CW: familial abuse
The last time my father hit me, he broke my glasses. They were rimless and black and made of metal. He smacked me across the face with a leather sandal and they were knocked off my face and onto the floor. The impact caused the lens to pop out and the screws in the frame to bend. I continued to wear those glasses for a year longer. They never sat right on my face again. The right temple would never rest on my ear — the glasses would always be askew.
The sandal also left a large welt across the right side of my face. It was pink and thick, bulging from my brow bone to my cheek. This is the welt I pointed at when the police arrived. I told them that my father hit me and that he was drunk.
Like always, at first, they believed me. They would always believe me until they spoke to my father. I never understood what magic my father worked when he spoke to the police. He would always come off as innocent and he would always discredit me wholly. I remember the first time I ever called the police and I told them that my father had attempted to attack me with a snow shovel. They believed me, and went to speak to him. When they returned to my room, they told me that I had misinterpreted the situation; my father was simply just taking out the snow shovel from the hallway closet in the middle of our argument. I vowed to myself I would never call the police again until I had physical proof.
And this time I did. The bulging welt on my face was hard to miss. They went to talk to my dad and after a few minutes, they returned to my room. They first corrected me about my father being drunk. Apparently, he had only had two glasses of whiskey so he was only tipsy, not drunk. I did not understand why this was relevant. Then, they laughed and asked me if all of this was really worth it over the Hulu password. I told them that I didn’t know it would go this way.
The police made a call to CPS, informed me that I would speak to a social worker the next day, and then left me home alone with my father.
At the time, my door did not have a lock. Instead, I pushed my dresser in front of it and then went to sleep with a jackknife stuffed in my pillowcase. Since I was seven years old, this was what I would always do after he had episodes like this. I would lay there in the dark of my room and dream of killing him.
The next day, when the social worker came, she spoke to me first. I told her of the decade of abuse I had endured in as much detail as I could. She believed me and then she didn’t. She spoke to my father and then asked to speak to me again. She told me that I was lucky that my parents had a fridge stocked full of food and that my father was a hardworking man and that I was a spoiled brat. She said that she wished I could come to ride along with her when she went to visit children who were “actually” abused. She said all of this in front of my father.
This was when I realized that I would never be saved. I was 16 years old.
My father has not laid a hand on me since. The one time he tried was soon after the sandal incident, but I ran as fast as I could to the kitchen and I pulled out the biggest knife that I could. I told him I would kill him. Before this, I had always fought back but I’d never taken it this far. Previously, I would scratch and bite and thrash about. I would always wish that I was born a boy so I could hold my own. Wishing didn’t do me any good. The knife did. My father never touched me again.
He never stopped hurting me though. He has been hurting me since I was born. It comes to him as easy as breathing. I know he could never just stop completely.
This does not mean that my father does not love me. I know that he does. After my latest breakup, I was emotionally crippled and afraid of being alone. I called him and he came home early and drove me around. He bought me a new mattress after I could no longer stand to sleep in the one my ex and I shared. He tells everyone about my accomplishments and how proud he is of me, from our waitresses at restaurants to his friends on Facebook. He always eats everything I make, even when I burn it or make it wrong, and he makes sure to tell me that it tastes great. He loves me but he hurts me.
When I was a little girl, I thought I had two fathers. One was the father who would come home with pink guitars and Barbie dolls and chocolate cake. And the other would smack me so hard that I could no longer hear. One would ask me to draw him and then fold it up and carry it in his wallet. The other would smash my twin bell alarm clock for waking him up at night. One loved me. The other didn’t. It did not make sense to me how they could be the same person.
I love my father but knowing him is agony. Living a life watching him hurt me and my mother has made me think that women are born to suffer and we live to endure. When I was six, I overheard my dad telling my mother that he wished he had a son. I have wanted the same thing my whole life — I often wonder how different my life would be if I were born a boy. My father only ever wanted one child. What if I had never ruined his dream of fatherhood? Would he have never hurt me? Would I have been enough?
But then, I’m also afraid of who I would have been if I was born a boy. There’s a quote by Catherine Lacey: “If you’re raised with an angry man in your house/there will always be an angry man in your house.” It comes in the form of a poem in her short story “Cut.” The poem tells us that it’s our fate as abused little girls to become abused women, to be forever condemned to the wrath of an angry man. I’m always thinking about it. My father grew up with an angry man in the house and then he became the angry man. What if I was a little boy who would turn into an angry man?
I no longer wish to be a boy. But I still have that fear. I am afraid that my father has made me a monster. I think that poem is wrong. I do not think abused little girls are forever condemned to victimhood. I think that those abused little girls can just as easily become the angry man.
I am afraid of becoming my father. I am afraid whenever I raise my voice in an argument. I am afraid whenever I enter into a new relationship. I am afraid whenever my partners flinch when I am angry and talking with my hands. I have never hit anyone but that is a constant fear of mine. No matter how much reassurance I receive from my friends and my therapist and my boyfriend, the fear never goes away. I am filled with so much rage and shame that I feel like I will explode and become my father at any time.
My father’s abuse has consumed my life. I am afraid that no matter how far I get from him, I will never escape it. I am afraid that it is eternal torment. I can only pray that it is not. Yet despite all of this, when I am hurt by any other source, all I want is my daddy to hug me tight and tell me things will be alright.