I remember the day I started calling you my stepfather.
Though my budding puberty was starting to bother you, you still let me work with you on your car. You laid on the concrete, and you’d ask for a screwdriver. You were impressed that I knew the difference between a flathead and a Phillips.
We didn’t speak much, but then again, we never did speak much. You’d throw the occasional threat over your shoulder as you drove, as I listened to the radio in the backseat, but that was about it. I don’t think you had said I looked like a prostitute yet, so if you ever spoke, I did listen.
It was morning, so the Florida sun hadn’t pulled too much sweat from my body. It was nice, just sitting there on the homemade driveway, giving you tools, watching you work. I felt a connection there, like all was fine between us, and—like mom had made me repeat several times when I was six—I felt that you were my real father. The only father I’d known.
You asked for more tools. You were impressed yet again when I knew the difference between a nut and a bolt, and especially when I knew you needed a washer. You know, those flat metal donuts meant to protect. You needed one of those.
And you took a deep breath. And I knew you were about to say something. This was it. Post-childhood conversation. And not about “guys only want you for one thing” or anything like that. You’d already said that, anyway. I just knew you had something else to say.
I knew what I wanted you to say—something profound. Wisdom. I’d been reading about philosophy and Plato in the old books in my school’s library, the ones with the cracked covers. It seemed that older people had wisdom to share. But, to be honest, any old thing you said would have made me happy.
“It’s too bad you weren’t born a boy.”
I didn’t want to give you any more tools. Who cared that I knew what they were? You didn’t. You just made a comment about what was between my legs—it wasn’t the first comment, and it wouldn’t be the last.
I suddenly remembered I had things to do inside. I dunno, like write a poem, or listen to my CD’s, or something. I had better things to do. Whatever I did, it was a better thing to do.
That was the day I saw you for who you were, for the first time. That was the day I started calling you my stepfather.