You can’t be who I want you to be. No matter what I tell myself, no matter what I try so hard to believe, no matter what I see or don’t see, you can’t be the daddy of my dreams. You can’t be the man who comforts me in the middle of the night when I’ve had a nightmare. You can’t be the one to chase the monster out from under my bed. You can’t tell me that there is nothing to be afraid of. You can’t do those things because you are those things. You are the reason I wake screaming and drenched in sweat. You are the monster that is hiding in my bed. You are what I am most afraid of.
That’s a hard reality to accept. I made excuses for you. I tried to pity you. I came up with reasons why it could not possibly be your fault. I took the blame. I felt the guilt. I apologized for accusing you of something nobody thought you were capable of. And you never said a word. You sat there while my mother told everyone who would listen that I was a liar. I kept waiting to see if you would step up and tell the truth. But you just put your head down and closed your mouth. I wanted you to admit it. I wanted you to deny it. I wanted you to say something, anything at all. But you just checked out. I was left all alone in a room where no one believed me. Everyone blamed me. I was not strong enough. Your silence made me doubt myself. I was all alone and left with no choices. All I could see was how much trouble I had caused. I needed it to stop. I took one for the team. I apologized for what I had said. I took it back. I made it all go away.
Do you know how many years I carried that guilt around? Do you know how many times I replayed that scene in my head and wondered how I could have done it differently? Do you know how sorry I felt for making you cry? Did you ever think of me? Did you experience any regret? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I don’t even know how to feel. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for everything that happened to you before I even came around. I know you were broken and defeated. I know you needed something my mother could never provide. We all did. I know you were tired. I know how hard you struggled to maintain some dignity in your marriage. I know you were weak. She was stronger than all of us and her will prevailed. I know all of those things. But should they matter? In the end, you were an adult and I was a child. More than that, you were my father and I was your daughter. That alone gives you a responsibility. Your job was to take care of me and protect me. All you had to do was keep me safe. You failed.
You broke me in to tiny little pieces. You made me doubt myself. I was afraid every day of my life. Your hands should have offered comfort. Instead they were the source of great pain.
I felt ashamed. You touched me in ways that felt so wrong. Your hands left marks that will forever be burned on to my body and in my memory. You made me hate my body before I even had a chance to love it. You made me feel dirty and used and invisible. You closed your eyes so you would not see me. I prayed that G-d would just let me fade away. You used me. I was just a thing to you. All I wanted was for you to notice me. I wanted you to see that I was real. I wanted somebody to know that I existed.
I’m disappointed. You said that to me once. I remember you told me I had disappointed you. I ducked my head and went to my room. Those words hurt more than any potch you could have given. That was the response you were hoping for. Did you care that you disappointed me? I wanted you to be my loving, caring father. When you came to my room I tried to pretend that you were just doing what all fathers do. But something told me that most fathers do not touch their daughters the way you touched me. You left me a crumpled mess. I would wake to find you gone. My body would hurt in places I had not even learned about. I thought I was dying and nobody seemed to care. I wondered if I did die, would anyone even notice?
I’m confused. I know I look at the world differently because of what you did to me. I do not trust easily. Most of the time I do not trust at all. I am scared all of the time. I stand at alert waiting for the next person to hurt me. I hid in the shadows for years. Always scared someone might learn my secret and expose me. I was nervous that people would learn I was dirty and impure. I put up a wall so that nobody could get in. I watched from afar as other people made friends and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. I told myself that I did not need anybody or anything. That was a lie. I needed them but was afraid of the pain and rejection that might come from admitting it. I blame you for a lot of things. What you did robbed me of a normal life. I am afraid to touch or be touched. I assume every touch is going to hurt. I think that anyone who talks to me must have a motive. They must need something from me. They can’t possibly see anything of value in me because you made me valueless. I am suspicious of people who are kind to me. I think they must pity me or they must be after something. I can’t think of any reason they would speak to me just because they wanted to. I don’t know how to accept kindness from others. I wonder if the person made a mistake, if they thought I was somebody else. You made me feel that I don’t deserve good things. I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I am not pretty enough. I simply am not enough.
There are names I call you in my head. I do not dare to say them out loud. You drilled in to my head that a lady does not use that kind of language. I can’t seem to find any other words that relay how angry and hurt I truly am. You ruined me. You hurt me. You took away my self-respect. You abused me night after night for as long as I can remember. You haunt my nights and stalk my days. You never leave me alone. You never let me forget. You own me and I can’t get away.
I hate you and I hate that I hate you! I only wanted to love you. I wanted you to love me. But you can’t be the father that I wanted you to be.