PRISM 53:3 launches in April! The issue features the three winners of our non-fiction contest, as well as poetry by Nora Gould and Evelyn Lau, and fiction by Scott Nadelson (just to name a few highlights). Can’t wait to read it? Here’s an excerpt from Diane Bracuk’s grand-prize winning non-fiction piece, “Doughnut Eaters.”
Stepping out onto my front porch one night to take my dog out for his evening walk, I became transfixed by the sight of the man who lived across the street from me. He was heading to his car to pick up his teenaged daughter—something I knew he did regularly from one of the few pleasantries I had exchanged with his wife since moving to this new neighbourhood after my divorce three months ago. Mist, thick from a day of solid drizzle, rose up from the sidewalks, blurring the brown-brick houses. Half a block away, they all dissolved into a long, black tunnel, giving the impression that this street—still unfamiliar to me, and empty except for this man and me—could lead anywhere.
He didn’t see me on the porch, standing absolutely still, watching him. A tall, languid man in his mid-forties, he strolled to his car, one hand in the pocket of his khaki shorts, the other jiggling car keys. His head was lowered. Preoccupied, I wondered? Or with the affectionate, mock-exasperation of the duty-bound father?
An unexpected wave of bitter longing hit me. Mine had been a long, combative marriage, my emotions frozen to deal with my husband’s hair-trigger temper, a switchblade that could snap out at any time. My therapist had warned me that after I left my husband, and broke through the ice-hold of my defenses, other, long-buried emotions would well up. This would release the hurt of my damaged inner child, she explained, which made me feel like such a cliché that I stopped seeing her.
The man’s car was parked on my side of the street, a few doors down from me. Why wasn’t he glancing up at me, when surely he had to be aware of the intensity of my gaze, my whole being focused on him? “He never does things around the house, but he’ll take the kids anywhere or pick them up,” his wife had told me during one of our brief exchanges. “My father never picked me up,” I wanted to snap back. “In fact, I wouldn’t have dared ask him because it wasn’t allowed.”
Wasn’t allowed. Such a whiney voice in my head, such an aggrieved, hard-done-by voice. One that I held in check because I was turning fifty in a month, and was embarrassed to be dredging up childhood wounds. The admission also seemed so bizarre, an aberration of the natural father/daughter relationship that had set the embattled tone for my marriage, and would probably strike again when I became ready for another relationship.
Even if a marriage is only a shell, a shell still offers protection, I had written in my journal. And here I was, resentful for feeling stripped so bare, so suddenly and irrationally vulnerable, just by watching this man.
What would it feel like to be his daughter? To have love that you could never doubt? That was just there, like air? That wouldn’t be retracted if you did something wrong. Used the wrong tone of voice. Called him far too late, as this daughter had likely just done, laughing, daring to laugh at the inconvenience she was causing him by demanding, “Hey Dad. Can you pick me up?”
Still unaware of me, he inserted his key into the car door.
Look at me, I thought. See me. Walk towards me. Talk to me. Turn around.
But he didn’t. And in his easy walk, that languid, mock-exasperated, put-upon father look, I saw all that had been denied me, all that would be denied. A naturally protective parental love, one that needed to be certain of a daughter’s safety on a foggy night like this, when a person could suddenly dissolve into the blackness.
Pick up a copy of PRISM 53:3 to read the full piece!