TEN REAL LIFE CONFESSIONS
My father named me Lillian. I go by Lily. Why not Elizabeth or Olivia? It’s hard not to hate someone who named you Lillian. Whenever I asked him about it he’d laugh.
I didn’t hate his laugh. My earliest memories are of him in his red plaid shirt, laughing about the way his whole body jiggled when he swung his sledgehammer at the quarry.
But “Lillian”? Seriously? When I turned nine, I vowed that I would legally change my name to Lily. It would be my eighteenth birthday present to myself.
By the time I turned seven, I already hated getting in the car with him. It took forever to even get out of the driveway because he’d roll down the window to his truck—roll down, not electronic “to burn calories”—and start a conversation with anyone he saw.
It didn’t matter if we were running late. I’d nudge his shoulder and he would laugh, his whole body jiggled when he did that too, and say, “They’ll still be there in fifteen minutes” and transform the rest of the ride into a lecture on the importance of neighborliness.
And his window rolling didn’t stop when we got out of the driveway. He’d just stop in the middle of the road without as much as putting on a blinker, and have a conversation with a work buddy in a passing Ford. They’d sit and laugh, oblivious to the cars lining up behind them, beeping.
Of course, there was the waving too. If ever the stars in the sky cliché were applicable, it would be to how many times my father and I had this conversation:
“Dad, who is that?”
“I don’t know,” he said, his voice deep and cigar-stained.
“Then why did you wave?”
This may not seem like a big deal, but I rooted for the Ravens in the 2000 Superbowl. I couldn’t begin imagine anything better than watching my father trying to be polite to the guests at his Superbowl party as the Ravens dismantled his beloved Giants. The way he dragged his hands into his hair and pulled it up in, by then , graying masses.
And after that, I did worse: I became a Patriots fan. When we fought about what clothes I could wear when I was eleven, he grounded me. Instead of sneaking out, I snuck into his shrine. I would open the case of his Kerry Collins signed football and rub my fingers along the seams. I’d dig into the junk door until I found the key for his card display and open it. I would rub my hands together and build up a sweat. Then I’d take the cards that he loved most and I would rub the sweat into the corners a little bit at the time. Michael Strahan rookie cards. Tiki Barber after he solved his fumbling problems cards. None of them were mint anymore.
I still folded the low-cut shirts and the form-fitting sweat pants with things like “Juicy” written across the bottom into my backpack and change into them in the school bathroom.
I had my first boyfriend when I was fourteen. Jimmy Bollins. He came home with me on the bus everyday freshman year of high school. Mom wouldn’t get home until long after five because she ran the drama club at a private Boy’s School, and Dad wouldn’t get home until four. Jimmy and I spent the hour and a half we had discovering each other’s bodies.
He was the first boy to kiss me. The first boy to pull my shirt off. The first boy to unhook my bra. The first boy to reach down past the elastic strap and feel my dampness
When Dad walked in on us, he took Jimmy, shirtless and shaking with fear. The truck door slammed. The truck peeled out of the driveway.
Jimmy didn’t come over after that. He didn’t talk to me after that. Even in Honors English, where we sat next to each other, he didn’t bless me when I sneezed. All that was left of him was the gray Guns and Roses t-shirt I slept in for the next month and a half.
I started drinking with Sandra from across the street after that. We stole glasses of Dad’s aged Scotch. The one he claimed cost a thousand dollars a bottle. I’d spill it on purpose as I poured glasses so we could finish it as fast as possible.
I didn’t like the taste of it or the way the heat flushed and burnt my cheeks red. I liked how silly it made me. I like how angry it would make him.
I inherited Dad’s anger problem. People only see the goofy exterior and the neighborliness. They missed him smashing the television remote against the floor when Giant’s kicker Jay Feely missed the third of three game winning field goal attempts against the Seahawks in 2005 or the way that Jimmy Bollins looked at me after Dad drove him home.
I keep mine private too. After a bad day at work, I take my Wes Welker poster off the door and pound on it until my knuckles bleed. Afterward I put the poster back up to cover the brown spots in the once white door. Punching a door has a loud, satisfying crunch to it.
I didn’t go straight to the hospital when I heard about his heart attack. I stopped in at the bar downstairs and had a tall glass of their oldest scotch. I didn’t like scotch then. I don’t like scotch now.
I couldn’t have made it there on time either way.
I never changed my named to Lily.
Sometimes when the Patriots aren’t on, I’ll watch the Giants with a glass of scotch and scream at the TV. I won’t smoke cigars, but I wear his Giants hoody baked with the smell. It’s almost enough to make me wave to strangers.