Father figures

by You Have My Word


I figured out that my father was not a father figure when I was only three. It’s funny how counting is one of the first things that teachers teach. My father was a teacher and he taught me in beatings.

One. I lost count of the number of lashes so I tallied in bruises and battered self-esteem.

Two. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Two parents with two more children on the way. Too much trouble. Twins. Two things I won’t be able to protect. Too little. Too young. Too undone and I’ve only just learned to walk with my own two feet.

Three. This is my earliest memory. He is stood with his wooden baton in hand. It’s twenty plus years later and I still don’t understand. Here is something he didn’t know then, that I know now, that he didn’t think of then, that I have hidden in my chest. He did not beat me…enough…to keep me small, keep me cowering, keep me ashamed, keep me crawling because he’d beaten out the will to walk. No more. I am here standing tall and I taught myself how to do that.

Four. My therapist said that I can’t work out my daddy issues while working out my mommy issues. He said, although they’re part of a set, the word “parents” doesn’t quite cover it. So I changed therapists. I promise you the timing is a coincidence but I am hoping this will be the one to help me through this. I’ve been looking for someone that’ll tell me that I will never be like my father.

Five. I don’t know how I’m still alive.

Six. Sing a song of sick silly six pence – pent up parent, white picket fence, pretence, defence, intense, recompense, present tense, sixth sense, suspense, incense, incest, be my guest, second best, molest, get undressed, detest, confess, infest, depressed, possessed, transgress, stress, manifest, unrest, process, digress… I digress. There is no word that rhymes with the way I felt when he touched me for the first time. It sounds something like shattering bones with a hint of rolling bottles across the floor. It smells like iron and blood on the walls from last night and I know that it’s not mine. It tastes like terror – like his tongue was a sickle used to harvest my dreams before they were even within my reach.

Seven. I do not understand God as a father when my own figure of a father was just a hollow shadow man. I learned to sleep with one eye open and always look over my shoulder.

Eight. They say it is never too late and time will heal, but my heart is way past its expiry date and my father used to say that if I got home ten minutes before curfew then I was on time but if I was on time then I was late. We don’t talk at all these days but I hope he rolls over when I show up twenty minutes past the time that his body is lowered into his grave.

Nine. I was never good at maths. Perhaps that’s God’s way of saying sorry for making me count the times I was forced to lie about my father’s crimes against my own body.

Ten. Perhaps this is my way of saying sorry I’ve wasted your time. Perhaps this is my way of realising that I get to start again… on my own terms… with my own phrases… without the margins of figures or fallen fathers. Perhaps this is my way of doing it better than him.