My Father’s Wilmington, Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware is a place. It has streets, avenues and, I am certain, people. I can only be vague about Wilmington, Delaware the place, owing to the inconvenient fact that I have not once found myself on the streets and avenues I know it must have.

Wilmington, Delaware is a print. My father bought it when I was young, younger than young, and for years it hung central to the wall opposite of the television in our living room.

Wilmington, Delaware, what did you see? Endless reruns of shows now off the air? Countless family arguments, fights? My brother, breaking my father’s wooden cane over my head and stabbing me in the leg with the sharp end while I had my hands wrapped around his throat? Years of people whose names you could never know, whose features your glossy surface entombed underneath glass could never do more than reflect?

Wilmington, Delaware is blanketed in snow. From the vantage point that Larry Anderson painted however many years ago, one that migrated from print shop to thrift store to living room wall, I can see you and all your streets and avenues, nameless and without number.

Wilmington, Delaware is office buildings, some grey, others beige, one the color of red bricks in rain. You have two bridges, one leading to blocks of tightly packed homes that bore a passing resemblance to the one on whose wall you hung. Only a handful have cars parked in front of them, each hugged by a thick layer of snow.

Wilmington, Delaware has no people in it. For years, I scanned your streets and avenues, the terminal roofs of your office buildings, your two bridges, always hunting for them. They are not there, not against the blinding white snow, not walking alongside the river or across one of two bridges, not anywhere.

Wilmington, Delaware is gone. Whether the garbage men threw you into the back of their truck or some trash-picker took you with them, you are gone, gone since my father died. I can buy you for a hundred American dollars on the painter’s website, but you would not be the same.

Wilmington, Delaware is still there, population seventy-thousand something. It’s certain that I will never walk her streets and avenues or confirm that, maybe, she houses flesh-and-blood people. Deep within me, I know that going to Wilmington, Delaware would ruin Wilmington, Delaware.


Jan Staněk, 23, is a writer currently living in the United States of America, originally from Brno.