It hurts to be here. In every set of bed sheets, in the shadow of the steeple like a long black scar, in crumpled map in the glove compartment of your car, in the tobacco-brown work gloves in the shed, you can see his face. Everything you do is stained with his absence. Everything beautiful is a reason to cry, an excuse to languish, remember. Because your father can't see it. You want to escape all of this. But there is school, and there is your job, and your family that still lives, and your friends. You can't just leave. That's absurd.
You don't even like him like that. Maybe he's got eyes the color of warm maple syrup, maybe his grin melts the ice inside of you, maybe his laugh is impossible and easy and bright and cajoles your own to come rumbling up out of your throat. But you don't like him like that. He's a nice guy, a good kid, but he has his weird side, his rough edges - once, he scaled the side of the library at school with a copy of "Slaughterhouse-Five" and proceeded to read quietly in the sunlight during Banned Books Week. Another time, at homecoming, he got into a fight with his sister's date from the year above because he found out the guy had been cheating the entire time they were together - you weren't there, but you heard about how he dunked the guy's head in the punch bowl, how he spat blood in the guy's face from several feet away as a couple of the teacher dragged him away. Adults like him, because he's smart and weirdly polite most of the time, but they keep an eye on him. No one knows what to make of him. Especially not you.
He was the one who found your notebook, who read the first poem in the book about your dad. He was very respectful about it, though, gave it back to you ceremoniously on the last day of school when you were on the brink of tears and utter panic thinking about where it was. He told you, hey, next year, you should submit something to the paper. He says, this is beautiful stuff, really. And you said, yeah, maybe. He wants to know, why wouldn't you want to submit something? And you tell him, I don't want anything to do with this place. I don't want to commit to anything. And he sighs, and gives you this look, like he knows just who you are, like he would like to brush the hair away from your eyes. He says, I know how you feel. He makes you pinky-promise you will, as if he's six years old. You pinky-promise on it. Your fingers lock as if they were supposed to all along. You don't feel awkward or uncertain. You feel the flip side of the anxiety you usually feel - excitement. You share something. You allow yourself a few minutes to burn alive quietly with embarrassment that such a small gesture could mean so much to you. And you pray that he doesn't forget you.
He disappears for the first two weeks of summer vacation, until suddenly he's back and has materialized on your front porch, his face young and full of promises like a canvas in the yellowy glow of the porch light. You can hear the grin in his voice, so close to your ear, as he hugs you tight and says, we should get out of here. And of course you say no. Where would you go? With what money? With him? You're not stupid. Vehemently no.
You go back inside to an empty house. Your sister is out, your mom has been away on business for two days and hasn't called yet. You check the machine and a too-loud electronic voice tells you there are no messages. The silence that ensues that machine making those sounds is total. You fall asleep with the TV on.
He comes back, the next morning. He tells you he has a full tank of gas, a little over $100, and a plan. He doesn't mention it but he has that grin, too. You go find your shoes.
You get some sun on your face, some wind in your hair. He drives fast - a little too fast, maybe. You decide not to think about it. Your mother told you before she left that you should take good care of yourself. When you look over at him, and he's singing along to a song on one of his many infinitely scratched CDs, and your town becomes doll-tiny in the side view mirrors, you feel like you are taking care of yourself.
It's only when you get your first glimpse of the bay that you start to feel like you've done something terrible and impossible to undo and magnificent. This is your moment to be the rebellious daughter, the bad daughter. This your moment to be the girl he took with him. The water is sparkling like mad - it looks like magic, a page torn out of a fairy tale book, the opposite of real life. You share a fish taco at a bungalow bar kind of place near the marina, with dollar bills that say "BONER" on them with names and spring break dates drunkenly scrawled in Sharpie. He's paid for your food and still has $100 left. You start to feel uneasy, can barely eat. He can tell, and takes a one dollar bill from his wallet and folds it painstakingly into a butterfly, wings outstretched. It looks like it's in mid-flight. It makes you smile. You can relax.
(MORE TO COME BUT IT IS LATE AND I AM TIRED. I will finish this. If you're reading this, I love you. On a real-ass note)