I grew up with the habit of confusing
yelling with love,
hitting as a form of respect
and insults masked as compassion.
At the time, it seemed as though he did, too.
Until he wasn’t yelling at me out of love,
or hitting me out of respect
or insulting me out of compassion anymore.
He did these things out of necessity.
Because my mom wasn’t at home all the time
and my sister knew how to hide.
I was alone, clutching my cheek from the heat of his hand.
Did I feel love or devastation?
I’m still not sure, even after so many years have passed,
which is why I confuse words of anger with kindness.
Because I have grown up to look for men who are exactly like my father.