I realized something very scary tonight.
I don't think I love my father.
You see, I know what love feels like. I know the pleasure you feel when you see someone you love, the way you know you'd be destroyed if something ever happened to them, the way their extistence creates a need in you that only they can fill.
He does not meet those criteria.
This evening we had a stormy argument, as we have many times before.
So much anger toward him and my mother simmers up through my soul all the time, and it doesn't take much to ignite it.
Last week, it was because my mother claimed I'd eaten too much spaghetti. Tonight, it centered on my prospective employment.
My father recently founded his own company, selling luxury decks and environmentally-friendly lights, and he promised to allow Powell and me to go to work with him as a way of making, potentially, a great amount of money; salesmen under him bring in ten percent commission on jobs that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Tonight, however, he told me that if I wanted to work with him, I'd have to cut my hair to look more professional.
He wants me, for a trial run at a job I would hold for three months at most, to cut the hair I've been growing for the last two and a half years.
My response was a foregone conclusion.
"Dad," I said. "If you really think that people are going to see a salesman with long hair and then think, 'Oh, I couldn't possibly buy this product,' then you're wrong."
This led him to declare that I knew nothing about the business world or people's standards.
"Really, Dad?" I asked. "Because you used to tell me all of the same stuff when I was a kid, and I believed you until I'd had a few jobs."
"A few jobs?" he asked. "You've had like what, three in your life?"
"Well, let's see, Dad," I said. "I mowed lawns before I was old enough to work, I worked for my teacher doing data entry, I worked at two grocery stores, I worked at a sub restaurant, I worked at the school newspaper, and I work at the movie theater now. I'm twenty-one years old and I've had eight jobs."
In all that time, the only employer who's ever discriminated against me based on my physical appearance is my own father who, true to form, is creating an issue that would not exist in the real world.
He didn't want to talk at this point, except to marvel at my immaturity and how mispaced my priorities were.
This ceaseless arguing is the only thing I associate him with any more, that and his past wrongs.
Our confrontation quickly spiraled into a wider verbal brawl in which he accused me of being manipulative and threw in some personal insults for good effect.
He has never nurtured me. He's made me question myself, made me cry, and given me the criticism I needed to hide a sexuality I first attempted to express when I was seven years old.
"I wish you weren't such a bastard," I spat at him.
He disgusts me.
After all he put me through, the least he could do would be to pay for my school. The fact that I have to go through the back door by trying to work for him in the first place is ridiculous. What can I say, though? He's a bad person.
By the end of it, I was too revolted to be interested in the outcome.
"I don't care what you decide," I said before I left the room. "But just know this: whether I work with you or not, whether you pay my tuition or not, I will get through school. When I get out, I'll get a good job, and I'll be free of you, and I won't need a single penny from you. If you ever want us to talk again after I graduate, you need to start making some changes."
I should have seen this coming years ago as the logical result of his accumulated crimes. As a teenager, I became so upset with the put-downs my parents spewed at me that I resolved to disregard their opinions wholesale, saving me from the trouble of sorting what was real from what was spite. It's made me much more secure.
So I don't think I love my father.
As I admit what has been creeping upon me since I was twelve years old, I feel some guilt but mostly relief.
It's liberating to acknowledge that I don't love him, for loving someone binds you to them and gives worth to what they say, even when those statements are hurtful and mean. The fact of that those ties don't exist means that he and his twisted views can be nothing to me. In a real sense, he's not mine anymore. We're disconnected from each other.
I like it.
When I do go from here, I'm leaving totally. I won't have anything to do with them.