“Shame” by Alex Haber

I wear my father’s guilt like a necklace around my throat. An unwanted gift passed down.

I can feel it in the shower, scrubbing until my skin turns pink. It digs into me when I’m driving to work, when I’m sitting in the backyard, my children playing games at my feet. I see it reflecting in their eyes, looking up at me with their tiny silent mouths, words passing endlessly through.

Once you tried to take it off me. I choked. You were naked, dangling awkwardly, when we were nineteen. The sun was peeking in behind you, through the open blinds, and it was funny the way you stood there, all bones, so completely white and unshy. I thought of neighbors looking in, the thin crevice of your hairless backside, so proud, and it made me smile through closed lips. But when you tried to take it off me, I swallowed that curiosity, felt it tear through the walls of my insides.

And the handprint on your face is the frame I’ve seen every man through since.

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