From the perspective of a young, teenaged woman, by Mark J. Williams
I like waking up in unfamiliar places. It’s something my Dad really hates. He says, “One day, Katie, you’re gonna get yourself killed.” But, I tell him not to worry; I’m an adult, even though I’m still in high school, and if I can vote for our country’s next president, then I can choose not to come home if I don’t want to. I don’t hate where I live, or anything. It’s a small house, and the floors creak a lot, but it’s an okay size for my dad and me. Like, we each have our own bathroom, so he doesn’t have to deal with my tampons and other lady things, and I don’t have to worry about walking in on him beating it to some titty rag. Dad would freak his shit if he heard me talking about this.
“Katie, come on now, a man needs to keep certain things, private,” he would say.
I don’t see why we have to hide stuff like that. Why should I care that full-figured ladies with huge fake boobs excite my dad? My Mom probably would have laughed at him for it, if she were still alive. But she died when I was ten, thanks to a real bitch of a brain tumor. So, it’s been just my dad and me for a long time and he did the best he could, considering. Of course, sometimes he was too much. Like, he had to make up for my mom dying by being best friends with me, all my friends, too. When I had a friend over and we wanted to watch a movie and stuff, Dad had to watch the movie with us. And it would been okay if he stayed quiet, but he’d always stop and ask questions, and not even about the movie, about my friends, like…Do you like school? What does your father do for work? Does your family need life insurance?
He also insisted on chaperoning my school dances, and that sucked because I couldn’t like flirt with anyone. Just to be clear, I wasn’t some big slut. I stayed a virgin all through high school. There was this one guy, Todd, that I probably would have gone all the way with, but he banged my friend Becky….I blame her for that, not him, by the way, because I told Becky I liked him, and then she put the moves on him, and well–he’s a guy and they’ll have sex with anything, and I didn’t want to be just anything. What’s funny about Dad is the way he assumed that I WAS having sex. Like, sometimes, he’d leave condoms in front of my door. And I never told him I wasn’t having sex, because he probably wouldn’t have believed me…once people make up their mind about you, you know…like the way I assumed those bottles of Jack Daniels filling our recycle bin didn’t mean Dad was an alcoholic, or anything. But, Dad and I never talked about that.
He never wants to talk at all, and it drives me bat-shit. But, you know, it probably would have been better if I didn’t look through the recycle bin and find all those empty bottles of Jack Daniels, or go dig through dad’s drawers when he’s not around—because the night I did–well, that’s when everything went to shit. I couldn’t help myself, though. It was late, like 2 or 3, and Dad hadn’t come home. I just watched a bunch of bad TV and Facebooked and texted with my friends to take my mind off things, but the later it got, the more worried I got. I texted him like eight times, and I hated myself for it because it’s so fucking annoying when he does that to me, but he didn’t write back, and then I started getting pissed because I imagined him in the hospital or like in jail or something, and that really freaked me out. Like, what if he was trying to drive home and wrapped his car around a tree or, worse yet, smashed into a little kid. I don’t know what a little kid would have been doing out at 2 or 3, but my mind goes to these dark places sometimes, and I can’t help but assume the worst.
And then I couldn’t take it anymore, so I went into his room, and I don’t really know what I was looking for–maybe like some phone numbers of people he might be out with or know where he was. I got as far as his top drawer when I saw it: A bunch of needles…you know, syringes, and a small black pouch with a baggie inside….and I just clenched up so tight that I could hardly feel the shivers running down my back or the screams coming from my mouth. I just wanted to…I don’t know what I wanted to do…maybe teach him a lesson….so I unclenched my fist and reached into that drawer. I took out the syringes first, and rolled them around in my hand until I got comfortable…and then I went for the bag, and I was shaking, but I didn’t care, I just…went for it–took in a good whiff, untied the string, and I didn’t have a fucking idea what I was doing. I never even smoked pot or anything. But I took the little plastic cover off the needle, and then I pressed it into my skin. I wanted to try it first without the drugs, to see what I would feel, and it fucking hurt like a bitch.
So, I chickened out, and dropped the syringe, and then went to the bathroom and flushed the rest of the shit down the toilet. I thought this would be a much better way to punish my dad than to find a dead daughter on his floor. That’s how he’d found my Mom, so I couldn’t do that to the guy. Much as I hated him, I still loved him. I washed my hands 800 times because I didn’t want any trace of it on my body—like, what if Dad came home and smelled it and tried to lick it off my hands or snort my finger? Then the phone rang, and it was this real deep voice, someone from the police…and well, you know how it goes. I spent the night alone, and he came home the next day and swore up and down that he was sorry and he’d never do it again. And I believed it. At least for a while. Until Dad disappeared again a few weeks later, and this time he stayed out for days. Some kid found him passed out behind a dumpster in a mall parking lot—that was really classy—and brought him home.
At least, that’s what he told me on my voicemail. You see, I didn’t wait around this time. I didn’t want to be around him, so I threw some shit in a bag and got the hell out. Been staying with friends and couch-surfing ever since. I only like to stay 2 or 3 days at most, because any longer than that and their sympathy starts to fade because I take too long to wash a dish or spend too much time in the bathroom. But, like I said, I like waking up in unfamiliar places. It’s fun not knowing where you’re going. But Dad really hates it, because he wants me to come home. He says, “I’m clean Katie. Everything will be okay. You’ll see. But I know better than to trust him. I believed my Mom when she told me she would get better, and always be around to take care of me, and to see me get married and all that shit, and then she died. And, sometimes I wonder…maybe wish…that it had been him, instead. But who knows: if it had been him, maybe Mom would have gone crazy and hacked me with a meat cleaver or something. It really sucks that these are the thoughts that keep me up all night. Sucks almost as much as the moment when you realize your parents aren’t invincible, and worse yet: make the mistakes that even you know better than to make. Maybe one day he’ll tell me he’s clean and I’ll believe him. But for now, I want to fall asleep and wake up in a new, unfamiliar place, because… it’s way better than waking up in a familiar place with a father you thought you knew…but that you no longer seem to recognize.
**Mark Jason Williams is an award-winning playwright and essayist. In addition to Honeysuckle, his work is published by The Washington Post, Salon, The Denver Post, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Out, The Daily Dot, Stuff, and Good Housekeeping. For more about Mark, please visit markjasonwilliams.com.
Illustration by gea*: A Chilean-born self-taught artist based in New York, gea* has exhibited solo and in group shows throughout New York, Los Angeles, Santiago, Zurich, and Toronto. Her monograph Penetralia was released in 2016. Her works appear in limited edition art books by international publishers such as Timeless Editions, Le Dernier Cri and Re:Surgo!; one of the Re:Surgo titles she is featured in, is now part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. gea*’s drawings have also been featured in Honeysuckle Magazine’s HERS issue, summer 2017 edition. Learn more about her at geaphiles.com.