Eric Lara is on his knees, his arms wrapped around my waist, his face buried in my stomach. He’s crying in public, we’re outside in the parking lot of his apartments, and he’s crying for all to hear and see. It’s my fault. All of it. I’ve hurt him, more than I would have imagined. I take full responsibility. I wasn’t expecting this.
He’s still crying and I have severely underestimated him when he told me he loves me. He is my first real boyfriend after all. He was the first person I had sex with, and he waited patiently for that opportunity. It was amazing, my first time, and every time after with him. He was sweet and it didn’t hurt like I heard it would.
In fact, it was so amazing that all I could think of was engaging in more of that activity. Eric hasn’t said anything, but he’s stopped crying. He’s still on his knees, his face still buried in my stomach, arms still wrapped around my waist. I don’t know what this situation requires of me. I came and told him right away what I’d done.
He doesn’t seem mad, but what would I know, except I’ll never do this again. Not the part where I cheated on him, although I do regret that for several reasons. I’ll never be someone’s girlfriend or any other attachment again. I can’t handle the responsibility. I’m responsible for this, for his pain, his heart breaking. I did that. He didn’t seem like the type to be vulnerable.
Eric Lara, the drug dealer. The guy who once broke his fist punching a guy. The guy in and out of juvie. I liked him right away because he was bad. He was in high school with tattoos, free to do as he wished, no one told him what to do. I thought we’d have fun. I never imagined he’d fall in love like this. He’s on his feet, his face a painful reminder of what I’ve done to him.
He holds me and buries his face in my neck. I say it again, because I don’t know what else to do.
Those eyes brimming over with tears fuck me up. I’m an asshole. I’m pissed too, because the guy I cheated with, he wasn’t even worth it. Maybe sex only feels good when two people have real feelings for each other, or maybe Eric was really that good, either way, I’m an asshole. A soon to be single asshole, I’m sure. Instead of breaking up with me, Eric starts kissing me as if it could all go back to how it was.
“I forgive you. I don’t care what you did or who you do it with, as long as you don’t do it again.”
What. He forgives me. I’m not complaining, but I’m confused. I had assumed this was the end, and because I’m a logical person, I know it’s the least of what I deserve. Instead he forgives me. I don’t know how to be or what to reply, but I can see, regardless of what he just said, that this will not last much longer.
When I get home, my dad’s in the bathroom and I head straight upstairs to my room. Eric forgave me. He is still my boyfriend. I’m not sure that’s what I wanted, but I wasn’t about to inflict further damage. Could you imagine breaking up with someone who had just finished pouring out their heart, someone who had forgiven and moved passed the awful thing I’d done.
He’s real delicate right now, we’re real delicate. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to come back and check in before I could go back out for the night. To say I’m feeling panic and regret would be the closest I could come to describing this feeling. If my dad doesn’t hurry out of the bathroom, I may have to leave a note and hope it’s enough.
I hear the bathroom fan turn off and before I can start for the stairs I hear my dad call my name. My panic rises to new levels, it’s no longer panic, but fear. My dad never calls me by my name. It’s not just that he used my name, it’s that tone, and I’m all too familiar with what comes after that tone. I do my best to think and I come up with nothing. What could I have done that has caused him to call for me?
I make it to the bottom of the stairs and I see my dad on the couch, with my journal, opened on his lap. My stomach falls so hard I’m forced to grip the staircase for balance. I’ve written about everything in that journal. Things no father would ever want to know about his daughter. I don’t understand. He would never snoop, he’s not the type, he believes in trust and privacy.
This intense urge to sleep takes over and I force myself to focus. I know I have to take it, whatever comes. It’s the truth, all of it, and I’m not ashamed, maybe a little embarrassed because it’s my dad, but I’m not ashamed.
“Sit. First, I want you to know, that I was not snooping in your room. You left the balcony door open and your journal out, pages blew open and I saw. I was in your room to close the door so I could put the air on.”
I don’t know why he bothers with an explanation, it’s not like I would even think of being mad at him.
“I’m disappointed in you. I thought more of you, I never thought you’d be the kind of kid who follows what other people do. Tattoos, smoking, sex. You’re grounded until I say otherwise, until you’ve earned my trust back. You will go to school, and you will come home, and you will never talk to that boy again, am I clear?”
That was it. With that conversation, my life is over. My dad couldn’t even look me in the eyes. He was disappointed, but I could tell it was much more than that. After all, I don’t think it’s easy for a dad to raise girls alone. But one thing he said hurts me deeper than the rest, love is conditional. I’d always thought the opposite, in fact, I’m certain I heard him wrong.
I’m sure he was trying the only way he knows how to make sure I don’t go wild, but it’s had the opposite effect. In fact, I’m going to do something tonight I never would have tried before. Partly because, right now, I don’t particularly like my dad and would like to lash out. But mostly because I need to get back to Eric, so the risk must be taken, no matter the cost.
