Matt heard the engine spluttered and died in the driveway. He pounded on his key board furiously. He could tell what would ensued. An unwelcome tirade, as usual.
His dad walked in and called out.
“Matt, what are you doing? Come and get your shoes and put them neatly on the rack. Make sure it’s the usual spot. How many times must I tell you not to leave your shoes here?”
Matt dragged himself and picked up the shoes, not even acknowledging his dad. He located his shoes and perched them in their usual rack. Back at his desk, he jabbed at the keyboard with passive anger.
But before he could even write a reply to his friend on AIM, his dad appeared in the doorway again.
“Whose cup is this?” His dad’s knobby hands held up an Ikea cup with the well-worn chip on the rim.
Matt glared at him, “I don’t know.”
“I know it’s yours. Why didn’t you finish your drink?”
“It’s only water, you know,” came the curt reply
“You know how I hate waste. Come and drink it up. Now, do you hear?”
With feigned obedience, Matt gulped it down. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. What else is new? Did you do your homework? How many times must I tell you to clean your desk? You listen to me and don’t talk. You’re grounded for two weeks. No question asked. You’ll never amount to anything at the rate you’re going. Why can’t you be more motivated?
Matt really wanted to sock his dad, if he could. He had waited for years for his dad to ask him something relevant, something that concerned him, not just the nuts and bolts of life, everyday, every time. The constant negativity has honed him into a negative block of restrained anger. He used to try but no longer, somewhere along the rocky road of trying to relate, his heart had curdled somewhat. How can you change a man if his heart is not planted right?
Three more years to college and then free! He can’t wait.
One night on one of his late bathroom trip, he heard muffled voices from his parents’ room. He knew his mom tried to be kind to make up for his dad’s undue severity but the fact remained - he needed his dad’s affection too.
“I don’t know what to do with Matt. Did you notice how sullen he has become and sometimes he’s even blatantly defiant?” his dad’s voice seeped through the space beneath the door.
“I’ve always told you you’re too hard on that boy. What do you expect?”
“I can’t help myself. I want him to be so much better than me.”
“Why is it so important for him to be better than you? Why can’t you love him as he is?”
“I don’t know. My parents didn’t relate to me and I guess I never learned the rules.”
“We’ve gone through this - you can’t use that as an excuse as valid as it is.”
“I know…. I know but I can’t help myself.”
“I think you need professional help. I’ve asked you many times before, please…this time, will you see a counselor? She will show you how.”
There was a long silence. Matt considered backing away. The answer could be devastating.
His mom’s voice came on. “Honey, we’re running out of time. Three more years to college. You’ve three more years to make up for lost ground. Matt needs to know that you care in ways he can understand.”
Another long silence. Matt imagined his dad tapping his fingers on his chin. He always does that whenever he’s nervous.
“Will you come with me and help me set it up,” his dad’s voice was small.
Matt walked away. That’s was enough. A tear slid down his cheek, down the fresh zit on the right. His heart opened a crack, he could feel it as a little shiver trembled through his spine. Three more years. A little too little, a little too late? He prayed not.
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