He was a hostile man. His mother, as he was told, had left his father to be with another. His father was outraged, he bellowed, he roared, he snarled. It wasn't the fact that his wife had left. His father had already experienced that many times over. She had always come back before. Sometimes she came back with bags full of groceries and brand new clothes for the family, pulling a smile too wide for her face as she strode in through the front door. Sometimes she came back empty-handed, her expression haggard, worn, damaged, her lips set in a firm line as she limply staggered up the porch steps. It wasn't the fact that she had left him. It was the fact that she had left him for another man, another younger man. His father had gritted his teeth the first couple of days, but by the end of week he was foaming at the mouth, shouting curses and profanities. Sometimes his neighbors came by the house to express their regret on the incident, but he knew it was only an excuse to see them, to scrutinize, to examine, to observe their actions, to say that they had seen them up-close, to say that they had talked to them. They had lived in a suburban neighborhood. It was a fascination to them. From his neighbors, when they had their quiet huddles around their luncheons, he had heard such things as 'poor thing, I'm glad she got away' and 'she didn't want to leave the child, but what could she do?' and 'she was forced to marry, you know'. But he didn't really care about either description. Poor thing or forced to marry, he didn't care. He really didn't think much of her. His father, however, did. Everything that went wrong was blamed on her absence. High bills, minimum wage, food tabs, credit cards, sales tax, gas money, savings account, job shortage, all of this was her fault. The man became a drunk. But that wasn't the truth. His father had always been a drunk, but now he never got sober. He slowly learned to live with a drunkard father. It didn't bother him so much anymore. When he started school, he slowly learned to live with it too. He knew that circulating rumors about having an abusive alcoholic father and constant weekly prostitute mother-replacements didn't get him very far up in societal rank. By the time that he had reached college, he had begun to expect the same thing. The same pitying looks, the same disgusting gossip, the same excluded isolation. But by that time he became resentful. He had grown unreceptive to the pitying looks, argumentative to the disgusting gossip, adverse to the excluded isolation. He was daunting. He was aggressive. He was vicious. But it was different than he had expected. Nobody seemed to have knowledge of his restricted childhood, ideas of his prohibited friendships, information of his constrained life. His aggression, his discordance, his austereness, his callousness, everything was slowly stripped away. He didn't slowly learn to live with it. He began to like to live. He liked when he was acknowledged by his professor and his classmates. He liked the jokes his peers made. He liked when he skipped classes to head to the café where his new friends waited for him. But the thing he liked the most was when he first met her. He thought she was the most entrancing thing he had ever seen. He noticed her when she raised her voice to get a point across, watched her when she studied and took notes, gazed at her when she walked to her next class. He thought she was captivating and when she met him, she thought so too. They began to sit next to each other, go out to dinner together, and eventually he began to hold her hand. She was happy and he realized that he was content. He noticed that he had changed. He smiled more often, he laughed with honesty, and he made friends easier. He had developed. He had become an affectionate man.
An Affectionate Man
October 28, 2008