Which was that he would do it if I told anyone about the sexual abuse he’d been inflicting upon me since I was ten.I had protected the secret extremely well until exactly one week before he died.Seriously, our neighbors were always calling the cops on my dad, because of how my mom would scream, “You’re killing me” whenever my dad was killing her.
See, he put his life in my hands for the first time when I was six, when he said he was going to drive his car off a bridge or something. But then my dad came and took me away, and he showed me his insulin, which he had recently been prescribed for diabetes, and explained to me that he would kill himself if I did not convince my mother to get back together with him.
My grandmother was holding the phone cradle, and my cousin was sitting on the floor on the other side of her, and my mom had gone off somewhere … I didn’t want her to get back together with him, you understand. So anyway, I pretended to be Not Speaking to my mother in the crosswalk outside school, and then in school I cried all day long.
And then my father picked me up, and next thing I knew we were a family again.
We headed off to Mississippi, where my father began studying for the ministry.
He’d already been “lay-preaching” for years, in little Baptist congregations on army bases.
So this was no big surprise, especially as he wasn’t going to be promoted and had decided instead to retire from the military after his twenty years were up. So I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, Lindsay, other than I don’t expect you to keep it a secret any more and I really feel bad about lying to you.
But by the time my dad killed himself when we were sixteen, he had a whole new reason.
Dear Lindsay, I’m sorry that I told you over instant messenger the summer after senior year that I was dating a drummer. I needed to know if you would really keep a secret, or I thought I did, because I hadn’t told folks at school about my childhood and I knew you and I couldn’t be close friends unless I shared my story with you. I figured I’d tell you the thing about the drummer, and if that stayed quiet for a day or so, I’d be able to trust you about the other stuff and come clean about the little joke I’d played on you. No, you went out and that I was like, totally dating some drummer. I had a crush on him, but he’d had a girlfriend for like four years by the time I met him.
What I was doing is, I was sending up a floater balloon.
I had no chance in hell of ever dating that drummer.
Thing is, I wanted to come clean right away, but I got a phone call the very next day, “OMG ARE YOU DATING THAT DRUMMER? That lie I told has haunted me until this very day. Lindsay, you were popular and pretty and seemed nice and smart and funny, and I liked you, and I wanted to hang out with you, but I didn’t trust you to keep a secret. I’d tell people it wasn’t just some random suicide. My parents were getting divorced, because on New Year’s Day I had run for the MPs (military police) when my father was beating my mom worse than he’d ever done before.