Dixons Don't Cry
I was with my dad from the age of seven and up. He and my mom were never married; it was really just a one night stand. I was a complete surprise. Dad didn’t know about me until my seventh birthday. I woke up that day and got dressed in a pair of jeans and a plain white shirt with my small, multicolored patch work sweater from the thrift store, and a pair of dirty busted sneakers; it was my nicest outfit. I remember going into the kitchen to see her staring blankly at the wall with a bottle of ‘adult’s drink’ in her hands, the phone lying next to her on the couch. I had called for her, and without looking towards me, she told me to pack my things, most of them, and so I did—half of my clothes, my green and blue dotted blanket, and my only toy, a raggedy doll. All of those possessions stuffed into a duffle bag that my mom gave me, and my backpack on my shoulders with a single water bottle, coloring books, crayons, and a letter in an envelope that mom had given to me for ‘someone’.
I remember how she drove without speaking in her old, beat up car. Her hair was tied back from her face, and now from my memory, I can really see how tired she actually looked, and how sick she was. “Momma, where are we going?” I had asked. She didn’t answer. A surprise for my birthday was the only explanation I could think of for her silence.
We pulled up to a house after an hour of driving, right near the woods. There wasn’t much of anything near it. Nothing that looked ready for my birthday, and there were no cars- nobody was home. Mom stopped the car in front of the house and got out, coming around to my side and opening the door. She gave me a weak smile and grabbed my duffle, and I hopped out of the car behind her, my curls flaring wildly around me as I shook my hair out like a dog.
“You’re gonna go inside and color, okay? You’ll probably be alone for a few hours, baby, but someone will come, and you’re going to give them the letter, okay?” She told me. I had nodded and smiled happily. There would be a surprise after all! She led me up to the porch and took a key from under the mat, and unlocked the door.
The house smelled weird, and didn’t have much in it. It reminded me of my house too, since mom didn’t have much furniture either. She grabbed some bags of white stuff off of the table, and left the room. I stood there, shifting my weight, until I decided to sit on the ground in front of the coffee table and color. I was in the middle of coloring a cat purple when mom came back in, her eyes a little red. She came over to me and kissed my head and say goodbye, and I waved as she left the house. I heard the click of the lock behind her, and I turned back to my coloring books.
I colored for about an hour, played with my doll for another hour, running around the living room and playing pretend, and then colored more. I was in the middle of another coloring about four in the afternoon when the door unlocked and a man came in. He clambered in the room and went towards the living room where I was, and his eyes met mine. He jumped back in surprise. I figured this was the ‘someone’ Mom was talking about and grabbed the envelope and ran and handed it to the man shyly. He opened it and read it, glancing at me with a weird face every so often.
He lowered the letter and gave me an angry look, and I looked up in shock at his mad face. I didn’t know what I did wrong. Finally after a minute of him looking at me, he growled out,” Wha’s ya name? How ol’ are ya?”
“C-Contessa May Harris, sir, I’m seven today,” I told him, stuttering a bit at his harsh tone. The fear in my voice had made him relax a bit. After a phone call, he motioned for me to sit back down, and he sat in the chair. That night he didn’t say much, he just watched me color, and kept rereading the letter Mom wrote.
“Looky! See, I colored this one purple!” I was explaining to the man happily as I flipped through my book, and the door opened again. I turned my head to see another man that looked like the first. He stared at me in surprise much like the first man.
“This really ya daughta?” He croaked out, and I turned in shock to the man sitting in the chair, who simply nodded.
That night before I went to bed, I learned that the men were my father and my uncle, and that my mother left me with my dad. Apparently, she had cancer and was dying, and I had started crying, only to be told to stop crying and to get to bed on the couch. She wasn’t coming back for me, and expected my dad to take care of me. A month later after living with my… my dad, she died. I didn’t cry this time- Dixons didn’t cry, and I was a Dixon now. I remember my dad telling me that Contessa was an old lady’s name, and said he was gonna call me Tessa, his brother agreed.
It didn’t take me long to call him my daddy, as I was still young. Still, it was tough living with him as a kid. He was nice sometimes, and then mean other days. He would drop me off at school when it started up again, and then the other man- my uncle, would pick me up from school when he wasn’t working. Daddy would be gone for days sometime, and when my uncle came home to find me hungry and trying not to cry because, and I told him, Dixons don’t cry, he took me away from the house and I stayed with him for two months, even though my dad screamed at him to get me back. After two months, I heard daddy say he was ‘clean’, and I got to go back. I had never been hugged so hard, and he apologized for whatever he had done (I didn’t know about drugs.)