I wait until my dad has gone to sleep, until his snores are consistent, and I slide open my balcony door. I wait and listen, but the snoring continues. I’ve never climbed down from my balcony, but Eric climbs up plenty. Right below the balcony, the spot where I would land, is right in front of our downstairs window, a few feet from where my dad sleeps. I can’t ditch Eric after what I’ve already done, I know I have to go, but my heart throbs through my ears and I’m worried I’ll get caught before I get to Eric.
I’m already in trouble, and I don’t mind being in more trouble, but I don’t want to take the punishment for something I didn’t get to do. After I close the sliding door, I tip-toe forward. Our apartment complex is quiet and I’m the only one outside. I climb over the side railing and shimmy down the drainpipe until I get to the water spigot, and drop down from there. Eric lives two apartment complexes over, and I run over to his house.
For some reason I knock without thinking of the late hour. Eric answers and looks relieved to see me. I hurry inside and we go straight for his room.
“My dad found my journal, I’m grounded, and technically, not allowed to see you. That’s why I couldn’t come back right away, I had to wait until he slept so I could sneak out.”
“You snuck out of the house for me?”
I can see that in the time it took for me to get to him, he’s had all kinds of time to sit and think about what I did, and if he really does forgive me like he said.
“Maybe you should listen to your dad, maybe it’s for the best.”
There it is. That was the reaction I was expecting. Well, there’s only one thing left to do, go home and see if this night can get any worse. I never thought about the part where I would have to climb back up. Maybe I had thought Eric would be here to help, maybe I didn’t think I would make it passed my balcony door.
But here I am, standing under my balcony, envisioning my dad, sitting and waiting in the dark. I start out with one foot on the water spigot, the easy part. By the time I make it over my balconies railing I’m convinced of my impending doom. Even when I make it back into my empty room, I’ve managed to convince myself he’s just waiting right outside the door for me. By the time I’ve pulled my blankets over my body, I know I’ve succeeded.
My dad isn’t the type to prolong punishment. If he knows, then I know what he knows. My karma, much like my father’s ire, strike instantly. I kind of like it that way. Before today, I was free. My dad raised me in a purposely feminist fashion. I was literally wild and free. I had a wonderful boyfriend, he told me he loved me, and I told him the same. Tomorrow is going to suck. My alarm goes off, and a child’s song plays.
“It’s a small world after all…”
I can’t help but laugh, I guess I should change that tune, as I’m certainly not a child anymore. I’m certain that is what my father is trying to understand, how or why I would want to become an adult so soon. Or maybe he’s worried I’ll turn out like my mom. He’s the one who married a stripper. It’s not like I chose her to be my mom. She’s my only outlet, the only time I can be free is with my mom.
Unfortunately for me, she’s never around. The rest of my life I am the good girl. My father has always been the disciplinarian in our family. My aunts and uncles would all warn their children, saying, Uncle Gary is coming over, and my cousins would behave at the mention of his name. All my dad had to do was pull a stern face, his brow furrowed and his mouth in the straightest line ever.
My cousins got away with everything, could run all over, could cuss and drink coke as they pleased. It wasn’t because I was a girl, it was because good parents are not their children’s friends. Or so I had heard. My grandma and my aunty, they were best friends. From what I’ve heard, it was always that way. I can’t help but hurry though my shower. This will probably be the only time in my life that I’m excited to get to school.
I can’t handle the silence. My dad won’t even look at me. It’s junior year of high school and I’m grateful I can drive to school, otherwise the drive with him would have been unbearable. I may act strong, but I usually end up turning my head away and crying silently. I can’t handle the silent treatment. It doesn’t help that his comment about conditional love keeps playing over in my head. And it really doesn’t help that I no longer have Eric to help ease this whole situation. And the part I was dreading the most has come sooner than expected.
“I didn’t think this slut would show her face today, you’ve got some fucking nerve.”
Maybe if this had happened a year or two ago, I would have been scared, but now I’m ready to fight. Only, I know fighting will only make my punishment worse, and I’m hoping to see sunlight in the near future. So, I walk right by the bullying seniors and hurry down to my locker. I barely make inside the locker room before I start bawling. The embarrassing kind of crying, completely undignified.
The sound of giggly girls entering behind me work to shut me up instantly. I will not keep crying at school. This is the only place for the foreseeable future where I can be happy away from my dad. High school is such a mystery to me. These kids have all found where they go and I don’t think I’ll ever get it. Eric was the only real boyfriend I’ve had so far. Plenty of other guys have made up rumors about me though. At this point, I guess what you’d call after Eric, people generally leave me alone. Except of course a handful of girls who consider Eric a dear friend, and therefore consider it their duty to torment me.
I’m at the age where fighting is an instinct easily initiated. I’ll bide my time, and when I get those girls away from prying eyes, I’ll fight them with everything I have. I don’t care if the whole pack is together, the first chance I have away from teachers I’m going for it. I don’t necessarily have any friends in school, although, apart from a handful of older girls, mostly everyone here is nice. Honestly, I think it’s just easier for me to get through life if I keep more of a distance from people, so me not having friends, is all my fault really.
