I have never been able to cry. Not properly. Not in the cathartic, ‘just let it all out’ sort of way.
Sometimes, late at night, my face might scrunch a little, the sides of my mouth might downturn just enough for you to tell I’m sad. And maybe, just maybe, I might shed a couple silent tears. Everyone tells me I will feel better after a good cry. I always feel worse.
I’ve often wondered why I can’t cry.
I think it’s because of what I feel.
I think that’s the key. I am ashamed of it. Of being so weak.
I guess I have you to thank for that.
Maybe you weren’t sure how to raise a child. Maybe you did the best you could.
I fell down the stairs at age 8. I ripped open my left leg. I still have the scar. You told me not to be so clumsy.
They would say hurtful things to me at school. You’d tell me to man up and stand up to them. Be a good boy, a strong boy. Then berate me for being so stupid when I came home with a broken nose.
I know I cried as a child. I can still remember the tears. The hot sensation. The disappointment on your face. The sting of the backside of your hand on my face.
I tried to be strong.
I tried to be good.
I tried so hard to be good in school, to make friends you approved of.
I tried so hard to be the son you wanted.
I didn’t even defend myself when you said you wished I’d been a boy.
I didn’t even cry when mom died.
That was the only thing that kept me going.
The only thing that stopped me from killing myself.
That stopped me from telling anyone about the rapes.
I couldn’t bear how ashamed of me you’d be. How you would never tell anyone what happened to your frail daughter. How weak I would be, to just let something like that happen to me.
I joined the military, just like you wanted. I became the good soldier boy, just like you wanted.
I tried so hard.
I tried so hard to not be the daughter you never wanted.
Please don’t hate me when I die here.
Mae Mercer was killed in combat at the age of 22. Her father did not attend her funeral.