originally published in Keyhole Magazine online

You shall be well-mannered and say “May I” and “Thank you” and “Please”.

You shall be careful. You shall bathe your hands in hand sanitizer gel. You shall look both ways, and then look once more, before crossing the clear street. You shall keep your distance from unleashed dogs.

You shall not leave your shoes in the hallway, for this stirs up my anger, which can ignite quickly, like grapevine fires.

Obey and respect your mother, who loves you. When visiting your real mother in Santa Ana you shall not listen to a word she says about me, for she is a liar and her thoughts are evil all the time.

You shall not curse.

You shall not do as the Horgan girls do.

You shall not date boys. You shall not hold their hands or kiss their faces or engage in any flirtation or sexual immorality or sexual impurity with them. You shall not look at a boy lustfully. You shall have no friends except those born to be women. This law is binding until you reach twenty-seven years of age.

You shall dress modestly.

You shall not demand attention. You shall be a quiet, reserved child.

You shall be fluent in French and Italian, as I am. You shall not travel overseas. You shall not cross state lines. You shall never be too far from home.

You shall not dwell on what might have been.

You shall forever cherish that week at the lake. How the leaves changed color and fell and decorated the earth. You said from the backseat, God must be passing through.

You shall learn this pattern: ignore then forget, ignore then forget, ignore, ignore. This will help you in your dealings with men.

You shall smile when in my company. You shall take an interest in what I say. You shall love me. You shall try, try.

If you must cry, then you shall do this in your room with the door closed. Play music. Wash your face afterwards. You shall not come to me in tears unless there is blood.

You shall want nothing more than for a man to look upon you and declare that you are beautiful.

You shall prefer loneliness to company. You shall be demanding of everyone. You shall be hated on account of me. You shall go a month without saying a word. You shall golf on Sundays. You shall enjoy running before the coming day, when streets are cold and house windows are painted black. You shall find peace in watching stingrays swim. You shall sometimes wander up to houses and admire their long driveways.

You shall not be late. You shall not be quick to forgive, or forget. You shall not ignore my calls. You shall not say to friends, My father is dead. You shall not love any one man for very long.

Remember our first walk together in untouched snow. Remember how your boots were enveloped in white. Remember how you looked up to see my face and saw only stalks of sunlight.