At school it was weird, because I had to go and tell everybody my name wasn’t Harris, but Dixon now. The rest of my belongings ended up in a spare room at home, and my clothes were still old and dirtier than the other kids, and they looked at me weird for them. After the school called the police and said I looked like I wasn’t being taken care of, and the police showed up to my new home, my dad almost got arrested for trying to punch a cop, but my uncle stopped him. They asked me if I felt safe here, and I had looked at my dad, and saw how angry he looked that the cops were trying to take me. And so I lied, and told them yes, and started to fake cry and ran up and hugged my dad’s leg. They left, and after that, things changed.
I grew up tough. I learned the hard truth about my mother, how she did drugs, and that’s what killed her. I was scared Daddy would die too after I learned that was what he did. He stopped doing it as frequently, but I knew he did often. He was angry and stupid when he was on drugs, and I’d confine myself to my room when I knew drugs came to play with the alcohol. I loved him though- he and my uncle were all I had left.
As I grew up and learned, I knew that my daddy wasn't the best daddy, or even a great one at that. He was on drugs and drank too much, and often took his anger out on me during these times by yelling. When his "friends" from Skeeter's--the local bar-- would be over, I'd be at my uncle's house until they were all gone and I'd return to help my uncle clean up the mess, and help get Daddy cleaned up (usually covered in booze and puke and powder) and in bed.
But those were the times when he was on a fix or pushed his drinking limits to forget his name- like after he lost a job or was stressed. When he wasn't on anything, he was normal, even kind. He would take me for spins on his motorcycle starting at nine, and he taught me to shoot at eleven. I remember how proud he was when I hit the target near dead center every time when I was fourteen. He took me to the stores and bought me treats, bought me a knife for my twelfth birthday, and a new pair of combat books for camping and hunting when I was fifteen.
My uncle was there too, during these times. He was alone all the time and hardly smiled, but somehow I managed to make him happy. He taught me to shoot his crossbow (damn that thing knocked me flat the first time I shot it at thirteen) and how to track (he was much more patient with me than Daddy). He took me to dinner when dad was on a binger, and took me dress shopping for my graduation. I never wore dresses, but he did tear up seeing me in the stupid, ugly blue dress the store clerk suggested. It didn't have a pocket for my hunting knife, and had too many ruffles, so I didn't like it. We bought it anyways.
My dad and my uncle taught me everything they knew: hunting, skinning, fishing, tracking, surviving. I loved the time I got to spend with them that was normal, when Daddy wasn't hopped up on something. When he missed half of my graduation because he got piss drunk the night before and never came home, I nearly broke down in tears, ready to rip the stupid cap off my head in front of everybody. It was an ugly yellow color, like piss from a sick dog. They were about to call my name. I could see my uncle, sitting right near the front, one seat opened next to him, the seat that my dad was supposed to sit in.
I remember how that moment went, when they called my name. "Contessa May Dixon," our principal said. I stood up and made my way up the steps, near tears, only stopping them because Dixons didn't cry. I could hear my uncle's whoops, but amongst the crowd was a loud whistle, the signal to look his way when we were hunting, or to find him. It was my daddy. I could immediately spot him running through and entering his seat next to my uncle.
He looked messy, but had managed to throw on a dress shirt, so I didn't care. I just remember starting to cry with a ridiculous smile on my face even though Dixons don't cry, but I couldn't help it. He looked tired, and horrible, but he was there. I waved to them as they whooped and made other parents look at them strangely- the rich always tend to do that to the backwoods folk.
After receiving my diploma, and throwing up my cap with everybody else, I remember running to find my small family of two. I launched myself immediately into my daddy's arms. He held me close, his fingers digging into my wild curls, his face in my neck.
"Ya look so preetty up thur' Tessa," Daddy told me, pulling back to look at me.
I felt a slap on my back from my uncle. He gave me his thin lipped smile and praised," Congrats Tess, ya did good. Les' go outta eat, where ya wanna go?"
"How 'bout Marian's, Uncle Daryl?" I had suggested, craving the delicious homemade chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, maybe with the berry pie if we had the money. Uncle nodded and ruffled my hair.
He looked to my dad. “Soun’ good Merle?” My dad nodded. He pulled me close again before turning me to face him, his hands on my shoulders.
I looked to my dad, and he wiped the tears off my face. ”I’m sorry, Tessa, I almost missed this for you. I’ll stop, I promise,” he spoke softly to me, and the look in his blue eyes made me cry again, and I nodded, fully believing. He wiped my tears again and stood up, slapping my back. "Now, no cryin' girlie! Ya'r a Dixon, and Dixons don't cry like pussies!" He said this in his loud, booming voice, which turned many heads.
Before my dad could say anything, I shouted out to them," Whaddu lookin' at!"
They gave me looks before turning away. I had inherited/learned the Dixon temper.
My dad laughed hard and slapped my back, making me lurch forward only slightly, since I was so used to it. "Atta' girl! True Dixon, my daughta'!"
Indeed I was. Indeed I was.