Useless

By Kristen MacKenzie

kristenKristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned Journal, GALA Magazine and Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit.

I see how my father looks sideways at my legs and speaks about women who are pulled into dark alleys because they wear revealing clothing. We both pretend I am immune to insinuation and he holds the useless belief that I am open to suggestion. Nothing he says will change the fact that I own a dozen pairs of yoga pants and nothing that comes close to obscuring the shape of my body.

If I thought he would hear me, I would tell him what he might already know, that you cannot, cannot, protect a child who is no longer a child. It does no good for me to hope that my daughter will be a lesbian and stop sleeping with boys who treat her poorly. I will not be there when she decides to drink until she passes out. If I am honest with myself, I will know that the dark places she goes on her own are the wildernesses I created in her when she was small and I was not there for her. Trying to hold her hand in those places now won’t flood them with light any more than hearing my own mother apologize for not protecting me can erase my wounding.

When my daughter calls and cries at being stuck in ugly patterns, I listen. I can give her nothing greater than my silence filled with acceptance. When it’s my turn to cry, I give her my transparency. I do not lie to her and tell her that she will be wiser, but I show her that she will survive anyway. This is my gift.

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