there is a picture in my living room
of my parents in their twenties, in sunhats,
there is a picture of my father holding me
when i was two years old.
there is a picture of my parents
on their wedding day.
there is a picture of me when i was
ten, eleven, twelve.
i’m seventeen now and
i won’t let my mother
take any of the pictures
i need to believe that, at one point,
this house was more than just
i was born on the second-to-last day
i weighed seven pounds, two ounces,
and it was ninety-nine degrees out.
four years before that, in 1992,
the officers who beat rodney king
within an inch of his life
five years before that, in 1991,
a cyclone in Bangladesh killed
138,000 people and made 10 million
ten years before that, in 1986,
a fire in a Los Angeles library
damaged more than 400,000
and on that day, april 29, 1996, i was born
and i’d like to pretend
that it was a good thing.
i only have one memory of
coming home from california,
where my mother and i had been
for a year
with her parents.
i was four, and a man came up to us
at the airport, and he smiled
and he said hello
and i had no idea who he was.
it was my dad.
when i was nine,
my dad started sleeping on the couch
and we were kicked out of four
of my six childhood homes
and i could never figure out
not until i was eleven when i woke up
with policemen in the doorway
that my drunk dad had called
without realizing it.
and i saw the suitcase on his bed.
and i saw the disappointment in their eyes.
and i saw my father’s, bloodshot, avoiding mine
and i felt the tears coming.
i knew then.
my uncle was a drinker, too.
in 1987, he was putting his life back together
with as steady hands as he could
when the police dragged him out of his car,
and left him handcuffed,
on the side of the road.
a drunk driver ended him.
alcohol is a ghost
and it haunts my family.
once i fell down a hill
and shredded my knees on gravel.
once i heard my father call his dog
his “little buddy.”
my mother said,
“why can’t katie be your little buddy?”
and he replied, with a laugh,
she doesn’t live with me.”
once, i was a child.
but i left childhood
with two scars on my knees
and one open wound
that refuses to heal.
my parents love me
but it doesn’t matter.
i love my parents more than anything
my father’s still a recovering alcoholic
who doesn’t give a shit about me
my mother’s still a hateful, angry woman
who only makes decisions she regrets.
i love my parents
and it doesn’t mean shit.
a few years ago i learned
that daddy issues are supposed to make
for a really good whore.
i have never been more disgusted
to know that it’s sexy
when a parent neglects his child,
when he hurts his child,
when that child is in pain.
you know what?
here’s what daddy issues make:
they make for girls like me,
with absent fathers, with dead fathers,
drunk fathers, arrogant fathers,
fathers who are fucked-up,
fathers we wished loved us.
daddy issues make for tears, make for hatred.
they make for girls who will spend a lifetime
because, when we grew up,
i have my dad’s eyes
and my mother’s eyesight
and my dad’s teeth
and my mother’s chin
and my father’s body type
and my mother’s hair.
i have my dad’s sickness
and a prescription for it.
last year, i told my best friend
to “fuck right the hell off”
after she told me she was cutting herself.
(i have my parents’ selfishness.)
i’ve made my boyfriend cry
(i have their ability
to let down the people i love.)
i love my parents
and they love me back.
and it has taught me
isn’t always beautiful.