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A Father's "Love"
“I heard you got into another fight today,” he says before I can even slam the door behind me.
“Yeah,” I say and try to slip by to the safety of upstairs.
No such luck, I barely have my foot on the first stair before he says, “You know Harper, this will get you nowhere. You’ll end up in some low end job someday selling smart people like me burgers.” I feel my face flush, and my fists clench. I can’t take this anymore! Every day, it’s the same: “You know Harper, blah, blah, blah, selling burgers to smart people like me.”
“Kay dad,” I say trying not to cry or yell or maybe both.¬
“No it’s not okay, you’re going nowhere Harper! You never can be serious! And anytime I try and talk to you, you look like you are going to cry! What is wrong with you?!” I can’t take it anymore, I run upstairs and lock myself in my room and start abusing my pillow.
None of this would have happened if Jessica could have kept her snotty little face shut. She just had to go on about her family’s vacation to Hawaii and all the clothes and jewelry and blah, blah, blah. I was starting to get annoyed, so I inserted my opinion and said, “Cool story, tell it again!” She then proceeded to become furious, and started going on about how I was just jealous and all that good stuff. So I informed her, “It’s nothing personal, just no one really cares.” Her posse then showed up and started shrieking at me for being “mean.” To be honest I wasn’t really listening to anything they were saying, I just stood there while they screeched like spider monkeys and tried to keep a straight face. It wasn’t funny for long though, Jessica’s pea-brained boyfriend came and joined the spider monkeys. After a while I just asked her, “Jessica, why can’t you ever fend for yourself?” But pea-brain thought I was trying to get in a fist fight with her or something and tried punching me. I ducked out of the way, but he tried it again, so I kicked his shin to get him to back off. But the principle came in at that moment and gave me a detention.
My pillow’s pretty thoroughly smashed, so I fire up my computer, start blasting some Among Savages and call my best friend Nova.
“Hello?” Nova says cheerily.
“NOVA, I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! JESSICA WAS BEING A BRAT, I GOT DETENTION AND I HAD TO GO THROUGH THE STUPID BURGER SPEECH AGAIN!” I holler.
“Whoa dude, slow down!” Nova says losing her joyous attitude. “What did Jessica do this time?”
I told her everything, the snarky comments, the posse and went into long detail about how my dad was a heartless jerk.
“Dude,” she sighs when I’m finished “Why don’t you ever fight back?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I don’t know; just don’t take his cr** anymore.”
“Are you kidding me?!” I screech. “Have you ever been here when he gets mad?!”
“Ummm, yeah. Like every time I go to your house,” answered Nova, I can almost see her rolling her eyes.
“How do you suggest ‘fighting back’? Hmmm?!” I snap.
“I don’t know. It was just a suggestion,” she mumbles.
I then start crying for like a half hour, and Nova has to coax me out of it.
The following day is slightly better. I got an A- on my social studies test, didn’t in trouble, and my art and design teacher is going to help me chose my classes for next year to get me on track to becoming a graphic artist. But when the bell rings, l tear down the hallway, grab my backpack and run out the door to the bus.
“You gonna miss your plane or something?” I hear someone say teasingly. I turn and see it’s my friend Daniel.
“Shut up, Daniel!” I reply. “You know I beat you every day!”
“Oh yeah? Well I’m right next to you now, soon to be in the lead. How are you gonna beat me today, Harp?” he replies sneering.
“Like this,” I say sticking out my foot, tripping him, and sprinting ahead onto the bus.
“Cheater,” he says as he plops down next to me.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You tripped on a rock,” I reply, trying to keep from laughing.
“Idiot,” he responds. We wait for a few minutes for Nova to get on. While we wait, I realize how awful the bus smells, almost like something had died. The fowl rank of decomposing Doritos (courtesy of the Doritos war the citizens of bus 916 had on Tuesday) mixed with the mysterious stank of an average junior high school bus. On top of that, as Manitowoc shifts from the spiteful cold of winter to the slightly less spiteful cold of spring, the bus becomes unbearably humid. All of this makes me wonder why I love the bus so much. I get my answer when Nova comes flailing onto the bus.
“What?!” she cries gasping. “How do you guys beat me every time!”
