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As I was reading the newspaper in class today I read about the war. I read about the bombings and the suicides and then I saw the picture. It was of this girl and I’m pretty sure it was her father holding her. She was about three or four years old. Her father was trying to protect her. He was putting his hands over her face in hopes she wouldn’t see the death and fear surrounding her. As I sat there staring at this truly unbelievable image, my classmates shook their heads and I could actually hear them thinking, this is awful. I could only think about one thing. One selfish thought. Yea, I might have felt bad for about half a second, but this young girl had something I didn’t have. Someone I didn’t have.
“Sam! I am sick and tired of your d*** attitude around this house,” my mom yelled so hard spit flew out of her mouth.
“Ok, whatever,” I didn’t make eye contact with her. The meat oozed out of my Sloppy Joe as I bit into it. Teddy laughed, Will burped.
I’m sure the ruckus and the smell of Sloppy Joe made their presence on the street of 4358 Elmwood Drive tonight. That’s usually how life on Long Island New York is though. Everything is out in the open all the time. There’s never silence even when all of the kids are at school. Listening really closely, one might be able to hear the city, like it’s just down the block. The streets are decorated with cars and basketball hoops. At night the raccoons tear through the garbage. I call this commotion home.
My family is just another family living on our street. Well, at least that’s how my mom acts. I’m not stupid. I might only be fourteen, but I know we are the pity family on the block. People feel bad for us. Why? I guess my dad cheated on my mom last year. They got a divorce. Something defined on dictionary.com as a judicial declaration dissolving a marriage in whole or in part, esp. one that releases the husband and wife from all matrimonial obligations. I guess they forgot to mention what happens to the kids in that definition. The thesaurus on Microsoft Word uses the word separation for divorce. I know there is definitely not a separation between the husband and wife, mentally. I typed in divorce on Google once and noticed there were 76,600,000 threads. 76,600,000 is not a big enough number for how much I think about that word during the day. I guess I can say I spend way too much time on the computer.
The phone started to ring. Jane picks it up.
“Oh hi dad,” she says.
“I don’t want to talk to him,” my mother says to Jane.
“I’m not talking to him, he’s a jerk,” I say as Jane shoves the phone in my face.
“Go up to your room right now Sam!” my mother yells.
Tomorrow’s Friday. A year ago, Friday’s meant going out, having fun, no school, freedom. Now Friday means dad comes to get us. He comes to get us and takes us to his crappy “bachelors pad” in Long Beach. By us, I mean me, Jane, Teddy and Will. Oh and I forgot to mention he takes our attitudes also. None of us are happy. Jane, my twelve- year old sister, is usually the only one who cooperates. She doesn’t know what he did. If she only understood. It makes me so mad. Teddy and Will, my twin brothers, are only five so they are still kind of in the “I don’t want to leave mommy” phase. I never fake sick for school; I fake sick for Friday nights.
“Are you done packing Sam?”
I shrugged. My mother is a strong woman. She’s been through a lot. I wish I could be like her sometimes, but you would have to threaten my life to make me admit that. I blame her for almost everything, but I don’t and could never hate her like I hate him.
“Your dads coming right after you get home for school so you’d better be packed.”
“I’m not going to go,” I mumbled as my phone buzzed.
“I don’t deserve this Sam,” her face turned stern. It looked like the statues I saw at the museum of natural history.
Why do I deserve this? I thought.
She walks out of my room because she’s already worn out from the endless fights. We fight because I can’t talk. I can’t talk to anyone. Talking won’t solve anything. It’s a waste of time.
I press ignore on my phone and turn off my lights. Tomorrow begins the weekend of “my kids are just accessories,” according to his behavior. By his, I mean my dad. A word defined on dictionary.com as a male parent, a man who exercises paternal care over other persons. He doesn’t deserve that title.
This morning I woke up, unfortunately. I went to school, came home. My mom was pacing around when I got there
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Your father was supposed to be here by now.”
She didn’t make eye contact with me this time. I knew this was going to be bad. Teddy started crying because I think he knew it was going to be bad too even though his tiny mind was still developing. My pocket buzzed. Only one buzz, which means I got a text message. I ignored it. It wasn’t important. Teddy tugged at my pants for attention, something I never had to do as a child.
Its four o’clock as dad parks his new car in our driveway. The one that mom was accused of “keying” a couple of weeks ago. I find it funny. As he walks up to the house I can almost feel the tension in the living room. Teddy and Will sit on the stairs and even though me and Jane loathe each other, we give each other the same look we give each other every Friday. The pre-game look, the “get ready for the yelling” look. Five, four, three, two, one…
The door opens. I get a smell of axe and cigars, the scent of a single man.
We’ll have hamburgers for dinner,” is the first thing he says.
He only knows how to cook up lies.
“We always have that to eat,” I remind him.
“Oh Sam, wipe that d*** frown off of your face, it will get stuck like that.”
I pick up Will and sit down on the stairs with Teddy.
“Don’t speak to my kids like that,” my mother makes her presence.
“I tried calling to let you know I was going to be late. No one answered, it’s not like you encourage the kids to answer the phone when I call,” he gives her a disgusting look.
Usually we just sit and listen when this goes on, every Friday. It’s quite interesting actually.
“And they are not your kids, they are mine also,” my father adds.
I roll my eyes at that comment.
“I don’t know any father who purposely screws up their kids life,” my mother comments.
This was a new comment. One I have not heard her say before. I like it. He did screw up our lives. I secretly applauded for mom in my head.
“Ok c’mon lets go,” my father summons us.
I decide to go with him tonight without putting up a fight. I know I’m just his problem, but I know some nights my mother just can’t handle it. So I don’t do it for him, I do it for her. I’ll always do it for her. He’s my nothing. I am his problem. I am a problem he is never going to solve.
When we get to Long Beach I feel the vibration of heartbeats on the boardwalk as I pass the wealthy beach houses filled with spoiled kids and fresh dinners. I look at the man I once new. I look at Teddy and Will and Jane. My dad is my war. He’s not the one holding his hands over my face trying to protect me and he will never be.
My phone buzzes, I ignore it. I have more important things to pay attention to. I need to win a war. Teddy grabs my hand and we enter his beach house.