Identical, p.14

Identical, page 14

 

Identical
 



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off before he got here. But she went to work

  scared. And she came home from work scared.

  Daddy still hasn’t arrived yet, so she goes

  straight to the kitchen in search of consolation.

  One of Kaeleigh’s Regular Binges

  Is gross. Disgusting. I watch her

  and I want to puke. (And often do.)

  But this one is unlike the others

  I’ve had the misfortune of seeing.

  She doesn’t care what goes into

  her mouth, as long as it resembles food.

  “Stop,” I beg. “Stuffing yourself can’t save

  you from whatever it is you imagine

  he’s going to do. Please, Kaeleigh.”

  But she keeps on shoving stuff into

  her mouth. Can’t eat dinner tonight.

  He won’t let me, and you know it.

  Maybe she’s right. But I can’t watch

  this self-destruction a minute longer.

  The Worst Part Is

  She does have something to worry

  about. So I’ll just have to help

  her out. I slip into Daddy’s bathroom,

  and this time when I “borrow” his Oxy,

  it’s not for me. Okay, one is for me.

  The other three are for Daddy.

  I can’t slip all three into a single drink

  or he’d taste it for sure. This will be

  a seduction. One I know he can’t refuse.

  He finally roars in, and I’ve already

  mixed him a highball, long on Turkey,

  short on Oxy. That will change

  as the evening progresses. He gives

  me a look but takes the drink

  anyway. Thanks. I need this.

  Thank God he gulps it down

  before turning on Kaeleigh. Well?

  I rush to refill his empty glass,

  not 100 percent sure why

  I’m trying to save Kaeleigh,

  who refuses to save herself.

  I hand Daddy the Oxy-tainted

  highball glass as Kaeleigh answers,

  I didn’t mean to be late, Daddy.

  She doesn’t dare look him in the eye.

  It’s just that Brittany’s car got a flat,

  and we had to wait for the tow….

  Daddy pounces. I never gave you

  permission to ride to school with

  anyone named Brittany, did I?

  Her eyes are like lasers, beaming

  the floor tiles. No, Daddy… She rushes

  on, But she just got her license, and…

  No, Kaeleigh! Too late. Damage

  done. Daddy raises his voice.

  Just got her license? Are you

  plain stupid? Do you want to die?

  The rest is implicit: Don’t you

  remember a certain infamous day?

  Kaeleigh crumbles. Her face,

  only moments ago binge-florid,

  blanches. Oh Daddy, I’m sorry.

  She threatens to collapse, and I

  whisper in her ear. “Stay strong,

  or you know what he’ll do.”

  Tension begins to melt from

  Daddy as the painkiller starts

  to kick in. Fix me something

  to eat and we’ll discuss this

  further. As he speaks, his voice

  sputters a little, slurs. O-ok-ay?

  Sure, Daddy. Kaeleigh

  rushes to the refrigerator.

  What are you in the mood for?

  Daddy sucks down his drink.

  L-loaded question. He crosses

  the floor quickly, much faster

  than I’d thought him capable

  of, half falls against Kaeleigh,

  who’s leaning into the fridge.

  I smile. Whatever he had in

  mind, punishment or “reward,”

  it will not come tonight.

  They Extricate Themselves

  From the refrigerator.

  Kaeleigh microwaves

  some leftover stew.

  I watch the two of them

  stuff their faces, fix

  Daddy one last drink.

  Between the rich food,

  stiff Turkey, and three

  OxyContin, he’ll be fast

  asleep in a few minutes.

  Most of the evening’s drama

  behind us, I slip off to

  the bathroom. Kaeleigh’s

  disgusting food binge

  made me want to purge.

  It’s more than a habit.

  It’s a need. Experts even

  call it a disease. However

  you classify it, though,

  it’s not about body image.

  At least not for me. For me,

  it’s all about maintaining

  a modicum of control,

  especially when everything

  goes completely ape-shit.

  Most People

  Hate to vomit.

  Can’t stand

  the protest

  of an upset

  stomach,

  the heave

  of bile and

  undigested food,

  the carve of

  acid in the

  esophagus.

  Okay, I don’t

  like that

  part much

  myself. But

  I do like

  the cool of

  porcelain on

  my face,

  the solid

  of tile beneath

  my butt.

  Most of all,

  I like my belly

  emptied, even

  temporarily,

  of food. Of fat. Of pain.

