Before seeing your daddy you wait with the other girls who have criminal daddies and you size them up. Your nose doesn’t hide like theirs does, doesn’t hang down in shame. It dangles smack in the middle of your face like a lifelong promise. You’re proud of your strident, unapologetic nose, the nose you inherited from him.
“You all waitin’ to dance with your bad daddies too?” one of the droopy girls says. You aren’t interested in bonding with fools. You wonder if these girls wake up to the sight of a mother pulling crust from her eyes, saying, what the hell is this stuff that settles here? Do you think it’s made of tears?
What you’re excited about is how you’ll look to your daddy, now, at this age, with women in rare supply. Girls who wait to be let inside a jail to dance in the arms of their criminal daddies should think about these things. You know that getting inside the jail and seeing your daddy will make you think about the feral cats you’ve been feeding in your car since you turned sixteen. That dancing with him will help to keep them alive.
The day your daddy left for prison he held you high up above his head and loved you like a thousand criminal daddies. Raised you to the tips of his shoulders and showed you how, exactly how, to touch the ceiling and that he wasn’t a fucking criminal, okay? That is the daddy you trust. The one you’ve been dancing with forever. You recall his sharp black stubble, his bigness. How his confidence grew against your smallness.
You can feel his fingertips spinning the dial.
Hey daddy, you say to your face in the mirror, applying lipstick, smiling like a criminal daughter. I’m stealing you back. You’ve already locked me up.