my dad

near bedtime, very often and for years now, i get this unnameable WANT

it’s not h*rny of any variety and it’s not chocolate (which is what i always try first lol) (because it’s what my ex would feed me every time i had a ptsd nightmare)

but i think i figured it out? i think it’s cinnamon sugar toast, which my dad would make for me when I couldn’t sleep.

when i was a kid my dad was a really bad insomniac, getting about 30 minutes of sleep a night, and so if i wandered out of my shared bedroom in our tiny house he would be there in the garage, chainsmoking and watching cartoons.

(there are certain key phrases, ive found, that can activate even non-caretaking types into caretaking mode. for my dad, it’s “I can’t sleep.”)

he insisted, at all times of day, that the worst thing you could do for insomnia was lay around. he advocated for flipping your pillow and switching your head to the other end of the bed, and if that didn’t work, he would say the next step is to get out of bed and do something to tire yourself out.

when i whined “dad, I can’t sleep!” he would jump into action, using his rusty diner prep cook skills to make perfect toast with margarine (always margarine in our house). i would grab my star trek novel collection, which was a fat purple book with transcriptions of the episodes. i would read and munch until i was frankly bored to tears by the blow by blow account of the episode Charlie X, and i would then go to bed and finally be able to sleep.

as i transition, i think more and more about what it means to be a man, and what it meant and means to my dad. i wonder if we all become our parents in the end, and which parent I’m going to end up as. i think a lot about laying in bed at age 12 wishing for a “sex change” and then deciding i was going to stop thinking about it because there was no way my parents could afford it. i think about age 9 begging to be allowed to shave my head, and my dad saying he doesn’t want to look at anyone’s knobbly scalp, regardless of gender. i think a lot about how my mom insists she doesn’t snore.

when people have emotions around my dad, he is instantly bewildered. you can see it in the way his eyes widen into circles. he wants to fix you like you’re leaking oil. sometimes this comes in the form of an explosion, the impulse to beat you back into line. other times he is practically begging you to stop. but no matter what, he is absolutely appalled by any show of feeling.

im not like that, am i? when people have emotions around me, do i just wish for it to stop? am i a safe person to cry to? am i a safe person to slam doors around? do i laugh and joke and do a little jig to avoid anything, anything that might smack of strife?

i am my dad, but shorter. i am my dad but ive been r*ped. i am my dad but with the knowledge that my perspective isn’t always the truth. i am just a man, with hands.


i have hit the cold floor again.

my lovers are sleeping soundly, dreaming
that i am still between them

while i grip the kitchen sink, taking sandpaper
to my frontal lobe,
feeling the solitary sage capsule
rattle in my ribcage.

i have cut my hair and
practiced violin and
thrown out my scissors and
i have been a man and

but at least i have a perfect sense of direction.

Poem: “engulF–d”

Trigger warning for sexual assault.

engulF–d by a curtain of flamingo-print
heavy across my air–
I Swallow The Worm.
hands pressing mine by the wrists down into my lap–
my pose so polite except

my head, leaned all the way back to Avoid,
But i would never say it with my mouth.
i don’t have words for a lot of things that wiggle inside of me.
i swallow the worm instead,
adding another wiggle. (i have nightmares about these)
the chair squeaks once with the weight of two bodies on it.
i contemplate the ceiling
with his tongue scraping my teeth.

everyone (everyone) can see us. there is a grumble of disgust from somewhere. i can see nothing but open eyes, an inch from mine. i look away. it is a nice day outside.

i am no longer pristine
in appearance. i am
significantly rumpled
and oh my! i appear to have misplaced my hands.
everyone notices.

My abusers wanted me dead.

(TW: abuse, suicide, sexual assault.) 

Maybe they didn’t know it, but my abusers wanted me dead.

They might not have understood it themselves (or maybe some of them did) but they wanted me gone — to extinguish any part of me that made me ME. They wanted all of my compliance, skills, and entertainment value, with none of needs, inconsistencies, mess, or candor.

They only wanted a walking blow-up doll. They only wanted an unpaid secretary. They only wanted grandchildren. What they didn’t want was my humanity.

And I took that to heart. I tried to kill myself multiple times because I keenly felt that I took up too much room. I genuinely believed I was an abuser for the rare times I stuck up for myself. When I would get motion sick on car trips, I learned to hold it in so I wouldn’t create a problem. There are now parts of ME that want me dead.

This is not a unique situation. Everyone who abuses someone and violates their self-hood is complicit in that person’s disappearance.

I am still digging through my psyche and using what I find to build up a Self that I can live with. I spend all day in bed thinking about the ways they tried to kill me and how I survived. I didn’t survive, in a way. There’s no part of me that wasn’t touched by their stabbing fingers.

I am still learning to breathe.