My dad has called again, and this time there is a voicemail. This time, he says I haven’t heard from you in a while and I love you. He says, I want to know whether you’re okay, but it has been over a year and I am not sure that I am. The last communication between he and one of us was when he drunkenly told my sister that she was dead to him, so if that is the case, why does he think it is okay, now, to call me as though I am not her ally, as though it has ever not been the two of us against everyone else? As though the fight between them didn’t start when he said I was a disappointment. As though I have not heard all the things he has called me and accused me of. If that is the kind of love he has to offer, and I know full well by now that every kernel of love comes with a rope, then I do not want it. It is not safe here where there is no accountability,
and it has taken me thirty-three years to validate my pain. And yet, he also instilled guilt within me, so every time I hear his slurred voice, I am made a child again, haunted by ghosts of what could have been. Haunted, you see, first by his words and then by his absence. Haunted by everything I had yet to lose. So when he says I love you, he means, I need to hurt you. When he says, I want to know whether you are okay, he means, how dare you live outside of my reach? And I have dared to live, long ago deciding that I want to survive his love, not die from it. I will be his ghost. I will be his haunt, a forever reminder that his blurry breath no longer determines my fear.


xqN64w_T_400x400Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. She can be found on Twitter @ashthesapp, Instagram @ashsappley. Website: https://linktr.ee/ashsappley