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Never Again


Brian Peters

He stood there saying nothing, his mind lost in the outer rims of time. The minutes ticked by, measured second by second by the beating of his heart. He closed his eyes and saw his father standing there.

"I was there. I saw the bruises and heard the screams; again and again. She was just a woman. How could you? We were a family and I needed a father but you. What did you need?"

The young man's voice trailed off as the emotions caught in his throat and memories flooded his mind with the force of a freight train. He kicked at the dirt and ran his shaking hands through his short brown hair.

"I loved the weekends when we would play catch and ride our bikes to the park and you would push me on the swings and catch me at the end of the big yellow slide and the sun always shone. Do you remember those days? They were my favorites. You said you loved her.

"And then a dinner plate would drop or I would bring out a new toy and the molten anger smoldering deep inside you would erupt. The living room would become a boxing ring. Her cries and pleas for forgiveness would be answered with another crash. Her screams and yelps followed her from wall to wall as she suffered every punch. Her shrieks still rip through my nightmares."

He fell to his knees. The tears flowed openly and without end as his body racked with anguish. He wished she would reach out and wipe the suffering from his face. His fists slammed at the ground in a blind frenzy as his father's blood pounded in his ears.

"Do you remember my tenth birthday? You came home late. I ran to you for a hug but all I got was the back of your hand. My face ricocheted off the table, blood pouring from my sliced lip. When she intervened, it was the worst slaughter I ever witnessed; your face was red with rage; your anger was fueled by cheap liquor. She cried out 'Go back to bed!'. I was surprised she could talk at all. I felt the rage build inside me with each blow. My tiny fists balled before I pounced. Then, as fast as it started, it was over. The silence was deafening. Her torment was finally over."

His breath came in shallow gasps as his lungs fought for more air. His bleeding knuckles stung with the pain of time. His voice cracked as he continued, the words spilling out in a confession of rambling thoughts.

"For ten years I looked for answers at the bottom of every bottle. It's how you remind me of who I am. It's how I forget. I've found love on every street corner because they're the only ones who don't care. I've felt your rage in every fight. I've had blood on my knuckles that wasn't mine. Who am I? Am I just another link in your chain of violence?

"I've blamed everyone for my failure and pain. I've steeled myself against those that would help and drove them away with my rage. I thought it was you who ruined my life but all I had to do was look in the mirror. I just needed someone stronger then myself to prove it.

"I was alone in the gutter of life when she found me. She plucked me out and tore down my walls and revealed the frightened child curled up inside. I've suffered years of torture and hurt but it's over. The circle of violence ends now. I've come to say good-bye and to tell you that my heart forgives you, even if I can't."

He placed his hand on the grave marker and lightly traced the epitaph. "Father is a name you never earned. You were just a child with a bad temper."

He stood up and opened his face to the bright sun, basking in its warmth like a mother's embrace.

"Never again."

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