Lessons

Note: This is my entry for Thordora’s Pulsate Olympics-April 2007. This event is sponsored by GNM Parents.

When she was five years old he taught her how to shoot a gun. It was shiny and heavy in her small hands and she could barely lift it. He stood behind her to steady her body from the impact of the blast. He showed her how to close one eye and look straight down the barrel, how to pull the trigger and pierce the heart of an aluminum can with one clean shot.

When she was seven he taught her to never fear the ocean–to walk directly into the waves without flinching. He carried her into the breakers, her arms and legs flailing in protest. He showed her how to let her body go limp and give in to the power of the sea, the bitter taste of salt on her tongue, and its sting burning in her nostrils.

When she was eleven, he taught her to walk the city streets with her head high, always moving and anticipating possible danger. He showed her how to avert her eyes from beggars and thieves and how to use her voice, her elbows, her fingernails if she were threatened.

He taught her to always ask questions, to expect no easy answers. He told her the story of Christ, the prophecies and the miracles, and death by crucifixion. He read her passages from the Holy Book, and the lump in her throat she could not swallow reminded her of all the commandments she knew she would break.

When she turned fifteen he taught her how to drive, to push the gas and let the clutch out slow. He taught her to drive on ice, testing the brakes and turning towards the skid.

He taught her to say “please” and “thank you” and to address her elders as “sir” and “ma’am”.

He taught her about manipulation, and what a man will do to use a woman. He taught her that love was sacred, and to think more with her head than with her heart.

He taught her to be forgiving and peacful–to turn the other cheek and to be humble and kind.

He showed her a father’s love and promised her that one day she’d understand.

And when she grew into a woman, she refused to touch a gun, for she had learned that something as small as a bullet could blow a grown man to the ground and stop his heart in an instant.

She became terrified of the ocean when she realized how easy it could turn on her.

She learned that beggars and thieves were only people in need, and she pulled dollar bills and cigarettes out of her pockets at every opportunity.

She quickly learned that God had betrayed her, and her faith in Jesus dwindled.

She drove recklessly, discovering that chance and risk were more exciting than caution and care.

She learned that her elders did not always deserve to be addressed with respect, and she studied them carefully before treating them with any regard.

She allowed herself to be used, and in turn, learned the art of manipulation. She was bitter and resentful, and her cheek would never turn.

And when she was lying in a hospital bed, awaiting the arrival of her firstborn son, she thought of all the things she would teach him–all the things her father hadn’t. She would tell him about the horror of war, and guns and hate, and how the mind held enough power to smother the irrationality of violence. She would teach him to live passionately, to be human enough to make foolish mistakes for the sake of love. She would tell him he would not find God in the pages of the Bible, or in a brick building filled with pews and hymnals. He might not even find him at all. Either way, it would be okay.

And when she finally pushed him into the world, she saw his small pink body spitting and gasping for his first breath. She knew then that nothing she could tell him or teach him would ever compare to the love she had to show him. It was bursting inside of her, and she could feel it everywhere, and she promised him that one day he would understand.

-RL, 1998

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5 Responses to “Lessons”


  1. 1 Lance January 11, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Wow, that’s really good!

  2. 2 Louisa January 11, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Nice.
    He taught you to shoot at 5????
    Holy crap.

  3. 3 haenakim January 16, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for the beautiful writing! I really liked it.


  1. 1 Event! Teach Your Children Well-Entries « Spin Me I Pulsate Trackback on April 16, 2007 at 10:25 pm

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