My father doesn’t use Google. He doesn’t have an email address or Internet, which is why I have to make all the effort to call him. Why I’m stuck on this fucking phone call talking about Jesus magic and the end of the world. Talking about things like the Rapture and Jesus’ return riding some gigantic white horse in the sky. My father is certain he doesn’t sin. He tells me he is more pure than all the sinners in California. He interprets the Bible correctly. He is convinced he’ll be caught up, like 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, to meet the Lord in the air and everyone else will be left behind like all the suckers in a Kirk Cameron movie. I tell him he is making broad assumptions. I can barely get a word in edgewise. My father doesn’t see it that way and while he continues his phone call sermon, I am dangerously silent in my desire to scream at him. In my want for him to know how simple I think he is. In my obsession to hurt him like all the years he hurt me.
These feelings are meteoric and travel at the speed of light. I was not, until now, aware I wanted to hurt my father. I was not, until now, cognizant that large portions of my pain were due to him.
This the 300th perfect day of weather in Santa Barbara. Ryan, a homeless guy I know, holds his dog Spokane on a wooden bench by the curb of State street. I suddenly remember how I used to hold my own dog, propped up against a round hale bale in the back yard of our two-story house in Kansas. The large ones that took a tractor to move. My father, sleeping or having sex with my new stepmother after church on a Sunday afternoon. We were usually left alone to our own devices. I spent most of my time staring at the sky and wondering why my father loved his second wife more than his children. How she asked him to choose her over his kids and how he let her. How he believed her batshit crazy “Holy Spirit revelations”, which were mostly about us. How he vilified my mother and made us all feel like we weren’t good enough. Forget that I’m 36 and also love naps on a Sunday afternoon. Forget we were poor and how he worked terribly hard and how life was already difficult for all of us. Forget we weren’t allowed to question any sort of doctrine without being accused of having a _spirit of rebellion_. Forget I carry these weights like a millstone around my neck. They’ve always been there, but he makes me remember how heavy they are. I want nothing more than to free myself of their weight, to drop them on the street and leave them where they lay. Instead, I drag them across the brick sidewalk, across De La Guerra Plaza, and through El Paseo. I feel the ache in my throat. It is sore and constant.
I feel all the years we spent in Hallowell, constricting my heart still.
I swallow all of this bile while he talks. I say nothing because it would be cruel. We haven’t had any of these conversations. My anger would be a surprise. A disappointment. Instead, I tell him I’ve arrived at my coffee shop and I need to go. He tells me he loves me.
You can hear the victory he feels in his voice.
My silence has given him this mercy.
I say I love him too.
It’ll be months before we speak again.