LAST DAY WITH DAD

      A
s Erin and I walked home from the bus together we laughed loudly and discussed the days events. For this moment everyday from 3:15 until 3:30 I have no problems, beyond wondering if the cute boy in my math class likes me. They are the moments that make the others okay; bearable. As we near Erin's turn we smile and promise to call each other later that evening, in order to finish our discussion of nothing. I continue on my way and my thoughts turn to the evening ahead of me. I feel disgust and rage at the thought of having to see my stepmother, Annemarie, and my father. I wonder what joy they have to share tonight.

      When I get to my house I go through the side gate that leads to the door in the garage. In order to get to the garage though, I must first pass through the metal gate and ivy facade of happy suburbia and wade through slightly hidden boxes full of empty liquor bottles. This display of alcoholism makes my stomach turn. I think to myself I am glad none of my friends are here to see this.

v  ^              
 
        The moment I enter the house my stepmother pounces on me with a list of things to do and accusations of laziness. I sullenly brush past her and mumble that I will get to it later. As I turn to go upstairs to my bedroom she grabs my arm and tells me I had better clean the upstairs bathroom or there will be Hell to pay when my father gets home. She then proceeds to whine about me being ungrateful and how hard she has to work everyday cleaning up after my brother and me. I smell alcohol radiating from her pores and wonder when she will wake up and realize I am not to blame for her unhappiness; only she is.

      Finally I acknowledge that it is my turn to clean the bathroom and promise that I will have it done in the next hour. I am finally released and allowed to go upstairs. Once there I lay on my bed and proceed to devour my latest book find. Two hours later Annemarie barges into my room screaming at me to get off my bed and get to work. I roll my eyes and head to the bathroom.

      I scrub the shower, floor, toilet and counters. I polish the mirrors and towel holders. I even wipe down the outsides of the cupboards. I then go back to my room and my book. Escape until dad comes home.
v  ^              
 
        I half hear the garage door open, and wonder what disgusting meal I will have to pretend to enjoy tonight. I hope it is something soft so it will be easier to vomit up later. I hope there is no meat.

      I hear my father and stepmother talking at the bottom of the stairs. I ignore it and delve deeper into my book. It is starting to get good.

      I hear my father running up the stairs. The whole house is shaking.

      I hear the splintering of wood as my father shoves my door open.

      I hear my father yelling at me to clean the fucking bathroom; it is disgusting. I tell him that I already did. He grabs my arm and drags me off my bed, down the hall and into the bathroom. He asks me if this looks clean. I boldly tell him yes. He tells me to fuck off and do it again.

      So I clean the bathroom again.

v   ^              
 
        When I am finished I go downstairs and tell him that the bathroom is clean. He stares at me and silently walks upstairs. He enters the bathroom and looks around. He then turns his eyes to me and stares until I am forced to look away. He methodically opens every drawer and cupboard and dumps the contents all over the floor. He smiles and tells me that it looks like I forgot to do the insides of the drawers and cupboards. He leaves.

      I clean the bathroom again.

      He checks the bathroom and states that the grout around the shower isn't clean.

      I scrub the grout. A piece of linoleum breaks off. I panic and wonder what will happen. I worry that I am going to be sick. I stand up and look in the mirror and vow to look tough. He cannot hurt me unless I let him.

v   ^              
 
        I go downstairs and tell him what happened. He follows me to the bathroom so he can see for himself. After inspecting the broken floor he turns around and very quietly tells me I am a fucking bitch; I did this on purpose just to make him angry. He tells me he hates me and that I have been nothing but trouble since we moved to California. As he is telling me this he is walking towards me. He grabs my hair and yanks my head back. He looks me deeply in the eyes and tells me he is going to make me pay for being such a whore. I jerk my head away from him and leave him with a chunk of long red hair dangling from his hands. I quickly exit the bathroom and try to get downstairs. He grabs me again and slams me into the wall three times.

      One. I bite my tongue and it bleeds.

      Two.

      Three.


v   ^              
 
        One. My eleven-year-old brother opens his bedroom door.

      Two.

      Three.


      One.

      Two. He screams for dad to stop hurting me.

      Three.


      One.


      Two. I know that Josh should not see this.

      Three.
v   ^              
 
        One.

      Two.

      Three. I don't cry, but I hear my brothers sobs mingled with the thuds of wall hitting my head.


      One.

      Two.

      Three. I bring my knee up and jab it as hard as I can into my father's groin.


      With this I run down the stairs towards the office, because there is a lock on the door and a phone on the wall. I realize I need help.


v   ^              
 
        When I get downstairs my stepmother is waiting with a smirk on her face. She grabs me and tells me I am getting just what I deserve. I shake her off and turn the corner. Suddenly the hallway has become twice as long as I remember it. I turn the corner and dash towards the office door. There is light coming from it. I almost make it when my father grabs me again. He throws me against the wall and begins to scream at me. As I look at his I eyes I notice a click in the pupils. I know he is no longer sane. This is no longer the dad that used to curl my hair and read me Dr. Seuss. This is a stranger who won't stop until I am dead.

      He calls me a dirty whore. A slut. A bitch. A fucking cunt. He tells me I am the reason his marriage is fucked up. He then tells me he didn't fight in Vietnam and watch his friends die just to have some stupid slut fuck up his life. As he is screaming this at me he is jabbing his finger into my throat and chest. I can feel that finger imbedding itself into my bones. I am sure I can feel blood coursing out of me. I push myself into the wall trying to escape the pointing, jabbing finger.
v   ^              
 
        With every threat there is another stab. With every accusation his spit cascades onto me. With every word I feel myself shrink.

      Finally he slows down a bit. He has winded himself. His litany has become repetitious. He slows down trying to think of new insults. He punches the walI out of frustration. I see my chance and duck under his arm and dart into the office. I slam the door and turn the lock.

      Safety.

      I sit in the leather office chair with the squeaky wheels. I look at my chest to see how much blood I have lost. It isn't blood that soaks my shirt, but his spit, my tears and our sweat; blending, commingling. There is a giant red bruise. It hurts to breathe.

v   ^              
 
        I turn to the phone and dial Erin. I tell her my dad has lost his mind and that I need help. Please call my mom or someone. I tell her I am okay now; I am locked in the office. As the words leave my mouth I hear the hinges on the door give. My father is lumbering towards me. His hands enclose my throat and I drop the phone.

      The next morning I find myself in bed. Annemarie is looking at me; telling me to get up. She informs me that my mother is coming to get me in one hour, and anything I want from my room had better be packed by then. I am confused. I try to speak but my throat is terribly sore, only a hoarse gasp emits from my mouth. I want my mom. I want to live with my mom so I obey her orders. I pack everything I can. I use garbage bags.

v   ^              
 
        Finally my hour is up and I hear my mom knock on the door. Annemarie calls for me to come downstairs. As I reach the living room I see my father in his running clothes sitting on the couch. He tells me to hurry up because he is late for his jog. As I approach him he gets up. I betray myself and flinch as he approaches me. He lifts my hair up violently and tells my mother to look at what I have done. He tells my mother that he will not have some sneaky, lying slut living under his roof. He tells my mother that last night I snuck out and let some boy give me hickeys all over my neck. My mother points out that they look more like fingerprints. He tells my mother that of course she wouldn't want to see the truth because she is a slut also. I see in his eyes that he believes his lie. He tells my mother that he is fed up with my anti-social behavior. He has a marriage, and he is not going to let some spoiled, self centered brat wreck it. He tells my mother to get me the hell out of his house. He tells my mother he never wants to see me again. He tells me nothing.
^