by Ashley Mintz

Once when I was little, my father taught me how to draw houses. He put a pen in my hand and he took my hand in his. I watched as the contrast of his pale white fingers against my light brown skin moved to make squares and triangles. Yes, my father taught me how to draw houses but he could not offer me a home. Or maybe that was his way in doing so. Maybe he was giving me something to believe in to make up for what he failed to achieve, and he might have wanted it more than me then; a place to mourn his secrets, to wake and sleep in and to face his demons instead of living everyday like it was a party on the weekend, always on a friend's couch sleepin'. He was good at phone calls and letters. "Better that than nothing," I'd say to make myself feel better. But in fact, I would have preferred his physical presence to birthday presents. I would have preferred face to face conversations to his dedications from his job at the radio station. I would have liked to see what I took from him, and not just look at photographs and question, trying to pick his features out from my reflection.

My skin would not be this tone, my nose and eyes this shape without you. I am not just my mother's blood but yours too. Had you been around more you might have seen the fear of you leaving, in my eyes and you would have known that it was yours too. How happy it would have made me to hear you tell someone that I was your daughter and father is a word I would have used towards you. I would have cried with you instead of for you or without you. Now I cry because, of all the men I have loved, I still haven't found you. And I know I'm looking because of the similarities in yours and their life values. See me knocking down doors of men with bad habits to make up for you not being there to validate my sadness; now i self medicate my own madness. I let them in again and again the same way you came and went, like my heart was for rent. They won't buy because the emotional price is too high and those houses you taught me to draw will always be like new because for so long my tears wouldn't let the ink go dry. Death is the only thing that makes it too late to ever make up for lost time and so we have lost, this time. Still, six feet cannot sever genes. Being miles away and no longer breathing cannot erase the empty years you wasted, wasted while I try to live a life clean. I am what my mother, your memory and the TV raised me to be. And maybe not knowing you is the reason why I still don't know me. All I have is a memory. So I'll remember you like this...

Once when I was little, my father taught me how to draw houses. He put a pen in my hand and he took my hand in his. And then he never held my hand again.

Houses by Ashley Mintz

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