I might be dreaming this

The tip of his knife stuck in the desk, and the pale computer screen drew attention to the oily spots of his face. He was talking about Satan and his fall from grace. Again. Soon I’d understand, he said. I was about “at that age” when God would find me and save me. I’d been praying for God to save me for years. Why would that change now?

His hand shook as he lit another cigarette. He exhaled smoke through his nose as he finished a drink. I sat on the brick steps going down into the kitchen, my hands gripping the edges and wondering why brick in California got cold at night, but never in Louisiana. He coughed and took another drag.

He was about my age when God found him, he said. Then life becomes clear. It’s easy to see things. To recognize good and evil, right and wrong, and how the world works.

He was drunk. I knew enough at twelve to know drunk meant impaired somehow, in a bad way. He shook less when drunk, but touched me more. Plaits of my hair would tremble to the root as he held my head to his concave chest. His long hair was greasy and his glasses always dirty.

I spent a lot of time in the laundry room. It smelled strongly of dryer sheets and comfort.

Right before I flew out that summer, I’d had my first kiss. His name was Jimmy Thompson, and he was chubby with red hair and freckles. I’d beat up his younger brother for hurting my younger sister sometimes earlier that year. We hung out in his garage once and listened to Chumbawumba, and his mom gave us blue kool aid in Tweety cups. I kissed him the night before I got on a plane. He was standing at the end of the bike path, by the last streetlight on my street. I was running the paths, and he had come to say goodbye before I left for the summer. We stood there, across from each other, and I remember looking down at my shoes.It was too dark to see the laces clearly. I kissed him on the cheek and ran inside before he could make eye contact.

God would judge us all, my father slurred. Good and evil, right and wrong. One day I’d understand, after God found me and saved me.

He passed out at the desk that night. His last cigarette burned to the filter sitting in the ashtray. I stayed and slept on the stairs, because no one told me not to.

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