all about my father

It’s been my father’s birthday for close to an hour as I write this.

My mother told me to write him a fond message in his birthday card. I opened the card. It already contained all the fondness I could muster, which was “Happy birthday!” So I added “xoxo! Go enjoy!” and my initial. God’s bones, what was I supposed to do? Lie? You don’t lie in birthday cards. Eulogies, sure. Presidential addresses, all the time. But birthday cards mean something. This person is alive; this person is not a politician or, worse, a constituent, neither lion nor lamb. As much as I mistrust Claudius, as harsh as my feelings are toward him, some part of me still loves him too much to lie in his birthday card.

. . .

I love him too much, and my mother as well, to see them romantically involved ever again. If it should happen, I may have to run away. Don’t know where to. But if he thinks it’s ever going to be okay to inflict himself on us again, if for one second he expects me to trust him before he’s proven himself at all worthy of that trust and it may be years and I don’t care — then I am probably better off homeless, because you know how I think he’ll react?

I think he’ll gloat.

I think he’ll retreat into narcissism and smugness and decide that because he regained what he lost (what should have been lost forever, what an honorable man would never seek to regain just on principle) that he was never wrong to begin with. Just “sick”. I have news for him. Being sick does not excuse being wrong. You can be terribly sick and do bad things. There is no way he was incapable of telling right from wrong when he did what he did to my mother and me.

I love him enough to want him to see all of these things and not expect rewards for seeing them. I want him to pursue them because they are right, not because someone tells him he should. But then it’s all about behaving as others desire, isn’t it? When you grow up abused, all of your being, on some fundamental level, becomes about pleasing others and having the appearance of what is right, even if inside you know it’s a lie.

Someone has to show him that what is right is also what is honest. I have tried. The trying is too hard for me alone. I need someone else to do it, someone with authority. Power. He can ignore me because I live under his roof and he can threaten to evict me. (I fear what may happen if my mother decides, someday, to back him up in that. Evicted for trying to tell the truth? God, let it never come to pass. Where will I go? I will lose everything.) He can’t ignore someone who has nothing to lose, who can actually cause him to lose out if he puts a foot wrong.

. . .

I looked in the mirror twenty minutes ago. With my hair loosely bound, I resemble a Stunner.

Such a hard little face, I thought. They had hard, haughty faces: the faces of the hard-done-by. Gimlet eyes. Proud noses. Firm chins. Straight mouths, or curving ever so slightly down at each edge. Jawlines taut with tension.

I have a Stunner’s face. Do you know what a Stunner must have been in her time? As an artist’s model, in those clothes, in those paintings especially, she was a creature outside society, outside respectability in some cases. Someone’s mistress, like as not, even if she was also someone’s wife. Could she read? Could she write? What other work could she get if not modelling?

What hope did she have, if a man did not find her compelling?

Where would she go? She would lose everything.

. . .

A Verdi mood tonight. I can’t help it; the Requiem’s so fine, so brilliant. Next I will attempt to find Rosenkavalier (I can never remember which gender) (I suppose it must be Der Rosenkavalier, seeing as he’s a guy). Opera is good for listening while doing other things. I might fall asleep watching it, but to listen is to imagine the story all on my own. It’s like reading with my ears. No, the Requiem’s not opera, though it has that quality. It is to an opera what poetry is to prose, more for music’s sake than for story’s sake, yet there is story and I do not turn my back on what the composition says.

. . .

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m working.”

She didn’t press me, just went in to bed.


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