Below is an excerpt from The End of Feeling. All you have to do is read it and then answer the question asked in the post about it to be entered to win.
Dinner is a lonely affair as usual. I don’t care. I prefer it that way. The microwave beeps, my burritos nuked. I open the fridge door and pull out the crusty bottle of salsa and container of sour cream. Green fuzz coats the top layer of the sour cream. I consider scraping it off and eating what’s beneath, but then decide I can’t afford food poisoning right now. Not with the game in two days.
I dump what little salsa is left across the burritos and toss the empty bottle into the trash, where it crashes loudly against the other bottles that fill the can—empty beer bottles. Guess I better take that out.
My cell buzzes as I sit down and take my first bite. Lava-hot beans and cheese burn my tongue and the roof of my mouth. “Argh,” is the sound that comes out of my mouth as I open wide, trying to blow around the bite of burrito, as if that will somehow relieve the burning. I quickly swallow the hot bite and follow it with a large swig of water, hoping it will prevent the burning from continuing down my esophagus.
My phone buzzes again and I pull it out of my pocket. As I suspected, it’s a text from Daniel.
Dude, meet me at Mega-Cinema at 9.
I text back, On a school night? What would your mother say, Danny boy?
C’mon, man, what if hot new girl shows?
That stops me from texting my auto refusal. What if hot new girl does show? She intrigues me. I’ve spent a lot of years honing the charm, as well as the biceps and abs, which means it’s a rare girl who can resist me. And yet, Charlie . . . uh, Charlie . . . what did she say her last name is? Anyway, Charlie seems to have no problem resisting. I sense a challenge.
I glance toward the trash can, remembering the sound of the bottles within. I know exactly what that means. My life is nothing if not predictable, and I know the bottles in the can mean I’m not going anywhere tonight.
Sorry, bro, gotta get a report done or my butt’s in a sling, I text. Give her a kiss for me. Wait, strike that. Talk me up to her.
My phone is silent for a few minutes. I know he’s debating trying to convince me to come, but I also know that he’s well aware it won’t work. Finally it buzzes.
Your loss, man. If she’s there I’ll be talking ME up.
I laugh, knowing that’s not true. Daniel and I have a very clear understanding about girls—I get first pick, and he gets either the leftovers or my picks once I’m finished with them. I glance at the time on my phone and realize I don’t have much time left.
I quickly finish the now tolerable-temperature burritos, then rinse my plate in the sink and put it in the dishwasher. After hiding all of the big knives in the freezer, I gather the bag full of glass bottles and take it to the large can outside. Back inside I look around to see what items make the worst weapons and place them in the backs of various cabinets. I can’t move too many items where it’s obvious or that’ll set him off. Avoiding setting him off is priority one.
Then I settle in to wait.
It doesn’t take long. I grab a notebook and sit at the kitchen table when I hear his car, pretending to do homework. I can’t have any real homework out on the off-chance he decides to target that. He’s done it before. He’ll do it again. He stumbles through the front door and I clamp my jaw. Why has he never been DUI’d? The man drives drunk more than he does sober, and yet he’s never been pulled over. Makes me wonder if the cops are simply waiting for him to kill someone before they do. It wouldn’t kill him—I’m not that lucky.
He barrels his way into the kitchen, and in spite of myself, I cringe. Shame fills me that I do, but in my defense, I’ve spent a lot of years on the receiving end of his fists. My dad is a big man, roughly the size of a grizzly, or so it seems. I’m pretty tall at six-four, but he towers over me. As much as I work out to build my muscles, I can’t hold a candle to his brawn or his meaty fists that are already clenched before he even sees me.
“Damn loser,” he says in greeting. No worries for him winning Father of the Year. I don’t respond. I don’t even bother looking up, but I watch his feet furtively. I need to be prepared when he nears, which he does rather quickly for an enormous, drunk man.
His fist lands on the side of my head, but the blow isn’t so bad. Because I’m prepared, I duck as he swings, causing his blow to glance off the side of my head. I stand, moving back from him as he swings again, this time catching my shoulder. I grimace in pain, in the back of my mind thinking about the possibility that a bruise might affect my playing in the game.
“Stop, Dad,” I say, the words coming in spite of my trying to keep them back.
“Stop what, loser?” he slurs, swinging again, connecting with the center of my back as I turn away. “Fight back, coward.”
I don’t want to. And yet, without a doubt I know what will happen if I don’t obey the command. He’s told me before in no uncertain terms. He even began a convincing demonstration on more than one occasion until I caved. I’ve also learned, though, not to fight back until he requests it.
I turn his way. Because he’s drunk, I at least have a small chance to, if not win, at least escape mostly unscathed. And so I fight back, no emotion coming into play as I do. I don’t feel any more or less for hitting him or receiving his blows than I do when I stand in the boxing ring. Ten minutes later, he swings at my head and misses, the force knocking him to the floor. He’s passed out cold as soon as he lands. I wipe the blood that drips from my lip with the back of my fist as I stare down at him. I want to hate him, I genuinely do. But that requires feeling I don’t have. I feel nothing for him.
Shamed at the life I live, the life not a single soul outside of my father knows about, I drop a blanket over his prone form and then drag myself to the shower. The hot water will loosen my tight muscles, and hopefully I won’t show too many signs tomorrow. Since I’ve made a rep for myself for hitting up the local boxing club quite frequently, no one questions the random bruises or cuts I might show up with.
Before stepping into the shower I stare at myself in the mirror. I touch my lip gingerly, turning my head to the side to examine the red mark where he managed to get a blow in. I press against the mark. Not too sore, so likely no bruise or black eye, or at least not too bad.
I avoid looking myself directly in the eye. I can’t do it. Haven’t been able to for years. My life is sick, twisted, at the mercy of insanity and absence of reason. Picking up the bar of soap, I drag it back and forth across the mirror until I’m obliterated.
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