The best thing my dad ever did for me was fuck off to Iceland.


With him an ocean away, it’s easier to think about moving back to Las Vegas after graduation. I reluctantly called the place “home” for eight years before moving into an off-campus house with my partner and (supposedly) cutting all ties with Vegas, City of the Slot Machines As Soon As You Step Off The Plane.

Vegas and I don’t really agree with each other – I think it’s an abomination unto God that there’s so many private pools and green, green golf courses in the middle of the Mojave Desert; Vegas thinks that I need to loosen up, chill a little, maybe have a drink and a recently-legalized joint.

And now I’m headed back. It didn’t take long.

Moving back to Vegas still feels a little like crashing and burning, but at least with my dad out of the picture I’ll actually be able to spend time around family without worrying about when he’s going to go off and take his frustrations out on me. I think I might finally be big enough and old enough that he would think twice before hitting me, but who can be sure? Besides, he doesn’t need to hit me to hurt me. He’s proven that plenty of times.

… Vegas might be right about me needing to chill.

The thing is, I got very dramatically reminded of my limits over spring break. The second Tuesday of break I wound up in the emergency room of Grinnell Regional Medical, and in the small, horrible hours of Wednesday morning, I was transferred via ambulance to an inpatient psychiatric facility in Atlantic, Iowa, where I resided until getting picked up by a college driver on Monday afternoon. I spent the next week trying to catch up on all the stuff I was supposed to have been doing over break (there’s no internet in inpatient) while also dealing with a new med that very much wanted me to sleep for fourteen to sixteen hours a day. It’s hard, after that, to think of what I’m doing as anything other than crashing and burning, when part of the reason I’m moving back to Vegas is because I don’t trust myself to do well in a new city without anyone to contact in an inevitable emergency.

It’s hard not to wonder if I would still be as dramatically ill if I hadn’t grown up with an abusive dad.

There are some good things about moving to Vegas. I like my mom. I like spending time with her. I like my mom’s cats, and I like spending time with them. My brother’s okay, I guess. The mountains are beautiful – I’m not sure, even after four years at Grinnell, that I ever got used to a flat horizon. My partner and I can walk our dog out at Red Rock Canyon and he can smell the places where lizards and mountain goats and burros have tread.

I can learn to live there without the fear of my dad crawling down the back of my neck like so many ants.

So I’m going back to Vegas, just in time for the ambient temperature to hit 120℉ and for the summer rush of tourists to clog up the highways. I don’t think I’m ever going to like the city, but it has its charms. Like bark scorpions, light pollution, and cholla. But also multiple movie theaters and my old art teacher and apartments with central heating and cooling.

Maybe I’m crashing and burning, a little. But still, at the risk of being saccharine, I think I’m going to do okay.