things keep happening for reasons I’ll never know

Sophie Nunberg

My step-mother never deactivates my dad’s cellphone. I never call, I don’t try, but it would ring. She opens up his Facebook, she scrolls through his Twitter. I wouldn’t know except Facebook is always encouraging me to start a conversation with the green dot next to Geoffrey Nunberg’s name and once, six months after he died, she liked a tweet of mine on his behalf. I don’t think she’s spying, I don’t like to think about what she is doing but at least a Ouija board has the decency of waiting until you ask a question. I wouldn’t mind being haunted by my dad but I know I’m not, it’s too quiet and the man loved an extended metaphor. Instead, there’s just the green online dot next to his name. After the brain surgery, they moved him full-time to the large spare bedroom, “Sophie’s Room.” That’s what we called it, what we’d still call it if we talked about it, I don’t think about that. “Sophie’s Room,” where I first discovered chatrooms in 1999 and wrote short stories on an old black clamshell Mac. Dad even let me have my own phone line, it was pre-wired, but he paid the monthly bill. I’d give the number to online friends, the people I met in chatrooms. I didn’t have a cellphone, they’d call late at night, there was no message machine and it would ring and ring and ring and ring. He disconnected it on the nights I wasn’t home, online strangers didn’t know the divorce schedule. I tell myself I spent more time growing up in “Sophie’s Room” than he did dying but there’s no balance in there. I felt the askew when I was squaring things off with his dead body: I had shit to get off my chest and he was still floating around. I’m an atheist but death makes a believer out of us in one way or another. I don’t think about it too much or I get upset in unfamiliar ways. Over dinner that night, my mother told me about how he cheated on her with a graduate student, how he freebased cocaine at the kitchen table. She wanted to relieve me from my grief, I think. But it didn’t take.

Sophie Nunberg is a recovering San Francisco fog baby. She likes to write about herself, in one way or another. Her next body of work is trying to plant roots in Milwaukee.