  Face Washed, Teeth Brushed

  Puke free, I emerge from the bathroom,

  into a house silent but for Daddy’s

  impressive snores. Now that I’ve

  evacuated my stomach, I can swallow

  the Oxy I borrowed for myself.

  Pop the pill, chase it with whiskey,

  crawl into bed. Pray such seduction

  brings dreamless sleep. Seems to take

  a long time for the sleep aid to kick

  in. As I wait, I feel good about aiding

  Kaeleigh’s salvation tonight. Too

  many times in the past, I’ve stood by,

  powerless to interfere. They say

  an ounce of prevention is worth a pound

  of cure. There is no cure for Daddy.

  Let’s hear it for prevention! Of course,

  it’s not like you can always tell what Daddy

  has in mind. I suppose there must be

  triggers that bring him to Kaeleigh’s bedside.

  If only they were more recognizable!

  My body slides toward sleep, but my

  brain, though fogging a bit at the edges,

  is working overtime. The gathering

  haze does not conceal memories

  of another night. Kaeleigh was ten.

  Mom Was Off on a Retreat

  Like any of that spiritual mumbo

  jumbo ever did her (or any of us)

  one miniscule sliver of good.

  Daddy had been back to Kaeleigh

  for “lollipop licking” (my term) a few

  times. She had a vague notion that it

  was “wrong,” but she wasn’t sure

  why, and didn’t know who to ask.

  They’d probably just be jealous.

  That warm summer night, she slept

  in a thin white nightie, nothing more,

  nothing at all under. The moon, full,

  shimmered against the tan of her

  exposed skin, and her hair whispered

  over the pillow like a pale waterfall.

  As usual, the smell of Wild Turkey

  preceded Daddy. In the bright moonlight,

  you could see Kaeleigh cringe in shallow

  sle
ep. Daddy crept through the door,

  to the side of her bed, stood looking down

  for a very long time before stirring

  her with a volley of kisses. Cheeks.

  Forehead. Lips. Oh, little girl. Do

  you know how beautiful you are?

  No one was ever as lovely as you,

  not even your mother when she was

  a child. I can’t believe you’re mine.

  Kaeleigh roused at his words,

  came into the moment, secure

  in the aura of Daddy’s love.

  She tried to sit up, but Daddy

  pushed her gently back down

  against the mattress. Stay just

  like that for Daddy. I want to

  teach you something new.

  He lifted her nightgown,

  rolled it up over her belly, coaxed

  her Thoroughbred legs apart.

  She squirmed, a paltry protest.

  Don’t move! Daddy’s scarlet

  face underlined his command.

  I thought he might smack her.

  But as quickly as his anger

  flared, it dissipated, smoke.

  Don’t be afraid. This won’t

  hurt. You’ll like it. I promise.

  He kissed the length of her torso,

  down to the small, naked V.

  It was only his mouth

  that night. He didn’t even

  ask her to touch him, prove

  how much she loved him.

  Afterward, she worried.

  Didn’t he want her love

  anymore? What had she done

  wrong? And yet, he had taught her

  something new. Something awful.

  Worse,

  Something wonderful.

  Something every

  girl should

  know the

  joy of,

  though,

  of course,

  she shouldn’t

  learn it from Daddy.

  At ten, it isn’t exactly

  easy to separate

  good touch

  from bad

  touch,

  proper

  love from

  improper love,

  doting daddy from perv.

  But Tonight Will Be Perv-Free

  Hugged by my ostentatiously

  thick mattress, falling fast, faster

  toward blessed sleep, or in my

  case, more likely the sleep of the

  damned,

  the space behind my eyes

  is covered by a dark collage.

  Bodies. Smiles. Leers. Faces.

  Some familiar, some not, as

  if

  they are people I’ve yet to meet,

  or maybe have already met

  in another lifetime. One face

  truly haunts me. I’m sure

  I

  knew her once upon a time.

  Her hair is a rich mahogany,

  her eyes vivid green, like those

  of a wildcat. Where do I

  know

  her from? And why do I feel

  such a connection, if I can’t

  even recognize her face? I so

  want to understand

  the truth

  of her, of “us.” Yes, wanting

  and getting are two different

  things. But intuition tells me

  this puzzle needs to be solved.

