Bars of Soap
When my father was in medical school, he carved practice ears out of bars of soap. Today he creates real ones, molds flesh, segments nerve, but I can only ever imagine him as such: whorls of white Irish soap in his hands, discarded curls at his feet.
2. Once my father accidentally went on a date with another man.
3. When I was thirteen, my father bought a black Thunderbird at auction, with a cherry red leather interior. I remember my mother being so mad that she didn’t allow it in the garage, didn’t speak to him for hours. He drove me once in it, to ballet class-- I emerged from the car sticky (no air conditioning, and the windows letting in damp coastal air turning to storm) and embarrassed that the most popular girl in the class would see me with frizzy hair and pit stains.
4. (later in my life, I slapped this girl so hard that I was ostracized by my girl scout troop. It took me a few more years to realize that a. she was such a vicious bully and b. I had such a crush on her I would have moved mountains to make her like me back).
5. My father’s friend was outed to his parents (by his disease, when his disguises seemed spun gossamer) and they refused to speak to him. My father helped move his belongings from their Kansas farmhouse. The parents didn't say a word and just shut the door behind them with a solemnity that betrayed it's finality. When this friend died, his parents considered it a sign from God.
5. Before I came out but after I had kissed a girl for the first time, I wrote a poem about my father carving soap bars. It was sad, and trite, and somehow I made the whole thing about my fear of losing my family, my fear of silence, my fear of their disgust at their gay daughter. When I came out, my dad was silent for a day, and then told me about his best friend from medical school, a lesbian who took him under her wing and helped him pick up women-- much better at carving soap than him. (first posted in March 2018, editted Oct 2018. Photo by @ad_mi_re of a Joan Jonas exhibition)