A confession

Marlena Chertock

“You remind me of daddy. I hate him.”
She stops because she’s shaking so much she can’t speak.
“This makes sense,” you say, trying to make

sense of it. You were yelled at as children,
even now your dad feels the need to always be right,
like the old, broken homemade video
that only plays the part where you run along the fence
in the backyard, trying to keep up with the German shepherd next door,
he barks and you laugh, both of you wearing red bandanas.
Your dad always sat you down, stood over you
and lectured “Don’t listen to your mom, don’t
let her brainwash you.” Don’t let him brainwash you.

“It makes sense,” you say. It surfaced in each of you differently:
She makes up reasons she can’t go over his house, “I have work,”
she stays after school, has friends, she misses seeing your younger brother growing up,
she thinks of mannerisms negatively, connects them to him.
You see your dad. You feel bad if you don’t
go over his house. You need to
see your brother, watch him change like you watched your sister, you have that older sister tug.
You remain complacent so you don’t set him off, like a glass that slips through your fingers.

“He’ll never change,” she says, sure of herself.
You’re not sure of much. Maybe he will. You vow
you’ll take more bike rides and walks with him, ask him to relate to you as an adult.

Last month he called you up, talked to you for longer than the usual five minutes, showed you the document he signed at the bank, giving you legal right to his money, the house. He pulled it out of the filing cabinet in his basement office, the drawer where he keeps all the papers about his bank account, assets, and the number he is to the government, your birth certificates and passports, and an old newspaper article.

“Read the first part,” he said, the lead, you know, as a journalism major. An article from 1997, when he took you and your sister to a fire department fair. The reporter wrote you gazed up at the siren’s lights, while he said, “Watch, they’re going to take the top off the car now.” But you hadn’t looked.

“I can’t trust Bob anymore,” he said of his brother, who had the right before you, 10 years older, forgetful and recently separated from his girlfriend of 23 years. He slipped the document back in the folder labeled assets and shut the drawer.

He told you not to tell your sister, not to share the cabinet’s contents. You haven’t yet.


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