By Jessica Bowman
After the first mishap we thought you had learned your lesson. For a bit it seemed like you did. At least that’s what Daisy kept saying. But all I saw were the walls you put up and the shell you kept retreating into.
“This is no life to live, Damien,” Dad was always lecturing you about that. I don’t think you ever cared. You pretended to feel remorse but in the end you were glad you had escaped. I called you a coward in those days. And perhaps I still think of you as one, but it’s hard to understand much of anything right now.
Perhaps that bump you gave me knocked a few screws loose too. But then again I wouldn’t be surprised if insanity runs in our family. You know I tried so hard to not be like him. My whole life I’d seen you grow up angry and violent and I just knew it was his fault.
No, I won’t call him father. He was never a father to us, Damien. I thought you understood that. I wanted you to understand that. I wanted to scream at you “Why, after everything the Medle’s have done for us, would you act so selfishly?”
Between Daisy’s feigned ignorance and Dad’s constant lecturing on you I held back. I thought, surely he will see how this affects us, surely my brother will come to his senses soon. If this story were known I could have won an award for the largest amount of naivety expressed by one man.
When things got worse it took awhile for Daisy to talk about it. And maybe you never knew this but, Dad didn’t come back just to help me stay out of poverty. He came back for Daisy. Because she wanted him to.
She thought maybe if you and Dad talked, without all the shoving and yelling, really talked man to man, that his years of wisdom could snap you back to reality. The first time he came home fuming. But it wasn’t until the third that I noticed the bruises on his wrists. I knew better than to ask but that look in his eye told me everything.
I know what I need to write next but I’m faltering. While it’s the truth, perhaps the only truth that matters in this turn of fate, I want to keep myself from it. Pitiful, right? If Dad could see now what’s become of us…well I don’t very much think he’d consider us his sons anymore.
I was there, I saw everything. And yet by not writing it I’m somehow avoiding the fact it ever happened in the first place. As if I could erase the past just by not admitting to it.
I noticed the silence first. Dad hadn’t been home in a while and I figured two things; either he was still conversing with you, or he had left for good. But when I showed up, it was too quiet. As if the house itself were asleep.
The door was unlocked; an oddity for a Tuesday night. Perhaps even stranger, Daisy’s car wasn’t there. Could I find the words to describe what that sight looked like through my eyes, Damien?
I don’t think I could but, for the sake of moving forward, I’ll try. No one greeted me at my entrance. The house looked like a bomb had been set off. I walked into the living room with hesitation.
Dad lay crumpled on the floor. I thought he had fallen at first. Then I noticed the blood that turned his face into a welted pulp. Head in your hands, your knuckles were raw. You were muttering like a madman.
“Damien…” I whispered, voice already hoarse with disbelief. You didn’t look up but all of a sudden you stopped twitching. Realization dawned on me a little too late. “What did you do!” I remember the cry tearing into my eardrums but I don’t remember thinking it. Much less feeling the words come out of my mouth.
Still you didn’t move. “DAMIEN!” I screamed. Without really knowing what my body was doing, I had run around Dad’s corpse and grabbed your arms, shaking violently.
“IT WASN’T ME!” you shouted back then pushed me away. “It was self defense, Roge, he hit me!”
I didn’t know I had begun crying until the first teardrop caressed its way over my lip and into my salty mouth. “You killed ‘im,” my voice cracked. “Our only father, you’ve killed ‘im!”
“That man isn’t our father! Our father was a drunk, Roger. A failure and a criminal.”
Words cannot describe the emotions that overtook me then. In that moment I was no longer a man. I was not Roger Evans, or Roge the sanitary worker from down the street. I was a little boy without a father. Or perhaps even worse, I was a little boy without any family at all, and that included you.
I don’t remember what happened after. All I know is the vague threat my lips uttered, and then you rushed at me, swinging your murder weapons. After all these years of torment I think that night was the only concrete proof I’ve ever had that God exists. How else did I survive?
After the first few months it was all a blur. The bobbies said that was normal, that brunt force trauma could mess up memories quite substantially. But now that it’s been six years the details are still hazy. Fogged over like a morning in Cross Station.
We fought and next thing I knew the blue lights were flashing in the windows and you were gone. Daisy was back, wailing up a storm louder than anything else could be that night. I made one final vow, brother. One final stand as Daisy found me on the floor next to her father.
I wouldn’t rest until I found you again. Until we could talk about all the things Abe had wanted you to understand that night. And I would never let anyone hurt Daisy again the way you had destroyed her entire life.