When he asked me why I couldn't answer him, after he asked me why I had pushed that boy in school for calling me a name that I wouldn't repeat to anyone and he had waited with that stare that bragged that he knew exactly why and this was just some sort of exercise he was performing at best or just a mean trick at worst, I started to cry. Just turned red in the face and felt that horrible stretching tug in the middle parts of the cheeks while my other features all collapsed on themselves in some evacuation drill we must have learned as babies. And I screamed at him to stop looking at me like that, which he just took as another chance to prod. "Like What?" And me, ah the humiliation, "I don't know. Like an experiment. Like a lab rat." And his cold response colder, "Stop talking in cliches, child. You're better than that." And me, getting worse, "Stop it! Just stop. Just stop. Just. Just stop looking then." But not even as articulate as the words might seem right now, now that they are written down, compact, finite, with clear lines breaking around every sound. But gasps mixed in, and snot, my tongue retreating too, desperately curling back to my throat, my lips inflexible storm shutters drawn in at the siren of my wail. And his perpetual annoyance at my childishness, and my mother storming in, insisting that I was, in fact, a child, staring him down in a way I was getting better at not noticing though I wasn't there yet. A true warrior, that woman, fierce and precise, a wrangler of men and madness and he got up and went out to the car and left. Which means that it was he who caved, who cowarded out but I'm only starting to see that now. What I would have said, what I should have said, was this...Like a picture before it's the puzzle. Like my only purpose was always to be chopped up and then, insult, to be patched back together and all just for kicks. Like even the violent explosion of myself into pieces, glorious in its way, was NOT the point. That I'd be forever fragile, left to lie around on large flat objects so little pieces of me didn't accidentally crumble off and fall beneath a couch. Divisions would forever remain, and you could do it again at any time. Tear me up and start over. Same process, same result. And in that moment, there I was: Suddenly aware of the jigsaw warming up and staring me down. And not really understanding why it had to be this way. And you there with safety goggles on, deciding that you made me and that this was my purpose. And me wanting to find my own purpose. These things. What I could have said if I'd known the question was coming, with proper preparation, normalized sleep habits and good diet, hygiene the like. It was in me. The words. It just took me another 15 years to find. Old kook. Crazy old man. Where are you?