V’s mind runs a short film loop: her father being lowered into a dark hole in the ground. She’s 8 again. She watches. She can’t cry. The coffin lowered into the earth, deeper than where the dead usually go. She thinks she sees a halo around the coffin, an intense sun that will still shine even after being covered by concrete and dirt. She hears the crisp crackling of a Geiger counter, the static of a lost radio station, her dead father searching for a broadcast frequency.
He was gone, her mother said, before the coughing, the vomiting, before anyone said, Chernobyl. The reactor dressed in white sarcophagus—always in the distance, an afterimage that can’t be erased. Like her old house that still sits, far away, abandoned like the rest of the town. Slumping porch, white paint peeling, broken windows. She can still see her father sitting on the porch. Vodka in hand, looking to the sky, his face forcing a smile through exponential decay.
Now, she has a husband. They have no children nor will they. She wonders if he looks at her, sees her body becoming transparent, fading away.