in the name of the father

When I was 8, my father warned me about boys.

My father warned me to keep my guard up, all the time–never unlock the door to allow the stranger in. Boy’s lie, is what he said, “I can tell you how, where, with what and when.”
It was the only time he’s ever said something with desperation
Trying to protect me from a virus before I’m old enough to get bit.
Preparing me for a game I wouldn’t know I was playing until I lost it.
It always seemed very cruel to me until I realized that he would know. He used those same lines for those same reasons
and to the same success.
It occurred to me that my father had broken someone’s heart long before my mother ever existed in his life. I considered that my first lesson.

My father warned me about boys like you. The ones that catch with a clever glance and short smile–like it was a surprise–that you had no idea your lips could quirk in that special way until I stumbled into your life and gave that smile a different light, that laugh a different life, that heart a different beat.

I nearly failed my freshmen year of high school. It was the first year I fell in love. It was the first year I was dumped. These things are related.
I remember him crumpling up a paper full of “F’s”, and tossing it away, let’s hide the comments of “Your child is not putting forth effort.”, because no one I had ever known enjoyed Math, “Your child sleeps in class” because I’d stayed up late to hear my loves voice even though I would see him in a few hours. I’d wanted to talk about the way he made me feel–how alive. That was so funny to me. I couldn’t remember feeling anything until I realized I was in love. I was never going to give a shit about Math.
“Love isn’t going to provide for you.” He sent me to my room and called my mom, who realized what had happened and asked to speak with me.
He found out then that I had been dumped four days previously.
He felt horrible, because he hadn’t even known and I hadn’t said–what broken-hearted girl wants to hear “I told you so.”

My father warned me about boys like you, the ones that would cling. The ones that would cower when I showed fury or disdain or power. The ones that would crowd me, needle me, suffocating in the name of loving me.
“Where are you going? Can’t I come? Why don’t you want me there? Is it because your hiding something?”
I was disgusted, but no one was more disgusted than my father, who received an e-mail after I moved saying “I wish we could have met, but she didn’t want me to meet you.”
And my father saying “She’s 18. You’re 35. If she says jump and you say “how high?” believe me, we would never have gotten along.”

My father warned me about boys like you.
Mr. She’ll Never Know.
The talented liar he’d been dreading would come along, the one he’d been preparing for all of my life, prepared to jump up and tell me what was really going on.
He didn’t spot you.
You slithered like a snake right under his nose, and mine, and shattered me in one fell swoop. Fooled me completely.
You’d fooled him too.
That was my second time falling in love, and I was 22, and he didn’t say anything–just listened to me cry in the backseat as I was getting dumped on my way to work on Valentines Day.
And he didn’t say anything when he came to get me a few hours later after i got sent home, just gave me a hug, and left me to the television. I stayed there for hours.
And he didn’t say anything when he woke up at 6 a.m. and I was still there.

My father warned me about the callous boys and how sometimes he is just not that into you.
My father warned me about the boys who would pick pick pick–“Wear less make-up/cover your blemishes/stop smoking/you drink too much/you always wear black.”
My father warned me about the boys who stick around hoping to get laid or loved only to realize that if I won’t open my heart or my legs, then I’m not worth much to them after all
My father warned me about the boys who would not deserve my tears but would get them anyway.

My father warned me about boys like you.
Except you were 14 years younger than my father, and I was 25, and we seduced each other with words, with hidden looks, with books and jokes, with cigarettes at 1 a.m. and secrets–the ones you’d have to kill me to get me to confess, with the glory of being human and kind of a mess.
When I laid with you, I made a mental map of the network of your veins, your heartbeat, the beads of sweat and whisper of lips, turning myself inside out until I was little more than a nerve ending in a body. It was terrifying. It was beautiful. And God, did we confess.
I left three weeks later with a duffel bag, dark circles under tired eyes, and a broken heart, completely unsure of how to restart.

My father warned me about boys like you, the good ones that you don’t really believe are good because how can you even know anymore?
Boys who are nice?
Boys who are nice.
Boys who have sweet smiles and cherish laughter at 3 a.m in the tangle of sheets, that would hold hands just because, or welcome me at midnight because I’m miserable and anxious and need to be held in my sleep, the ones who make a home of skin, a shrine of thighs and a work of art of a guarded heart.

My father warns me that boys lie, and cling, and use, and discard and that sometimes, it is everything to you
And nothing to them.
But my father smiles and tells me to not worry, because sometimes they don’t and that is everything.

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