Monday, February 1, 2016

TO THE MAN WITH THE SUIT, THE MUSTACHE AND A STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM CONE:

I'm dating now. Or rather, I am attempting to. It's not going so great but I'm encouraging myself to try because I'm looking for a specific feeling and I believe in going after what you want to feel. And with dating comes small talk (Where are you from? Where are you really from? Where is your family from? Where did you go to school? What do you do for work? Have you lived in the Bay your whole life?) and you answer those questions the same way you have the previous ten times. But then there are the questions that ask for a little more depth and a little more explanation.

My favorite one is: Are you close with your parents?

I always answer this the same way. I am very close with my mom, I see her almost every day and we talk every day. I love talking about her because I am proud that I have come from her and I am proud of all she is. Sometimes I don't talk about the other parent figure I know they are expecting an answer for. But they always ask and it shouldn't surprise me anymore.

"What about your dad?"

And I answer this the same way, every time. My father and I aren't close at all. We don't have a relationship because I would rather us not have one than be a toxic presence in each other's lives. Sometimes that's greeted with, "That makes sense". And then there are the responses laced with sympathy, "I am really sorry to hear that." And that's when I want to raise my hand with one finger pointing and say, "Do not."

When I was fifteen, I sat in the passenger seat of your car. I always try to remember what car you were driving but I can't remember any of the details except the leather was the color of sand. You are smoking a cigarette and your sunglasses are grey and reflective. If I look at them through the rearview mirror, I can see the traffic chasing us. I am fifteen and I can't decide if I hate you, if I feel sorry for you or if I am just very simply angry with you. I don't know what I am expecting from you. I don't know if I am expecting an explanation that is too grandiose to grasp, or if I am wanting an apology that will beg me to forgive you even though I am not the one to give you forgiveness.

Your voice is impatient with me, I can feel the exasperation, I can feel the sharpness of your energy when you tell me what to expect from men in my life. You bestow it upon me as if it is a gift, you are giving me the greatest piece of knowledge I could ever receive in my life. Only you could make a curse sound like a treasure. I suddenly feel like the smoke from your cigarette is choking me and I need air. I roll down the window, I take a deep breath and feel the wind whip through my hair. I wish the wind could take away the words you just gave to me. I look at you, not looking at me and wonder how so much of me is you and how much I wish I could give you the good parts of me.

There will be more moments like this and there will be times where I am crying too hard to keep hearing your voice over the telephone so I hand it to Mom where she tells you in a very steely voice that is one octave below a growl, "Leave her alone." Sometimes my anger with you bubbles over until it explodes into an orchestra of noise and my voice rises and rises until suddenly, we are in competition of who can make their truth the loudest. And after the dial tone echoes in my ear, all that I am left with is a deep shame. How did we get here? You are my blood but water is thicker. There will be other times where I wonder if you could be who you are supposed to be for me, so we meet at a Starbucks where we awkwardly catch up on each other's lives and you ask me questions that ask for answers you should already know. Sometimes you act like you know me better than you do, and sometimes I am grateful for this but other times it leaves me feeling heavy and foggy headed. Sometimes you tell me you love me and sometimes I say it back, even though we both know it's half hearted. Sometimes you make me laugh until my stomach hurts and sometimes I look at you and wonder if we could start over. Sometimes I think I am willing to erase the past because Mom is so strong, Mom is happy, Mom glows, Mom put together the million cracked pieces you left behind, you are just a memory to her; I could start over with you. Sometimes there are times I look at her and I look at Ethan and I find it so difficult to forgive you because I feel my heart break for the both of them. There are so many 'sometimes' with you but I learn to find my way to the other side.

I have not spoken to you for almost two years and I think we both feel a peace in that. There came a time where I decided I respected you enough to be nothing to you. I realized this as I stood in front of a mirror, my eyes puffy and red with my eye make up smudged because my heart was broken by someone who I thought loved me. I looked at myself and saw a reflection of you. I saw your nose, I saw your cupid's bow, I saw you. I can't hate you and love myself. I see you in Ethan all the time. I hear it in his voice, I see it in the way he carries himself and I feel it in how intelligent he is. I see you in the parts I admire the most about him. I can't hate you and love him. I look at Mom and my heart fills with so much gratitude and tenderness towards her and I am thankful that she showed me I can be strong by myself, that a life of being true to your heart is better than living in a shadow, and that there is a deep strength in believing in yourself when your faith in everything else is wavering. I can't hate you and be so proud and admiring of who she is. It is because of you.

Sometimes I smell whiffs of your cologne as I am walking out of a gas station, or when I am walking in the middle of a grocery store. Sometimes I look back and half expect that it's you even though it is impossible. Sometimes I take it as a sign that I need to reach out to you, I need you to know that I am still here, and maybe there is still a chance. I'm older now, I am almost twenty seven years old and there is so much about me you do not know. You do not know my saddest moments, you do not know what my favorite color is, you do not know about the men who have broke my heart and the men who's hearts I have broke, you do not know how I am trying so hard to navigate my way through this labyrinth of adulthood and I am so terrified I am failing, you do not know what makes me laugh, you do not know how much I still believe in love, you do not know what I want for myself next year, five years from now, ten years from now, you do not know my moments of elation, you do not know what makes me cry or what makes me feel complete and whole.

You do not know that now, when I think of you, I think of the man who used to let her and her baby brother stay up way past their bedtimes, so they could share a bowl of strawberries and Cool Whip as the summer heat enveloped them. You do not know that now, when I think of you, I think of you as that very busy man in a suit who would take his baby daughter to Baskin Robbins where they would eat strawberry ice cream together, a cone for him and a cup for her. And he would do this because he loved her, he loved her very much. You do not know that this is how I choose to remember you now. You do not know that even though I refer to you as my father, I will always think of you as dad.