Father of a Man
By Krista Sitton
“‘Describe Rome’s downfall, complete with causes and events.’ Rome’s downfall…hm…” Leah chewed on her bottom lip as she started the last question for her history teacher. But just before she finished, she heard a car door slam near by. Who would be in our driveway? she wondered. She crossed her room to the open window and found that the car was actually in her boyfriend’s driveway next-door. As she watched, a middle-aged man with black hair and blue eyes got out of the driver’s side of the car. She had the immediate impression of an older version of Jason. He had the same build, and had a similar stance as he stood gazing around at the neighborhood. The front door slammed, directing his and Leah’s attention to the young man standing with his arms folded, fifteen feet away from the man who’d just gotten out of the car. A peculiar feeling seized Leah’s gut; she’d never seen Jason look so terrifyingly angry before. His posture was firm and unmovable, and every muscle in his body seemed to stand out. He glared at the older man and spoke with a strong voice.
“She’s not here.”
Slightly taken aback, the man looked behind him and then back at Jason. “Well, Jas, I’m not here to see her. I’ve come to see you,” he said, attempting to make his voice sound friendly.
“Wasted a trip, then.” Even from this distance, Leah could see his jaw muscles tighten.
“Come on, Jas, I want to get to know you. It’s been a long three years, give me a chance!” He moved closer to Jason with his arms outstretched and laughed. “It seems I’m now the father of a man.”
Jason held his ground. “You had your chance, and you don’t deserve another one,” he growled. “My name’s not ‘Jas’; that’s what you called me when you were a father to me.”
The man stopped and let his arms fall. Quietly, he said, “Everybody makes mistakes, son.”
“So who was the mistake, Mom, or Macy?” Jason lowered his arms, his fists clenched so tightly that his knuckles were white.
“Look, Jason, I want to make things up to you-”
Jason launched forward so that he was merely inches away from his father, proving that he was exactly the same height, if not taller. “Nothing you ever do will make up for what you did. Nothing,” he snarled.
Jason’s father seemed very intimidated, Leah observed. He frowned at Jason for a long time before answering. “You’re just like me, you know? Everyone’s always said so. You look like me, you sound like me… and from what I hear, you even acted like me after I left-”
Jason swung a punch so hard and fast at his father that Leah was surprised the older man managed to stay vertical. He staggered with his hand over a bloody nose.
Jason grabbed the man’s jacket and pushed him up against his car. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU PUT ME THROUGH? WHAT YOU PUT HER THROUGH?” He swung another punch right into his father’s face. “You tore her apart! She could barely function for months! And me? I was suddenly the man of the house because my father decided that our family wasn’t good enough for him!” Jason hit him in the gut and released him, letting his father fall to the ground. “So now it’s my responsibility to protect her, and that means protecting her from you. You walked out on us. You chose a different family, so don’t come sniveling back to me wanting to make things good between us! I will never forgive you.”
Jason’s dad stood up and leaned on his car for support, at a complete loss for words. He clearly hadn’t expected his son to react so boldly to his reappearance.
“Go back home to that whore of a woman you call a wife… and your other son,” Jason said. “Don’t come back.” His father turned and slowly opened the car door. Before he could get in, Jason grabbed his sleeve and pierced his eyes with a stare that could throw daggers. “I am not like you.” Then he stood back and watched as his father backed out rather hurriedly from the driveway and sped down the street, around the corner, and out of sight. Jason stood shaking, rage pouring from him as he stared at the place where he’d last seen his father. Then he turned around and flipped the trashcan over, throwing it across the yard with a yell of fury. A few seconds later, he had disappeared back inside the house, slamming the door behind him for the second time.
After a moment’s hesitation, Leah ran down the stairs and out the front door. She opened Jason’s door cautiously, but closed it behind her a little more loudly than usual to let him know she was in the house. She found him sitting at the kitchen table, his face turned away from her with one hand under his chin and the other on the table. The latter was already starting to bruise with blood surfacing in the skin broken over his knuckles. She quietly took a towel from the countertop, wet it, and applied it to his hand. He flinched slightly, but kept his stare fixed on a point somewhere between the refrigerator and the pantry. When his hand was clean, she threw the towel into the sink and held his hand delicately in both of hers.
“Saw you in the window,” he croaked. Leah noticed his eyes were shinier than normal.
“Sorry,” she whispered. Jason didn’t seem to acknowledge the apology.
“I was the one who found them,” he said quietly. “Him… and Macy.”
She watched him in silence for a few moments before he sighed, entwining his fingers into hers. He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed it softly before lowering it back down to the tabletop, where their fingers remained tangled.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he said quietly. I just… I lost it. He put us through so much…”
They sat in silence for a few moments as Leah traced circles on the back of his hand with her thumb. “I shouldn’t have hit him,” he repeated.
“Three times, or at all?” Leah said, trying to get a smile out of him, and succeeding.
“At all. That’s not what you’re supposed to do,” he said, the smile fading again.
Leah propped her elbow up on the table and put her chin in her hand, copying him. “Well, what are you supposed to do, exactly?”
Jason’s eyebrows furrowed as he delved into deeper thought. “I’m not sure.”
“That’s what I would have done, if it were me,” she said promptly.
Jason grimaced. “Still doesn’t make it right.”
“Well…” Leah stood and slid behind him so she could wrap her arms around his shoulders. “Sometimes we don’t quite realize that what we’re doing isn’t exactly the right thing to do until after we’ve done it.” She rolled her eyes at her own word choice.
Jason smiled weakly and another pause of silence filtered between them. Finally, he sighed and stood up, holding her hands together in between his.
“Thank you, Leah,” he said softly.
Leah gave him a comforting smile. “Any time.”