when i am 11 years old my father declares that the parking lot smells a lot like marijuana
to say that i am scandalized would be
an understatement.

you see
i was the prude love child of my middle school ‘DARE’ program
which meant that impressionable children like me were taught that if you take
drugs you become a very
bad, bad man

so when my father insinuates that he knows this smell
i judge him to be a evil man
and tell him to confess immediately
or i will run away from home!

he laughs, says
“the things you will never know about my past”

i have never asked my father who he dated before my mother.
i have never asked him about his first kiss.
i do not know what he hoped his life would look like one day
and whether it came true.

you see there is this thing that happens
when you call someone a father
he ceases to become a person and instead becomes a punch line
for everything that you hate about yourself

he becomes a parable
a story that begins with your birth.
as if on that day two people are born
everything he is before this moment is now history
his story

there is this thing that happens when you are trans
where you know you are not a man because
you know you are not your fathers son
and on that day you tell him that
he becomes everything you are running away from
so being trans is another way of announcing
“i am running away from home”

i have never asked my father what it was like to become history
what it felt like to coil thirty years of memory
and hide it inside your gut
so that every time you laugh
you remember what it felt like
to be young again

. . .

there is a VCR tape in the living room drawer
fast forward until you get to the point where a person
who looks like me if i hadn’t have run away from man
walks out of the door in next to a woman radiant enough to be the sunrise when i first opened my eyes
this is my parents wedding video

in this shot
my father’s friend tells him that he can no longer be a rebel
now that he’s a married man

this is how i discover that my father used to a rebel

when i meet his friends from college they say
that he spent most of his time with karl marx
and a dream of a decolonized india
they tell me i look just like him
and i want to correct them say no i’m not a man
i mean i’m not that man

my father laughs at me in the video the same way
he will fifteen years later in a parking lot
the same way he does over break
when i tell him that i am an activist
and use words like ‘revolution’ and ‘now’
and he tells me that we need incremental change

so i accuse him of being middle class liberal
who doesn’t want to admit that he believes in his property
more than he believes in his people
and he tells me
that there is this thing that happens to your body
when you grow older and begin to
recognize that you are not invincible

which is i think my father’s way of admitting
that he was never invincible
that his hands were so sweaty from being afraid of
all of the ways that i looked like him
that he could never quite
hold on to me

i think this is my father’s way of saying
there are things i had to give up
in order to have you

. . .

i gained the confidence to yell on the streets
because i learned how to fight my father

i have been shouting at him for the past six years
and calling it a relationship instead of a riot
because maybe that’s my way of admitting that
i see myself in the flames
and maybe
that makes all of the difference.

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