Although, I shouldn’t say I don’t have friends, because I have my family. My older sister is my best friend. Before I got grounded we would get into all kinds of trouble together. I haven’t even told her what happened yet. But my sister is four years older and so no use to me while in school. I have two cousins, one year younger, a boy and a girl, both go to the same school as me. I wouldn’t know how to ask for help, or say I needed them around. Not that my boy cousin would ever question me being around, but I wouldn’t feel right tagging along everywhere with him.
Okay, so at this point I’m resigned to my loserdom. After writing all that out, I realize there is no other word for it. That other journal my dad found, had already been filled up, I hadn’t written in it for weeks. This new one is something I’ll keep in my locker from here on out. My friend Rory says I should have been more cryptic in my journal, he says he writes his journal in poetry only he understands. I said he’s a friend, but really, he’s just one of the people I know and talk to when forced into spatial proximity.
The rest of my classes go the same, as word gets out about my being grounded. Not that it matters. Not that any of these people would have ever invited me to go out after school and engage in friendly activities. I wouldn’t even know what kids like the ones at my high school do. Me and my sister drive around through fancy neighborhoods, with expensive houses, and pass the pipe back and forth. Then we go park out front of a liquor store and wait for some creepy older guy who’s a little too interested in young girls to buy us alcohol.
Or we drive around doing anything and everything else. But we were always driving. My sister has a great memory. I could tell her left and right all day, and she’d still find her way back home, no maps, no navigation. Now I’m stuck and not even my sister can help. It’s the first day, I shouldn’t be so upset about it, as it’s only going to get worse. First day of school is over and the drive home is going to be way too short. Of course dad will be home, because he’s never not home. A few years ago he retired, early retirement because of a knee injury that happened on the job.
Now he’s always home. I can’t stand it anymore. It was already unbearable when I was free to come and go however I liked. I’ve been his good little girl, sitting and watching while all the other kids would run wild and free, and it was already too much. I’m going to pretend to be doing a shit ton of homework, because the last thing I’ll do is sit around while his grumpy ass tries to make me feel bad for living my life. I can’t believe I’m thankful for homework.
My dad used to make me breakfast every morning, a plate full of perfectly crispy bacon. I’m only on the second day and I’m missing it severely. My cousin told my aunt that I’m grounded, she said she’ll try to think of something to help. My dad’s sister is the best aunt any girl could wish for. She’d do anything to protect me, even if it’s her brother she’d need to save me from. Today is the first day of high school where I’ve completed all assignments due. This has never happened, and honestly, I don’t know how I’m doing so well when I never remember to do the homework. Since it’s Friday my aunt has asked my dad if I could babysit her youngest. My dad has agreed.
When I get to my aunt’s house most of my family is there and we spend the night laughing and playing gin rummy. The only person not here is my dad. It’s funny, because everyone else here knew about everything I’d written in those journals. Once again, my dad was the only one left out. It was out of respect mostly. I don’t think a dad should ever need to know anything about his daughter’s sex life, and I think if he gives it some time, my dad would come to the same realization. I think now it’s just too much to handle all at once.
I hate driving home because I know he’ll be there, with that disapproving silence hanging around him like Christmas decoration. My sister stays behind at my aunt’s a little longer. Since she’s not in trouble like I am, she is still free to go and come as she pleases. I’m not stupid, I didn’t mention anything about my sister in that journal, even though everything in there was done with her by my side. Regardless, my dad has always treated us differently. Each of our relationships are separate, and we do not meddle.
One time, and the only time my sister and I fought, he tried getting in the middle. My sister and I stood in the living room screaming out everything we’d ever held onto, every slight and hurt we finally let free. The moment my dad’s voice tried to interrupt he was met with a chorus of Shut Up. It’s important to mention that was also the only time my sister or I had ever yelled at our dad or told him to shut up. Because if we had been in our right minds, we would have never. He let it slide that time, and let us argue until we figured it out.
Similarly, I have no business in the interactions between my dad and sister. I can’t begin to understand what my dad’s thought process is like, and I’m a little worried that this punishment may last until I’m an adult. It’s barely the second day and I’ve already started building up this resentment towards him. I write all kinds of cryptic poetry about how he’s put me in a cage, how he’s pushing me away, how I can’t wait for the day I’m free of him.
The beginning of the third day reveals my grim sentence of six months minimum. I don’t know what it’s like when other people are grounded, I’ve never known anyone who had been grounded other than myself, but my dad has no problem being the bad guy. I know my aunt will keep asking if I can babysit, but it’s not like she could ask everyday. The proximity is detrimental to my dental health, I swear I’m about to grind down my back molars.
There are two moods; the silent treatment and the ongoing lecture. I cry the whole time I’m in the shower, every morning, and continue while I’m on my way to school. My dad alternating between these moods is more than I can handle. Unfortunately he’s not the only problem, I can no longer talk to Eric, and his friends are practically asking for it. Maybe if I can find a way to fight some of these girls it will help ease some of my aggression for my dad.
The fourth day has passed and I have yet to find a time to fight any of my bullies, but I’ve started switching up the routes I take to class, so hopefully I run into them soon. Last night dad forced me to do my homework at the kitchen table so he could watch me. He says I have to earn his trust back. Did I mention I hate him, and I don’t particularly give a shit if he ever trusts me again?