I wiggle my fingers and reply, “Magic!” We all crack up and blab all the way home, ignoring the disgusted looks of our peers. When I walk into my house I beam, still laughing about when Nova tripped as she got off the bus. I feel as if nothing could ruin my mood, until I hear him grunt:
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, just thinking about the bus ride,” I say trying to wipe the grin off my face.
“Well no one here was there, so it’s rude to laugh about it,” he snaps.
“Okay,” I reply. I’ll spare you the details of his latest “selling burgers to smart people like me” speech and I yet again run upstairs trying to hold back the tears. Once inside my room, I repeat the cycle of angrily punching in Nova’s number and talking at her for about a half hour.
“Okay, dude, you can’t just sit back and take this anymore!” she exclaims once I finish. “I’ve seen you yell at someone so much that they didn’t come to school the next day! You never just run away! Be the Harper I know and fight back!”
“I don’t know if I can,” I whimper. “It’s hard when it’s your own family screaming at you.”
“Dude, you don’t even have to talk to him, you can write him a letter or something!”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll just write him a letter! How’s this: ‘Dear Dad, this is Harper, I’m writing to you because you are an extreme jerk. Thanks for listening!’” I’m starting to get annoyed, how can she even give me advice? She doesn’t know what I’m going through!
“Listen! I’m not the one who tells you that you’re going to grow up to be a nobody! I’ve always had your back, yet you chose to yell at me! What is your problem?! ” she screams.
“You don’t get it, you’re lucky! You go home and are met with love and all that other mushy stuff every day!”
“Oh, I’m the lucky one! Because you’re the only one who has problems! It’s not like I have troubles at home too! Nooooo, there’s no way that could be the case! It’s not like I never even knew my dad!”
“Nova, I had no idea...”
“Just shut up!” she interrupts, and hangs up.
This was too much. I couldn’t deal with him without my best friend. This was all his fault! Nova was the thing that kept me going, and he took even that away!
I take a deep breath; he didn’t screw it up with Nova, I did. I have to be strong on my own now. Maybe Nova had a point with the whole confronting him idea. I could yell back at him, but that would only make things worse. I guess I could write a letter, I just don’t know how well it would work. I take out a piece of paper; run my fingers along its smooth surface. It’s worth a try. I get out a pen and begin:
I know we don’t always see eye to eye and maybe some of that is honestly my fault, but you need to know how much that hurts me. I just want us to get along, Dad. All I want is to know that you love me, maybe that’s too much to ask, but honestly I don’t think it is. I don’t know if this letter will make things better between us, but either way, I just needed to let you know.
I pick up the letter, and when I know he’s asleep, slip it under his bedroom door.
As I leave for school next day, he won’t look me in the eye; his bright red face is even redder. I really don’t care anymore; I did my part, now it’s his turn to do his. Anyways, I have something more important to attend to today.
“Nova, I’m sorry,” I say when I get to the stop. She grunts. She won’t look at me either.
“I did it though, after we talked,” I say.
“Did what?” she asks, annoyed.
“I wrote a letter like you said,” I say. She turns and looks at me with her big blue eyes.
“You did what?” she asks stunned.
“I took you’re advice, I wrote him a letter.”
“How did he react?”
“Well he isn’t really talking to me now, so that’s a start,” I say. She looks at me, smiles and then suddenly gives me a crushing hug.
“You did it, Harper! And I’m really sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have talked to you that way, I was just frustrated and...”
“It’s okay; I was being a jerk and really insensitive.” She smiles and we hug again as the bus pulls up.
“Whoa, what was going on there?” Daniel says smirking when we get in.
“Shut up, Daniel.” Nova and I say at the same time laughing, we start chatting and goofing around like usual.
A few minutes later, Daniel asks,
“So, what’s your guys’ dream for when we get out of school?”
“Like college and stuff?” asks Nova.
“Yeah or like just what you want to do with your life,” says Daniel.
“I want to go to Yale,” Nova says. “And that’s about all I have figured out.”
“Well I want to get as far away from this town and all the idiots that live in it as I can,” I say.
“Even us?” Daniel interrupts pretending to cry.
“Especially you, Daniel,” I say laughing. “Anyways, I was trying to say, I want to get as far away from this town and the idiots that live in it as I can, but you’re crazy if you think I’m going anywhere without you two!”
We all laugh, and we start to throw things at each other. In that moment, I realize that no matter what happens with my dad, these two are my real family. Then Daniel's sandwich hits my head and I stop thinking and throw it right back.