited for a sign.   I waited in the car on the way to my mother’s house.  Wiping tears self-consciously wondering if the cars next to me knew.  Surely, I thought, when I embraced her, I would get that sign, that whistle in the ear, that strong gust of wind, that bright light, that tap on the shoulder.  Nada.  No sign of afterlife even when I sat next to my mother during the funeral and her face was slapped with tears, red and inflated.

The morning after the funeral, the alarm clock radio went off at 7am playing to some Mexican radio station. I rolled over and switched it to 88.7 for NPR and pulled the covers over my head.  Just about half of the news I heard nowadays on NPR were disaster related.  Floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes.  Explosions, implosions.  Natural ones, man-made ones. The business of disaster has become prevalent. My father the disaster engineer would tell me over and over that each incident would be specific on a case by case basis but when hearing one on the news he would try to guess how exactly he would be able to help.  Most of which was just to rebuild.  Rebuild better homes, better bridges, better architecture or even preventative structures. First there would be a search and rescue team.  Then his team would step in and survey the area to see if it was worth the money and effort to salvage depending mostly on how many people lived there and what the economic situation is.  People are going to live where they want to live even if God doesn’t want them to, he’d say. The only real disasters were economic ones and that only certain countries were favored by the media.  You hear less about the disasters in Latin America, he said, not because they didn’t happen very often but because they were poor, except Chile.

Growing up I thought that my father’s sudden death was going to be caused by something while he was away, out in the field, in a disaster area, Ground Zero, a common term I was too familiar with long before 9/11. I’d be lying if I said that as a little girl I didn’t picture what would happen to him. You’re surrounded by disasters, one is bound to happen to you, I thought. I imagined that he would fall through a hole in the ground of an area that recently came to ruin because of an eruption or an earthquake; fall off an unstable bridge or a crack in the foundation; drown in a flood of muddy waters that carries the bodies of others rolling down a slope; swept away by a hurricane or sucked up by a tornado and lands Hitchcockesque on some spikes of a fence; swallowed by a fire in a forest where the fiery limbs bend around him slapping him and torturing him; suffocating from smoke, the firemen can’t get to him in time in a burning building; or a  mad man afraid and traumatized pulls out a gun, my father tries to calm him down and as soon as the man turns to my father disoriented, lost, confused, takes a shot that goes straight through the heart. If there are a hundred different ways to tell a story, then there were a hundred ways I could kill my father while I daydreamed in class. They didn’t give me nightmares. They insta-herofied my father. I imagined myself coming back to school, dressed in a black dress of course, and I would tell the tale of how he fought, heroically, for his life for the good of the people. Any one of those disasters clearly deserving of some kind of FEMA Medal of Honor. Purple Heart of Disaster Death. I could use it as an excuse to get out of P.E. “I can’t do chin-ups. My arms are weak with death’s toll.” I let my mind wander when I sat alone in the back of the bus but would come home happy to a living father.

I lay in bed cocooned when I realized that my father must have been sleeping in this spot, and that’s why his alarm went off.  I put my nose to the pillow and inhaled him. While I still felt in shock, I became more and more inundated as if I were one of 1500 people in the Sampoong Department Store watching the building  collapse in slow motion around me having block after block cover a neat little dark nook for me.  I lay there under the ton of bricks after Morning Edition was over.  I heard it. It was deafening, ringing from one ear to another in a two-tone catcall. The kind my father would give me when I came down the stairs ready to go out. El silbido. My sign.

In the future, Patti plans on immersing herself in her photography and playing with her dog Rosie.

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