January 17, 2014
He stands on the landing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at his father in the bathroom. The father, partially obscured by the door frame, is peeing. The boy is three and a half years old and only sees his father once a month or sometimes even less if the father forgets or is too busy to visit his son. In between visits the father never writes or calls. They live in the same city. He knows that it is two buses with a transfer to get to his father’s apartment or to return to his mother’s apartment. This is a long trip to the boy so he is grateful for the visits he gets and the time spent together. The father is a large man with a large belly — larger to a three and a half year old boy who stays as close as possible and spends his time often looking up to talk and listen. The boy loves his father and never misses an opportunity to hold his hand or stand by his side — his whole body length touching the father’s pant leg. The boy likes the feel of his father’s giant hand protectively engulfing his. He is proud to be with his father. He is proud to walk around holding the hand of such a big man. Often times they go into a building with a long high table and many tall chairs and a brightly colored music machine and the father gives the boy a handful of nickels to play songs. The father sits on a tall chair talking and laughing with his friends. The boy’s father brings him a coke and the boy plays songs, sips his coke, and watches his father drink from different sized glasses and bottles with his friends. They leave the big building and the boy and the father walk back to the mother’s apartment. The father’s breath smells different. At the apartment the mother lets them in and leaves the room for the kitchen. She never stays in the same room as the father. Now the father goes up the stairs to the bathroom and doesn’t bother to close the door. The boy watches his father walk away and thinks that someday he’ll grow up to be a big man like him and have lots of friends and sit on tall chairs and talk and laugh. The boy copies the way his father walks as he walks over to the landing of the stairway. The father turns and sees his son staring up at him and he begins to yell at him for peeking and calls the boy a sneak. The boy doesn’t understand and stays where he is still looking up at his father. The father leaves the bathroom, still yelling at the boy as he walks down the stairs zipping his fly. The boy never heard his father yell at him before. When the father reaches the boy he roughly grabs his arm with one beefy hand and turns him around and swats the boy’s rear end hard with his other beefy hand. The boy cries out, more in surprise than in pain, although it does hurt him. The father loudly says him that he’ll teach the boy some manners and yanks him off the landing and into the living room where he rears his hand back to swat him again. The boy sees his mother appear, standing in her housecoat holding a steaming iron with the cord dangling, her face knotted and red. The father sees her at the same time. She’s only a couple of feet away from them. He glares at the boy’s mother the steam swirling around her face and suddenly the father lets the boy go and wordlessly leaves the house without taking his eyes off the mother. The mother locks the door and without looking at or speaking to the boy, goes back to the kitchen and plugs the iron back into the wall and finishes ironing the shirt that lay half wrinkled on the ironing board. From the living room window the boy watches his father until he is out of sight and that night at dinner the boy’s mother serves him his food without saying anything and the boy feels anger at her for chasing his father away.