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Corona Barmaid
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Corona Barmaid
Sunday afternoon after pajamas & bagels brunch with my roommates, I take a train to where my father lives, and he picks me up at the station. I'm there to spend Yom Kippur with him at home and at his synagogue, fasting from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday and atoning for sins of the past year. Just as with every time I make this journey from Manhattan to suburbia that is, all things considered, very short - I feel as if I've stepped into a different world. But it's not a world where my problems don't exist, it's just one where I can pretend with impunity that I don't have them.

My father is one of the smartest men I know. But what has always been really remarkable about him to me was that from the time my mother walked out on us twelve years ago, he has played every role he had to without complaining or second-guessing himself, or at least without letting on that he was. He suddenly had to finish raising me on his own, so he never stopped to wonder whether he could do it, he just did it.

And one of the ways that I always tried to honor that - oddly, I suppose - was by holding onto anything I thought he didn't need to be burdened with. He was already making sure I got to places I needed to go, helping me with homework and encouraging my college plans, coming to my tennis matches, giving me a shoulder to cry on when Bobby Taormina didn't ask me to the junior prom - I didn't think he needed to know when I had tried pot, when I was thinking about having sex for the first time, when Bria had driven a bunch of us up to Albany in the middle of the night at 90 miles an hour a few weeks after her parents had given her their used car. Or when I realized that I liked girls.

I mean, I really didn't think it mattered. It might be one thing if I only liked girls, then I'd have to tell him sooner or later, unless I wanted to keep dating guys just for appearances. But I liked guys and girls, and I didn't date girls, I just crushed on them. And sometimes kissed them at parties - but so did all the straight girls, the ones who were doing it to get attention from the guys they wanted. Besides, my father is a fairly liberal guy, so even if I did "come out" to him, I didn't think it would be a big deal. This wasn't a TV movie-of-the-week where the family falls apart because Daddy's little princess falls in love with the really butchy softball star and Daddy's a conservative, Bible-totin' fella who's worried about where the boys down at the Chamber of Commerce are going to take their life insurance business when they find out. I swear, this is how I justified not telling him - because it wasn't a big enough deal to have to be told.

Since Rosh Hashana, my father's been worried about me. Hell, since a few weeks ago I've been a little worried about me, too. The littlest things seem to set me off. He caught me crying in the middle of services last weekend; I don't even remember what the rabbi said. I've been keeping a lot of stuff bottled up inside, and the really upsetting part is that if I were going through something like this under any other circumstances, I would just get together with Jessica and talk it out with her, use her shoulder to cry on. Except this time, the something I'm going through is Jessica. And she's gone.

"Daddy," I say as he walks me into my room and I drop my bag on the floor, "there's something I need to talk to you about, before we go to Kol Nidrei. I need to ask your forgiveness for something."

I sit down on the bed, and my father follows, then brushes some hair out of my face, and asks, "What is it, sweetie?"

And I tell him.

I tell him about high school, and being confused about why girls only dated boys, and how I wanted to ask someone out loud - until one day in the locker room after tennis practice, a couple of freshmen lingered in the shower a little too long, and some teammates terrorized them by calling them dykes and throwing their clothes in the toilet - and then I didn't want to ask out loud anymore.

I tell him about the parties in both high school and college where maybe I was getting used by some girl who wanted to attract a guy by kissing another girl to show how open-minded or naughty she was - but at least I was using her back to experience something I was too terrified to attempt to experience in any other way.

I tell him about the crushes I had in college on a few of my sorority sisters, on my psychology T.A., on the tall blonde waitress at Scorpion's - and the crushes I've had after college, on the secretary I shared at the publishing company, on my friend Molly, on the scoop girl at Cold Stone Creamery, even a little bit of one on Kelly, the Bar's resident cougar.

And then I tell him about Jessica. I tell him everything about our last night together. I tell him how much I miss her, and how stupid I feel not realizing how strongly I felt about her until it was time for her to leave, and how angry I am with her for showing me how beautiful something can be and then taking it away from me. I tell him that I'm pretty sure I'm not in love with her, it was just shitty, shitty timing and thoughtless execution. And God bless him, he looks me straight in the eye as I'm telling him these things fathers probably don't want to know about their daughters, and he keeps brushing the hair out of my face, and he keeps wiping my tears away.

"I'm sorry I never told you, Daddy, I wanted to, but I didn't know how," I say, and I finally just collapse against his chest sobbing while he holds me.

He holds me there for several minutes, until finally I've calmed down, and I've caught my breath. He's been completely quiet the entire time, not saying a single word. Until finally, he leans his head down and whispers in my ear, very quietly, "Anybody - any man, any woman - would be lucky to have you."

And I start crying again.

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