So what if your daddy didn’t really love you?
Was it an open-handed slap?
No apologies to follow. Just enough to scare you?
Or maybe it was psychological.
Maybe it was the weekend he finally moved back into town.
You would count the weeks.
You can hear his truck pull up from your bedroom.
You grab your backpack and throw in your favorite pajamas, your beanie babies and the Uno game you stole from your brother.
Your sleepover toothbrush.
You’ve concluded that you will live at his new house with him sometimes. And play in the backyard. And watch TV while he was at the grocery store.
After all, you’re his “lucky charm.”
He needed you.
The police never wrote a ticket when you’d smile in the passenger seat. The cover story was that it was your birthday. After all, weren’t you a doll?
A Barbie to be. A model. A future guitar player.
Your Keds couldn’t reach the floor.
Your socks had the frills that made your ankles itch in the Summer.
Crooked bangs and a few missing teeth.
His big truck would rattle through the lakeside.
You both laughed when he’d run the toll booths.
Rolled the windows down and everything so you could hear the alarm scream.
It really doesn’t matter that he never loved you.
20 years later:
To this temporary lover, please stop asking me why I like this.
For the love of everything good and fucking holy slap me harder across the face. Harder.
I need to see the coke machine lights illuminate your skin. Shine on your dark, deep pupils. Just so I can see red.
Please, before I have to think again.
It’s too late. The thoughts start.
Two bedrooms. What a dream come true! See? He made room for you.
You knew it. You just knew this is why he came back.
You frantically unpack your Pajamas. Your sleepover toothbrush. Before you could reach for your brother’s missing Uno game it happens.
Replayed for decades.
“You’re forgetting your bag. It’s time for you to head back home.”
You were just a visitor.
All hope shoots into the ground. It disappears.
The backpack was Olympics themed. The 1997 Summer games in Atlanta.
The Olympics mascot Izzy stares back at you, smiling.
“Harder. Choke me.”
He pulls my hair in fistfuls. “I’m trying not to get us caught.”
I’ve exceeded the point of caring. I just kept my focus on the buzzing of the vending machines that rarely worked unless you preferred Diet Coke.
I prayed to goddess Jezibaba, and her untamed majik.
She aids those that are pure of heart and her wild spirit eats the others that lack in purity.
Her home, its own living entity tucked in the deep woods, is made of their skulls.
She guards the fountain of life and death.
If she doesn’t destroy me, she will enlighten me.
She assures me that transformation should not be concerned with what is polite and civilized. My only concern should be what is true.
I imagine bathing in the fountain with her as she washes new life into me.
He asks again why I’m smiling. If hitting me really makes me that happy.
I reply with a meek “yes.”
So what if your Daddy never loved you?
Who cares if you never asked to be here?
Why even worry about the men that believe they’re abandoning you?
They will try to sell you the easiest deal. The best “challenge” with minimal effort.
They don’t even look up to notice that you’ve already walked away.
It’s easy for them to write you off, to assume this pain has broken you.
Not once do they notice the death of your ignorance.
The acceptance of your psyche’s dark side.
So what if he walks before or after me toward the elevator?
I think about Jezibaba’s advice.
I always take the stairs.
Staying true to each step.