By Jesse Parent
My daughter tells me she wants to date
and I shrug.
She tells me the name of her girlfriend
and I shrug again.
She tells me I have to be careful
because her girlfriend’s parents don’t know she’s gay.
And I pause.
My daughter tells me her parents are religious
and I want to tell her “so am I” and “that shouldn’t matter”
But I can’t deny that while religion doesn’t build the closet door
it does tend to supply the lumber.
To plane it straight.
After all, Jesus was a carpenter’s son
and knows the many uses of wood.
How to hang plumb.
And here I reach the point of parental dilemma
I am at the crossroad where
I need to be honest with this girl’s parents
and where she needs to survive.
My daughter praying to crossed timber
on an atheist’s rosary that the door
will open and her girlfriend will be
where she last saw her,
alive and well hidden under a heap of clothes
that her parents bought for her.
I live a thousand lifetimes in this decade of Hail Marys
where my daughter does not go to prom
because her girlfriend has to go with a boy
where she is called an “aunt” or “special friend”
where she is pulled inside the door of someone else’s closet.
Applies another coat of varnish and lacquer
until she blurs a little more every day.
And when I meet the parents,
I smile like a stack of toothpicks,
choose her survival over truth,
shake their hands and feel for splinters and callouses.
But I say a silent prayer, a vow,
to put every door in my own home into a wood chipper
until my daughter feels safe
until she falls in love with the smell of sawdust.