Content Note: descriptions of sexual abuse
The first time he touches me, I pretend I am rabid dog and bite him.
The first time he touches me, I pretend I am the burglar alarm. I have only just stopped screaming.
The first time he touches me, I pretend I am an electric eel and the shock of me goes straight to his heart.
We’re laying around watching TV in his bed because I’m my dad’s surrogate child bride. He treats me one way in the dark and another in the light.
I’m itchy all over with his affection, and there’s a joke here about my tiny mosquito bites. Probably a funny one.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “I thought that was your arm.”
And I say, “Gee, Padre, didn’t know your arms had nipples.”
I say, “Wow, Pops, didn’t know you wore a bra over your elbows.”
I say, “Woah, Dad, better measure the cup size of your wrists if you think this is how bodies work.”
When he masturbates in the same bed as me, I nastily ask if he couldn’t have possibly waited to whack off. I tell him I’m going to tattletale. I command him to put at least $10 in the swear jar or he’s grounded for at least a month.
But there’s more: I make fun of his technique, I make fun of his audacity, I make fun of his bald spot and his nose hair. I am ruthless, cruel. I make fun of his stutter. “Ch-ch-ch-choking the chicken in bed, D-d-d-dad? R-r-r-really?”
When he uses the broadness of his arm to cross and pin my body, trying to obscure what he is doing, I fart so loud It blows the covers off. Then I challenge him to an arm-wrestling match, and you bet your ass I win. His arm is sprained for weeks afterward. He has to use a bra as a sling.
When he pretends to be asleep, I out-pretend him like I’m auditioning for an improv troupe. I start drooling, snoring like a chainsaw, muttering something about Lorena Bobbitt in my sleep. Really hamming it up, fluttering my eyelashes until they fly off like dandelion seeds. This time he gets the message because he’s not really asleep either.
When my hand accidentally brushes his penis and he doesn’t say anything, I jump out of his bed screaming that there’s loose snakes in it like Woody from Toy Story. “There’s a snake in my bed!” And a million more jokes bubble to the surface, acrid and oily. I reject each one as not quite funny enough, but at least Dad has nightmares about snakes and tiny space invaders for weeks afterward.
I save the best jokes for last though. I’m swimming in that Kentucky lake, bobbing up to my neck in a cheap family vacation. I am a child, totally innocent to what fingers feel like between my legs, when my dad comes up behind me and pretends to clean sand from my vagina. I swear to him I am not a clam, that I will never be a clam. I cross my fingers and promise that I will not grow any dangerous pearls, that I’m unable to make a gem out of what rubs red the deepest parts of me. I’m almost lying when I swear on his grave that I am not about to become the Loch Ness monster and devour him whole.
What he doesn’t know is that I am actually Poseidon. I keep my triton strapped to my thigh at all times, ruler of water from bathtub to holler swimming hole. By the time I have pierced him through with that golden fork, and whipped the waves up over his head, he has no time to worry that his preteen supposed-daughter has sprouted a magnificent beard. If he did have the time, he’d be envious of my silvery mustache that could make Sam Elliot drool.
I ride above his watery grave on dolphins named Marsha P. Johnson and Hedy Lamarr. He has no time to muse on the power of ancient gods or ancient prejudice, nor time to repent for the arrogance that kept him from making proper sacrifices. He doesn’t even have time to admire my shimmering blue-green scales or the sonorous and solemn call of whales rebounding from my sea-eating mouth.
His last thought is how he wishes his arms were still attached to make just one final scratch, feeling sorry for himself with an itchy penis full of sand.
Eileen Winn is an agender MFA poetry candidate at FAU. Their work has appeared in Alien Lit Mag, Bone and Ink Press, and at Purpled Palm Press in the Breakup Anthology. Without purple pens, much of their work would not exist. Find them on Twitter: @weirdmuseum