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I hate my father.
The dormant house emanates a sonorous drone, a low rumble that calms the wooden floorboards. It’s nice. After all, there has to be some nights when both armies realize fighting is pointless and just go home in a stalemate. But the world is never content with a stalemate. The next morning, one side will grab the title of victor triumphantly and the other will lower its outreached hand, slamming its bedroom door in a final display of fury.
Let me introduce the battlefield. On the offensive, my father. A man with an insatiable ego and bulging eyes. On the defensive, my mother. Equally abrasive but calmer, more speculative. I guess he was like an artery; his temper pounded throughout, explosive and uncontainable. My mother had valves that managed to pull taut once in a while. He never did.
I saw her turn away from the dinner table, eyes glistening with each cannon she couldn’t scream back at him. I saw his triumphant smirk, his disgusting satisfaction in having succeeded. With each raucous spitting of words from his mouth, each porcelain bowl broken, the voracious capillaries inside me inhaled a little more blood.
Our family was red and raw, always the color of war and discarded battlegrounds of carnage that no one wanted to take care of. With each battle, with each of my father’s victories, my hatred of him grew. Finally, in my teenage years, my capillaries gave into the pressure and burst into my arteries, puncturing my heart until I too became a crimson mess of pulp.
"Listen to me, piano is your only way to a future. I already paved the road for you, all you have to do is follow it!" His bellows crashed into our Guanyin vases, our watercolor paintings of Guilin. "You will never succeed without me." He was Napoleon, self-proclaimed representative of the French Revolution; he saw himself as the liberator of France, of Spain, of the entire world.
But this was war and in defiance, I flung my threads of scarlet back at him, our blood scorching in No Man's Land, forming a net that caught not only the two of us, but my mother, my little sister, and my grandmother as well. My grandmother’s voice was made hollow by dentures long ago--well then I would be this family’s savior from him.
I walk over to my sister's bed and touch her soft sheets. She puked on them once. I remember cleaning it up with her, the one casualty that I could fix. Embedded into her nine year old chest is a scrunched up Nemo with bald patches scattered over his orange fur. He had given it to me originally as a reward for getting into Hunter, the school that he had demanded of me.
It had been on my bed until my claws snaked out from underneath me with biting, words and provoked his front once again: "No! I'm learning violin and that's it!" My shrieks were feral and truculent in the riddled house and at the time, I didn’t even understand what I was so desperately protesting against. All I could hear was defiance, my glorious revolution pounding its way to victory.
I almost missed the small click of my sister’s door as she retreated back into her bedroom, clutching the fish I had thrown onto the floor.
I ladle a strand of her hair into my fingers and realize. I was always just another battery. His electricity shocked me and I would convulse and flail, retaliating blindly. I was the other side of the cage she ended up trapped in, of our family's dynamic seesaw with her as the fulcrum.
My father yelled. I screamed. So she listened. She listened and so she saw. She saw the electric current that contracted and twisted between the two of us. She knew it was pointless competition, stubborn hearts primal for victory.
After all, she was the only one that saw me drop my violin back into its case the instant Mr. Li left. Its lustrous coat of orange and yellow--I should’ve seen it then. It's impulsive nature. It's blindness to who it burned.
Trying not to disrupt the cocoon of blankets that she had wrapped herself into, I reach in and slowly tug out the frayed Nemo.
Its orange fur is matted down from her tight grip every night. But to my fingers, it feels foreign. Nemo stares at me, black pupils dilated, fins flapping frantically. And only then do I see that it had been drowning all along, gasping in this vulgar crimson net of nails and canines.
I walk up to the window and draw back the blinds, giving myself an unobstructed view to our backyard. My father is there, face absent of the usual luminance of his iPhone messages. He drops his arm and his cigarette turns to ashes, extinguished silently underneath his own foot.
And then the smoke dissipates and I stare at my father. At how short he really is. At how deep and hollow his cheeks really are. At how, with the absence of the addiction in his hand, his index and middle fingers twitch towards each other slightly.
I am staring at my father. I see him open his mouth and take out dentures so that his mouth puckers in like my grandmother, like my sister, like Nemo. I am staring at him and suddenly he is staring at me and that network of blood between us melts and soaks into the ground and we are both crying.