I saw my dad cry once. Not long before he and my mom died in a car wreck. I was about to go on my first date. Not my actual first date, but my first date that my parents knew about. You know what I mean.
I was trying to give myself a braided ponytail and my arms were aching from holding them over my head for so long. My mom wasn’t one for make-up or hairstyling or looking pretty and I was mad at my friend Jane at the time so I was doing it all by myself. My dad came in and crouched awkwardly like a gargoyle on my day bed with all my stuffed animals.
I remember being annoyed that he was bothering me, I thought he was going to tell me that I needed to change the oil in my car or some other stupid dad thing while I was trying to get ready for a date. Instead he haltingly tried to start a conversation about “the nature of men” with much throat-clearing and harrumphing. Not laughing at his discomfort was one of the harder things I’ve done but I managed it.
I was tempted to just sit there silently, play dumb, and make him go through with his prepared remarks but I let him off the hook and told him I knew the score about that stuff. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a person look so relieved. He mumbled something about health class and I smiled. Sure dad, health class, how else would girls possibly learn anything about boys (and sometimes other girls)?
That’s when things got weird. He seemed like he was deep in thought and then finally said “Men are . . . strange sometimes. They can be . . . mean.” I thought to myself ‘yeah, no shit dad’ but he was talking about how if I was ever on date and they “tried something” and I didn’t want to do it that I shouldn’t do it just because I was afraid or because it was easier just to let them do what they wanted. He started giving me self-defense tips like going on a date was the same as being sent to prison. I saw tears dribbling down his face.
I was torn. The selfish teenage part of me wanted him to get the hell out of my room because ohmygod I’m trying to get ready and you’re being gross and weird and I hate you! But there was also the part of me that was seeing my dad cry for the first time and was freaked out to discover that my dad had feelings like a real person. But also there was the part of me that was trying not to cry myself because my daddy cares about me and doesn’t want me to get hurt and I just wanted to be a little kid again safe in his arms. But also there was the part of me that was like “WTF?” Did my dad get sexually assaulted in the navy? Why is he saying this?!
I can only imagine what my grandma would have said if she found out about that disgusting display of normal human emotion. She had a very hardline view on crying, and men crying? Forget about it. She had a hardline view about most things. I told him that I was going to be careful and everything would be fine. Which I think is a pretty good response for a sixteen year old. I think he was just worried about me but I still wonder sometimes why he was so upset, if there was some deeper weirder motivation for that very un-dadlike display of emotion.
That’s what came into my mind when the bullets started flying. Don’t take it lying down (so to speak) fight back. The man inside was short and stocky and bald, he looked like that guy from Seinfeld only mean and shooting a gun at me. That never happened in Seinfeld I don’t think. His gun was like an Uzi or something, it was small and weird but he was holding it with both hands.
I raised the tricked out gold-plated FABULOUS magic church gun and fired back. What came out of the bejeweled barrel was not a bullet but a tiny silver spark. It moved so fast through the air it was hard to follow, but it left a little trail behind like when you stare at a light too long and then look away. Like the trail was on my eye not actually there in the air.
I tried to grab her while she was trying to grab me, both of us with the idea of pulling the other one out of the line of fire, resulting in a Two Stoogettes routine where we both almost went down ass over snatch. She was much stronger though (remember the door?) and we ended up on her side.
“How are you alive?!” I gasped at her.
She plucked at her threadbare Cookie Crisp t-shirt, under which I could see a Fabletic live-in tank bra that I know costs one hundred dollars. Why would you wear a fifty cent yard sale shirt with a fancy top underneath? It makes no sense.
“Bulletproof” she said “magic.” I pointed at her exposed shoulder/collarbone where she was bleeding copiously and she looked down “Oh shit, good thing I don’t feel pain right now. I’ll deal with that later. Come on.”
She said it as she stuck her leg/hip into my crotch like a nosy dog and threw one arm around my waist. I was so startled that I couldn’t get out a “what are you doing?!” before I we lifted off the ground and I was even more startled. I grabbed her back so hard I almost dropped the Golden Gun and in clutching at it I’m pretty sure I smacked her in the back of the head. Which she didn’t seem to notice any more than the bullets.
“You can fly?!”
“No” she said as we settled onto the roof gently. She looked back down over the edge “Is that him, is that your boss?”
I didn’t go near the edge on account of I didn’t want to get shot in the face “No, I don’t know who that is.”
“Well I don’t think they have guards with machine pistols to protect meat so they must be your bossman’s blood slaves. Try to stay behind me, like Lois Lane does when people are shooting at Superman.”
“Can you make my clothes bulletproof?”
“No” she said absently as she was rubbing at her shoulder/chest like she was working out a knot. When she took her hand away her wound was gone. I was going to say something else but the words died on my lips as I saw that. Somehow out of all I had seen that’s what left me speechless. She looked around for a moment and then kicked off one of those big metal ventilation things you see on the tops of buildings.
“Down the hatch” she said. She didn’t actually wink, but there was a wink in her voice.
“But also there was the part of me that was like “WTF?” Did my dad get sexually assaulted in the navy? Why is he saying this?!”
This really made me laugh… which in a way is pretty messed up. I guess humor is often pretty messed up.
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