“The Spark of Change” by Dia Pannes from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

This story hurt to read, because the stakes in it are so high. True to form, it’s darker than the stories that came before it. (And someone downplays his hand in such things….)

It’s a different kind of coming of age being dealt with here, the one where you realize your parents are human, motivated much of the time by love and altruism but sometimes by fear and still others by selfish desires. Parents make mistakes, they have blind spots. Sometimes those blind spots are so wide and deep that they fall into them and it’s impossible to say whether or not they will be able to climb back out. 

It’s not just parents, of course. It’s anyone you hold up to impossible standards. Religious leaders. A favorite author. A movie star or sports figure. The bigger they are, right?

For Rimi, though, it is her father who falls short and disappoints. It’s especially hard on her because it’s just the two of them. Her mother left years ago and her older brother lives with his girlfriend. And Rimi idolizes her dad, a volunteer firefighter for their town. I don’t want to say what exactly he does and ruin the story for you, but lives are at stake. I’m not convinced, at the story’s end, that Rimi can fully forgive him. It’s one of those “even so” moments. He holds a certain belief, but it should be trumped by the code of ethics he has sworn to live his life by. Yes, he believes A, but even so, B should prevail. The fact that it doesn’t is chilling. He’s got a long way to fall in her eyes and when he does, he swan dives. He lets her down in stupendous, horrific, pigheaded fashion.

As for Rimi? Well, she soars.