There was a day in primary school when my teacher sidled over to me and stood quietly by my desk.
For a moment, a little zip of pure panic traveled straight from my stomach to the tips of my toes in their black leather school shoes.
All because I feared that the intricate design of swirls and daises I’d been covertly scrawling on the underside of desk in black pen (courtesy of my newly acquired Pen License) had finally been discovered. Or maybe this woman had somehow cottoned on to the fact that the book I’d been unable to finish in reading hour was now secretly stashed in my school bag, because I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to see how it ended.
(Side-note: I ended up returning that damn book straight to the shelf after this encounter, learning from a very young age that not everyone has an inner rebel, some of us just have inner goody-goody scaredy cats.)
But it turned out she wasn’t there to blow the lid off my villainous deeds, but instead to excuse me from the activity that had the rest of my classmates busily bent over their desks.
They were all making Father’s Day cards, gluing and cutting and carefully drawing out wonky tool boxes, misshapen footballs and even the odd bow tie.
She kindly told me I didn’t have to do what the other kids were all doing, that I didn’t have to clumsily fold a piece of coloured paper for a distant man, who would never unfold it.
She wondered if I wanted to make something for my lovely mum, or was there maybe a kindly uncle in the picture who would enjoy this feat of childhood craft? Or perhaps I’d just like to curl back up in the reading corner and wait out the hour alone tucked in there? (Oh God, she did know about the thieved book).
I realised then that she was trying to protect me, she expected me to be sad, or confused or broken at the thought that I had no one to deliver a gaudy card to.
But I didn’t feel any of those things, and to be honest, I never really had. To me, not having a father was the natural state of things, much like brushing my teeth in the morning or being convinced each night that a monster was lying beneath my bed, and if I dared to move even a muscle he would strike and devour me whole.
I also learnt from a young age that in that same moment when people are offering you up sympathy for your fatherless state, they are also secretly dying to know the backstory to your situation.
I usually just like to let rip with the truth straight up, and tell them that my father was pushed off a cliff by my evil uncle, and then trampled to death by a herd of stampeding wildebeests.