Dad

I am ten,
the day is hot
and I am happy.
Being with you
always
made me happy
because you were
gone a lot.
The condensation
of a glass of ice water
cooled my hand
as I waited
and watched
you work.
I don’t remember
interaction,
I was merely an observer
and I watched
you take those pills,
I watched you swallow them
down,
more pills than you needed.
You took them with the water
that I handed off to you,
but I didn’t know.
I didn’t know.

Three days of me
knocking,
crying at your door.
Dad?
Can I watch TV with you?
Can we go for a walk?
Can you read me a book?
Under the sound of the
swamp cooler,
you shooed me away.

I am fourteen.
You are away,
work.
I am the lead in
the musical,
a freshman,
it’s something
your parents should be
proud of,
they tell me.
You’re laying somewhere
in a ditch,
glass and dirt
shoved deep into your skin.
You “fell asleep.”
I didn’t know.

I am sixteen.
You are newly clean
and meaner than ever.
I am not working hard enough,
I wear too much makeup,
my breasts are too big,
I am a little bitch
who needs to learn
how to keep my
mouth shut.
I lock my door before I sleep
at night,
scared you’ll act
on your anger and hatred.

I am twenty.
I call because I have to.
You’re the only one
I have left.
I am not working hard enough,
I am not trying hard enough,
I do not get to fail,
I do not get to fail,
I do not get to fail.

Do you take your anger out
on me because you know
I am smart enough
I am strong enough
to take it?
Your guilt eating you up,
knowing that you failed me?

I am finally stronger than you.
You don’t scare me
anymore.

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