“You can’t keep doing this to us!” Mom screamed from the living room.
Mom and Dad were fighting again, so I was hiding out in my room. I hated to see Mom upset, but that’s what happened every time he came to stay with us.
“I can do anything I fucking want, you dumb bitch,” Dad shouted back.
“How am I supposed to pay the bills and put food on the table, Alan?”
“Not my problem. You wanted to have his sorry ass, you deal with it. Now my back’s feeling better I don’t need to stay here anymore,” he barked. Why didn’t my dad want me? Things used to be different. Before the accident… before the pills.
“Your back only feels better because you’re taking the pills again.”
“So what? You need to get off my back and realize I’ll never be happy with you.”
The front door slammed shut. After a few minutes I decided to be brave and go find Mom. This wasn’t the first time he’d walked out on us. Mom had tried to tell me once that Dad loved us but he was sick, and that’s why he would say mean things. I saw him taking the pills one time. When I’d asked him what they were, he’d just yelled at me and sent me to my room until Mom came home.
In the kitchen, Mom sat at the table with her head in her hands. I walked over to her and placed my hand on her shoulder. “Mom, are you okay?”
She lifted her head slowly, like it took all of her strength just to look me in the eye. Shiny trails left by newly-shed tears marked her face and her eyes were red and bloodshot. Once again, he’d made her cry. Someday I would be big enough to make him stop. She reached out her hand to touch my cheek. “Yeah, baby boy, but it’s going to be just me and you again.”
“I like when it is just the two of us,” I said, and I really did. Even though Mom was sad when Dad left, things got better. We were happier without him.
She pulled me into her arms. “Oh, baby, you should be able to grow up with both of your parents. Those stupid pills took your father away from us.”
I wasn’t sure what those stupid pills were, but I’d seen him take them ever since he’d fallen at work. From that day on things had never been the same. Before that day, my dad and I were close. He was the one who taught me how to catch a football, and on Sunday afternoons we’d go fishing. Then everything changed. At first it was hard to get used to the way things were and I missed who my dad used to be, but I liked what they had eventually become. I didn’t miss my father when he was gone. Most of the time, I hoped that this time would be that last. That next time he showed up on our doorstep, my mother would slam the door in his face.
But he always came back, and she never slammed the door in his face.
I really, really wish she had.
“Shit, man, I can’t believe graduation is only a few months away,” Tyler said looking at me out of the corner of his eye, a huge smile on his face.
“Thank God. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take,” I said, shaking my head.
He started laughing. “You do realize that by accepting a scholarship you’re going have to actually study?”
I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. “I know, but it’ll be different in college. I’ll be able to take classes I actually like, not this stupid crap they make us take.”
We continued the drive back from school, joking about graduation. Tyler always picked me up and dropped me off when my car wasn’t running. We pulled up outside my house and I reached into the back to grab my bag.