“Honestly, I think it looks ridiculous on you,” his father says. The boy stands there, frozen as his smile. He’d rather die than show his father tears. He sat on his father’s lap once. Once was all it took, because the boy learned fast. “Do you love me, Daddy?” The reply came without hesitation. “Only when you’re good”. He couldn’t understand what kind of man would do that to a boy for whom love is no question. He looks over at the fathers hugging their kids and wonders why his daddy doesn’t. For a long time, he thought it was because he was bad. There are flashes of vicious stabs of forks at steaming dinners followed by disgusted proclamations of it being raw or tasteless. Even the occasional compliment leaves an unspoken slap ringing in the air. The boy is grown now. His father has withered. The boy pities him, but no longer fears him. He visits his parents one day and hugs his mom. His father, with desperation in his eyes, asks for one too. The boy, though now a man, hugs his father awkwardly, and he finds himself choking back tears again as the words “Where have you been, Daddy?” die unspoken on his lips.

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