These simple two words sent me back to the past. The words I often heard. His voice always thunderous above my head, even if I was standing level to him. He made me look up to him, always. He made me come to him when he moved, the most annoying. A father shouldn’t change positions so much, but mine did, constantly.
There were times he crept around like a spider, feeling the vibrations on his legs. I fooled myself many times thinking he was something to not be afraid of. Other times he hopped around, out of control, like a child on a pogo stick, leaving impressionable dents to the floor and my pride. No one ever felt safe around my father. My friends didn’t understand him.
This wasn’t even the worst part. It was when he questioned your existence that made you feel tiny, as if your right to breathe the same air as he did was a tragedy. The constant taunting about how he wanted to drain my blood and refill it with someone else so we had one thing less in common.
“Did you hear me? You overstepped your boundaries again.”
He put enough emphasis on the word, again, that I thought he was done. He was not.
“Did I raise a daughter so stupid? Is this my last reward for being your father? You blessing me with utter senselessness! I don’t even know how you live with your pitiful self.”
I glanced at his wrinkled face. He seemed to have aged a few years in the past ten minutes. I could tell he was at a breaking point. The point when he felt when his personal welfare was threatened. Whatever left was inside him unhinged more, making his half empty heart, emptier. His face twisted into a disturbing expression. This was a record for him. I believe he had reached a personal best.
You must keep screaming inside so your lungs don’t give out. You must picture your flailing arms calm when they are anxious. This was what my brother told me in order to deal with him. How easy for him to say. He stayed in his little bubble until the day he turned 18, and never turned back when he left home.
I had worn my game face before, and because this was definitely a game, I made sure I had additional layers this time. I wasn’t willing to be a pawn anymore on this family chessboard. As I knocked every demand and threat he said to me from the board, I faced the realism of it all. As I tossed every shameful thing he did into the burning garbage can below, I was up for the challenge. As I was no longer willing to have him spit such hatred at me, I was prepared.
Eventually, the king will be knocked off his pedestal, and I intended to do just that. His tall shadow wouldn’t belong to him much longer, but first I said some words.
“Yes, father, I heard you, and no, you didn’t raise me to be stupid. I’m actually quite smart if you cared to notice.”
The past twenty years came up in my throat like a bad case of indigestion. I was ready to get rid of it. I was ready to move forward.
“Now, I believe it is my turn to ask you some questions.”
He looked at me, holding surprise at the corners of his mouth, and I knew. If you take away a spider’s legs before a fight has begun, there isn’t much to stand on but false hope and flawed expectations.