Filial Obedience

by Jane Davitt

My old man told me that real men don't cry when I was young enough to still think my thumb was the most exciting thing I could put in my mouth.

It stuck; whenever I've been reduced to tears -- and isn't that a good way to put it, nice and polite and judgmental as hell -- they've stung because of the guilt not the salt.

I've let him down, you see. I've allowed the death of my men, the loss of my wife, the slow, scary disintegration of my senses, and the ending of It's a Wonderful Life to make me less than a man.

Sandburg tries to tell me that's a load of shit, using a thousand words not five, but on this one thing I don't listen. It's hardwired in and when it's Sandburg doing the crying, though I don't think less of him, I do feel awkward and embarrassed for him. I make sure he's as okay as it gets at a time like that and then I back away.

My old man thinks guys who take it up the ass aren't real men, either, though he took a leaf out of Sandburg's book and made a meal out of telling me one day when I was fourteen, throwing in some throat clearings and distant stares as frosting on a pretty fucking stale cake.

Sorry, Dad. Maybe you should have told me that when I was three, too and it might have stuck.

How about I promise not to even let my eyes water the next time Sandburg nails me so deep I whimper and claw up the sheets trying not to come too soon? How about that?

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