“You want chaos,” his father said. His voice was rising in volume and vitriol as he paced the room, arms flailing, wild eyes vacantly dancing across the room. “You want chaos. You wanna see what it’s like when your life is a tumblin’ swirl of shit? You wanna be at the bottom of those stairs so that the shitswirl lands on top of you and you ain’t got the strength to stand? The grit to fight your hardest, to beat the shit out of life when it wants to kick your ass?”
Pete felt his cheeks burning and the rising tears that blurred his gentle eyes. He managed to stay standing in the same room as his dad but he kept one foot in the hallway. Pete had seen him like this before, whenever some slight – big or small – had flipped that switch in his dad’s head that turned on the war again. Pete knew it might be like this, but he had to tell him. He needed to tell someone that knew him and cared about him. Maybe not now, maybe not all the time like he used to, like his mom used to take care of him. But Dad was all he had left, and he needed him. He wanted his dad to need him.
“I don’t think you can do that, Pete,” his father said. “You ain’t built like that. You ain’t built for battle.”
“I don’t want a battle, Dad,” said Pete. “I want a life. A real fucking life-” His dad reeled his giant body around on a heel and was towering over Pete in two giant steps from across the room. Pete held his ground.
“You don’t fucking curse at me, goddamnit! I’m you’re fucking father-”
A tear escaped Pete’s eye and he felt the warm water fall from his chin. He silently scolded himself for letting his dad see that. His father stopped mid-sentence. He held his hand in the air, pointing an accusing finger at Pete, but the life had drained from his face as the madness faded. His gaze fell to the floor and his shoulders fell.
“I didn’t mean that – that you’re not built for battle.” His father turned and slumped onto the couch, that old green couch with the built-in matching recliners that they had bought after the funeral. “You’re my son and you’re built the same way that God built me. I just – I just don’t want you to be that way.”
“What way, dad?” It was Pete’s turn to be mad. “What way do you not want me to be, because I’m the same fuck- I’m the same way that I’ve always been.”
Pete’s father held his head in his hands and ran his fingers through the black hair that was still as short as it was when he had come home. He picked up the beer from the coffee table and took a sip.
“You say that it’s going to be some chaotic shitswirl,” Pete said. “But what in my life – our lives – has not already been a huge fucking swirl of shit?” Pete quietly laughed as he immediately knew it to be true when he said it. “If anything, the last seventeen years has prepared me for battle. Whatever battle that’s in front of me. I can fight it.”
“You want a life for yourself,” his father said as he stood. “You want this life, this battle, this chaos. Well, you got it. And I ain’t in it. Get the fuck out.”
Pete clenched his jaw and waited for the tears that didn’t come. He had known it was going to end this way. He just wasn’t prepared for how suddenly the end would come. His father sat back down on the couch.
Pete crossed the room and opened the front door. He took one step outside before turning around. He watched his father empty his beer and reach for another. Pete turned away, faced the world, and stepped out.