when you get home, your father is waiting in the kitchen, wearing his gray sweatshirt and half-inch-thick glasses. the day’s irritations already lining his face, dragging his eyebrows towards his mouth. you say hello, make sure not to meet his eyes. he points wordlessly at his cheek and you stretch up to kiss it, the feathery whisper of a smashed bird. for him, love is connected at the ribs with fear, with control. he’s wrung every drop of forced affection from you since before your legs could stand on their own, in every burning scalp, in every blotched-red, stinging cheek. you wonder if he really can’t sense the barrier of quiet, wary unease you wear just for him. or if he can, and forces his way in anyway. your father sits you down to eat dinner. you speak only in yeses, no’s, and I don’t know’s. how you’ve mastered the art of binding your own tongue. on your way to bed, light splays out from the crack under his bedroom door. you can hear a woman’s voice inside, faint and soothing. you tell yourself it must be the tv. back away and creep silently to your room— expertly, instinctively. like only years of experience can teach you how.