September 1st, 2008

poetry, exceptindreams

282: He Didn't Make the Greatest First Impression

“He Didn't Make the Greatest First Impression”
Eireann Corrigan

My father doesn't dislike you because you're
Jewish. My father dislikes you because
you hurt me. Way back when I was a sophomore
still writing your name inside the cover of my
geometry book. In May, right after we first met
and I thought maybe you'd ask me to the junior
prom. My mom was already eyeing dresses and
trying out different kinds of braids in my hair. But she
was on some bus trip to Niagara Falls that weekend.
It was just me and my dad and he sat in the living
room with the newspaper while I was washing dishes
in the kitchen, on the phone with Paul Caldwell,
your friend, who later you'd argue was never
your friend, who told me I'm only telling you this
for your own good, but Dan told a bunch of us guys
that he thought you were too fat to take to the prom.
And that's when I bent over, holding on to the edge
of the kitchen sink, it hurt that badly and my father
came running in, convinced I had cut myself
on a steak knife or shattered a glass in my hand.
And I couldn't breathe enough to explain so he kept
prying my hands from my belly, checking my palms
and my shirt for blood. I'm sure he wished only
for one of my big sisters to glide in, but it was just my dad
and me that night and he did the best he could.
After I fell asleep doing sit-ups on the family room
floor, he carried me upstairs to bed and he must have been
cursing you the whole heavy trip up. And later
when they caught me hiding food, when my mom
would stand me on the scale and cry at the numbers —
Those mornings, when I would bundle up at five to run
he'd creep behind me in the station wagon in case I fell
and didn't get back up. Sometimes I'd make it
home just to faint in the shower and my dad had to
listen for that tumble and rush in to swing the faucet
from hot to cold. It didn't matter that you swore you never
said it, that instead of buying anyone a corsage, you hid
at your parents' beach house, burying empty bottles
in the sand. My dad couldn't have known that the mornings
he had to look at my naked body in the tub and anyway
he wouldn't have cared. By October, my spine was outlined
in bruises on my back with nothing to stop those bones
from rubbing against skin. Who else could he blame
for what I had done to myself? You were just a polite voice
on the telephone, always calling during supper, some snot-nosed
prep school punk. I was my father's littlest girl, his hell
on wheels, running away from him each morning,
just ahead of his headlights, around and around the block.