The first time I saw my dad after a year and a half, he was wearing a forest-green jumpsuit and handcuffs.
I had stood, trembling, at the courtroom door before taking my place in the front row on the prosecutor’s side. The bailiff opened a bolted door and in walked my dad. I abruptly sat as he walked by clearly intent on not looking at me. My half-sister sat in the front, not even 15 feet from the man who had ruined our lives. My own flesh and blood, the man who had acted as my half-sister’s father, sat stone-faced.
The judge walked in and everyone stood. Then the trial began. The district attorney sat next to my sister. Behind them, I was wedged between two of her best friends. On the defendant’s side, my dad sat beside his lawyer. Behind was my stepmom and others I had known my whole life as family. His family, to be exact.
The judge made a few opening remarks and gave the floor to the district attorney, who read a statement from my mother. I didn’t listen too hard because I knew if I did I would start crying. After the D.A. read the letter, my half-sister spoke. When she started her sentence with “Mr. X.,” my tears started to come. I blinked them back, but I had finally realized this was all real. I don’t know what I had expected her to call him. Certainly not Dad, which she had been doing for the past 14 years of her life, but hearing that formal title, I felt so isolated. That was my last name, that was my dad. I didn’t know how to react. Apparently, neither did my dad; he just sat there facing straight ahead, barely blinking.
When he finally spoke, he faced my half-sister and started uttering an extremely pathetic apology. Any apology would have been insufficient at this point, but his two-minute speech wasn’t very moving.
My sister did something I know she had wanted to do for a long time - ignore him. This was something she could never do in the past. She couldn’t ignore him while he was telling her to take off her clothes. She couldn’t ignore him when he took pictures of her. She couldn’t ignore the pictures he made her look at of children, some as young as six, in degrading poses. And she couldn’t ignore it when he told her to copy those poses. If she did ignore what he said, she would get hit.
No one could ignore what was happening at this point, either. Not the judge, as he was shown some of these pictures. Not my stepmom as she cried. And finally, I couldn’t ignore what had happened any longer and I started crying. As the judge handed down a sentence of 18 years in prison, my dad couldn’t ignore it, either. He was finally being punished for what he had done.
As my dad was escorted out of the courtroom, my sister came to me and we left the room crying and holding hands.
Now, six years later, I’m still ignoring him. One parole hearing has come and gone and another is looming. I chose not to write a letter to the parole board for the first hearing and am not planning to for the second. I feel like I should continue with my life and not dwell on what happened. I’ve suffered enough because of him, and I don’t think he is worth more of my time. A lot of people wonder why I don’t write something to try to keep him in jail. They think that six years in prison isn’t long enough for the lifetime of suffering my family has endured. I don’t know why I don’t want to write anything. Sometimes I feel like I’m still pretending it didn’t happen. Other times I feel like I just want to go on with my life and as long as he doesn’t bother me, I don’t care what happens to him. Regardless of the reason, I continue my original plan of ignoring him. It took me 10 years to do it, and now that I can do it successfully, I don’t want to try to stop. If I let him creep back into my life, I don’t know if I could push him away a second time.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.