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Paul Crenshaw "Let No Man Tear Asunder"

Cliff’s parents were divorced and Dustin’s dad had disappeared. Carson’s mother moved to Denver to get away from Carson’s adopted dad, whom Carson pretended was his real dad even though everyone knew different, and Caleb lived with his grandparents because his real parents didn’t want him, or so he said some nights when I stayed over and the asthma struck him hard enough he had to hit his inhaler so he wouldn’t suffocate.


Jerry’s parents were still married. So were Tommy’s and Shawn’s, but the arguments they had on Saturday nights when their sons got together made it seem like they weren’t. This was after my parents had divorced. After we had left our home on the hill and moved to a house in a row of others that emptied and refilled as often as I wished my father would return. Next door to us Mrs. Bellard sat by herself drinking wine while her sons stared at the stars, and in the houses on the other side were old ladies living alone. Some days I played with Deanna, who lived a few houses down, but she was only there a short time before disappearing, like the Scotts and the Richards and the Wrights and the Bellards, whose house sat empty until my mother remarried and we left as well.    


All my mother’s friends were divorced. Most of my friends’ parents were divorced. It seemed everyone was divorced, late 70s, early 80s, and those that stayed together only did so because it was easier than falling apart. And some days, playing with Deanna down the street, whose dad had disappeared like Dustin’s and Cliff’s and Caleb’s and Carson’s, we built up a bedroom in her basement. We didn’t do any weird stuff—never took off our clothes or touched each other. We just puttered around our pretend house, saying “I’m the father and you’re the mother and this is our child, who we will raise together.”


Paul Crenshaw is the author of the essay collections This One Will Hurt You, published by The Ohio State University Press, and This We’ll Defend, from the University of North Carolina Press. Other work has appeared in Best American EssaysBest American Nonrequired ReadingThe Pushcart PrizeOxford AmericanGlimmer Train, and Tin House. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCrenstorm

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