  Kaeleigh

  Daddy’s Still Asleep

  At seven a.m. Wonder if I should

  wake him before I leave for school.

  I’m guessing it’s a case of

  damned

  if I do, damned if I don’t. He’s

  going to have a major headache,

  though he probably won’t have

  a decent clue why. Then again,

  if

  I let him oversleep, he’ll be

  mad at me, too. It’s not like

  a judge can just call in sick,

  unless he’s on his deathbed.

  I

  will probably die before he does.

  Dying, for Daddy, would be

  the ultimate defeat. But death

  doesn’t scare me. To

  know

  exactly when I might

  expect it, up close and in

  my face, would actually be

  a comfort. Because to tell

  the truth,

  most of the time dying

  seems pretty much like

  my only means of escape.

  Not Right Now, Though

  Not with the election looming.

  No use ruining that for Mom.

  Although maybe if something

  bad happened to me, something

  bad enough to make me die,

  she’d win the sympathy vote.

  Never mind. She’d probably

  be too distracted with the funeral

  and the burial and the incredible

  after-the-graveyard party and…

  Pht-pht-pht. Rewind that old

  film to another funeral. Ugh.

  Don’t want to go there. Don’t

  want to see that coffin, or go

  to the post-service pot luck.

  I huddled alone in one corner,

  trying desperately to ignore

  the gut-churning potpourri

  of smells: tuna casserole, over-

  cooked broccoli, onion laced

  salads. Booze, in assorted flavors.

  Flowers. Didn’t know all their names.

  But their combined perfumes

  smelled like death. Mom sat on

  an overstuffed sofa, vacant-eyed,

  silently sipping vodka on the rocks.

  Daddy gulped whiskey, and might

  have passed out quietly except…

  Someone stumbled through the door,

  wearing an aura of Scotch and a marble

  expression on her face—the one I just

  barely remember. She went straight up

  to her son. You! She shoved him

  into the wall. L-look at you, Raymond.

  All red eyed and drippy nosed.

  You don’t fool me. Don’t f-f-fool them….

  She gave a vague wave. W-we all know

  just what you are—a m-monster!

  I Don’t Want to Relive

  That scene, which grew as ugly

  as any my mind can replay.

  Grandma and Daddy sparred. Verbally.

  Then physically, until someone

  pulled them apart, spitting poison

  as they separated, not just for that

  evening, but, at least if Daddy

  has his way, forever afterward.

  That’s the last solid memory I have

  of her, broken by secrets. Splintered

  by pain. Escorted into the night, out

  of our lives. Does she really dare

  try to reenter now? What if I decide

  to let her back in? I’m guessing

  I’d be crematorium fuel. No

  coffin. No flowers. Just a hot

  white fire, melting me into

  bone fragments and ashes.

  Then Again, the Sad Fact Is

  My parents might think cremation

  too good for me. As I slide books

  into my backpack, it comes to me

  they might just weight me down

  and throw me into Cachuma.

  Down, down, into that cold blue

  lake I’d go, no one the wiser.

  Who would even miss me?

  Maybe Ian, but after the last

  couple of days, I’m not so sure.

  We’ve got drama today.

  Hopefully our little love

  scene will warm him (me?)

  up some and we can talk

  after. A long conversation,

  like we used to have all

  the time. Th
at’s what we need.

  But first I have to get to

  school. Which means it’s time

  to poke the sleeping bear.

  As Expected

  It’s a less than pleasant

  experience, starting with

  the obnoxious breath

  coming out of his open

  mouth. “Daddy? Wake

  up. You’ll be late for work.”

  He snorts and his eyes

  flutter open. Wha…?

  What happened? Where

  am I? What time is it?

  “You’re in the living

  room. You fell asleep

  on the sofa. It’s a little

  after seven and I have to

  hurry to catch the bus.”

  After seven? He jumps

  upright, too fast. I can

  see the pounding in his

  temples. Why didn’t you

  wake me sooner?

  “I tried, but you went

  back to sleep, I guess.”

  Total lie. But he’ll never

  know it. And right now,

  all he’s thinking about

  is how his head feels.

  Shit. I’ve got a heavy

  docket today. Finally

  his eyes focus. And I

  feel like a truck ran

  over the top of my head.

  “Sorry you don’t feel

  well, Daddy. But I’ve

  got to run. See you later,

  okay?” I grit my teeth

 

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