Identical, page 14
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.
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.
Hate to vomit.
of an upset
of bile and
the carve of
acid in the
Okay, I don’t
I do like
the cool of
of tile beneath
Most of all,
I like my belly
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
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.
learn it from Daddy.
At ten, it isn’t exactly
easy to separate
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
the space behind my eyes
is covered by a dark collage.
Bodies. Smiles. Leers. Faces.
Some familiar, some not, as
they are people I’ve yet to meet,
or maybe have already met
in another lifetime. One face
truly haunts me. I’m sure
knew her once upon a time.
Her hair is a rich mahogany,
her eyes vivid green, like those
of a wildcat. Where do I
her from? And why do I feel
such a connection, if I can’t
even recognize her face? I so
want to understand
of her, of “us.” Yes, wanting
and getting are two different
things. But intuition tells me
this puzzle needs to be solved.
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
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,
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.
will probably die before he does.
Dying, for Daddy, would be
the ultimate defeat. But death
doesn’t scare me. To
exactly when I might
expect it, up close and in
my face, would actually be
a comfort. Because to tell
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
But first I have to get to
school. Which means it’s time
to poke the sleeping bear.
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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