When Wally asks me to punch him in the stomach, I try not to hold back. I let it rip. I set my feet like he taught me to, draw back my fist, and deliver a blow to the spot he's pointing at—right ... [+]
Until my mom kicked him out. Then I sat in the spot. I was younger then, about eight or nine, so I fell into the spot. It was like falling into a pit. It was like wearing hand-me-downs.
When my mom asked to sit in the spot, I said, "No, it's mine." But my mom said I couldn't claim the spot. She said it was a little weird for me to be fixated on the spot when there were so many places to sit. What about the place on the other end of the couch where you could put your legs up? Wasn't that more comfortable?
I ignored my mom and stayed in the spot. I came home from school and watched the same TV my dad watched: sports, ER, and any movie on TNT. When my mom got home, she said she was too tired to argue with me.
"Do what you want," she whispered.
About a month later, my dad visited and my mom left the house. My dad walked to the living room and looked at the couch, but he didn't sit in the spot. Instead, he sat in the place my mom talked about—the place where you could put your legs up. I didn't know what to do. It didn't feel right to sit in the spot, so I sat on the floor near the couch as my dad asked me about classes and basketball and my friends.
I tried to answer, but I kept looking at the spot, getting more and more angry. My answers got shorter and shorter—from a sentence to word—and my dad looked more and more uncomfortable, getting quieter, too, until I told him I needed to go to the bathroom. I went to my room instead, shut the door, and tried to punch a hole in the wall. The plaster cracked. My knuckles got raw and bloody.
My dad yelled, "What are you doing up there?"
I yelled, "Nothing!"
I went back downstairs to the couch and sat on my hands. Blood stained my favorite corduroys. Crimson speckles all over the bottom. I threw my pants out before laundry day.
When my mom kicked my dad out, I was sitting on the couch. He looked at me and asked, "Is it always going to be this hard?"
I said, "I don't know."
When my mom came home on the day my dad visited, he stood up to say hello. But she just walked past him and over to me. She put her hand on the back of my neck and asked, "How was it?"
I looked down. I said it was fine. I softened under her touch.