Dad

This piece contains strong language and references to violence.

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Lets Hands Do What Lips Do by Elena Eisenstadt

My mom always told me not to wish people dead. For the first decade of my life, I never did. I don’t know. I think if someone fucks up your life enough, it’s kind of inevitable that at some point you’ll get so furious that the only thing you can do is wish them dead. I really wish my dad would just bite it already. My money’s on death via liver disease or a drunk driving accident…just something involving alcohol. I’m fully aware that my morbid fantasies of my own father’s death are exactly that: morbid. Every once in a while, though, during that one day every six months that he decides to text me a paragraph of complete bullshit, I feel horrible. My chest feels like it’s bearing the weight of the world, even if it’s only for a moment. And in that moment, I’m guilty. I’m guilty of being a bad daughter, a bad person. I’ve become increasingly resilient over the years, and I snap out of it rather quickly, but that snap is like a rubber band on my wrist; it stings for what seems like an eternity.

The last time I saw him was at a holiday party. He was always my biggest weakness when it came to family events. For years, I opted out of these kinds of get-togethers. I chose not to take the opportunity to see people who I’d otherwise go months—maybe even years—without seeing. All because of him. I thought that if I got over this fear, I’d be a stronger or better person because good, strong people aren’t supposed to bail on their families, right?

He tried to hug me. That’s what I remember the most. All the harsh “don’t touch me”s I’d rehearsed in the ridiculously bright blue guest bedroom of my aunt’s house suddenly left my conscious mind like sand being yanked in by the tide. “No, I’m good.” He gave me a $75 gift card to Uniqlo because he didn’t know what else to get me. I would’ve preferred the 20 grand he owed in child support.

He’s been texting me more often than he ever has before. Once every two weeks now, but sometimes even more frequently. I wonder if he’s ever said something he actually meant. It wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. I keep coming back to him thinking that maybe this time it’s real. I sit on my bed scrunched over my glaring phone screen, watching my tears fall and distort each character. I do this for about 10 minutes until I realize that I need to figure out what my next move is. Usually, it’s a word or two. I occasionally manage to shakily type out a decent sentence. It’s not the “Fuck you, you’re dead to me” I’d like to see in my little blue speech bubble, but it’s good enough; at least it’s something. It’s the best I can do when my mind is on the verge of exploding trying to decide if he’s ready to be a good father or if this is yet another one of his abusive, manipulative games.

I don’t understand my dad. I’ve tried interrogating him in the past about why he is the way he is, but all it’s resulted in is tears and swearing and an amount of yelling to which no child should ever be subjected. I think if I understood him, I’d sympathize with him, which is the last thing I’d ever want to do. If I sympathized with him, though, maybe I wouldn’t want him to die, and then maybe I’d feel like I wasn’t evil. I know he doesn’t deserve my sympathy. A man who drinks and drives with his children in the car doesn’t deserve anything good, to be honest. That’s how I see it, at least. I’m so full of hatred and anger. For the most part I’m okay with it, but with each ounce of hatred for the man I once loved comes another ounce of guilt and regret. I never wanted to live a life full of regret.

I wonder what my life would be like if I were a more forgiving person. I’ve come to believe that forgiving someone too many times opens the door to a world of toxicity and abuse. I’d like to think that if I forgave my dad, we’d go right back to where we left off before everything went bad. Bike rides across the Manhattan Bridge and stopping at Bagel World after an exhausting day in Fort Greene Park with our dogs. But I’m not that naive. I know who he is, and I know he hasn’t changed. It’s been a learning process, attempting to cope with the fact that I probably would’ve been better off with no father. And maybe that’s why I wish I didn’t have a father now. Better late than never, I guess.

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