Mark did not want to be here. But bolting was not an option. He needed to face what he did.
Like a man.
“So what was your childhood like, Mark?” The shrink looked just like the ones in the movies. Sitting back easily in the chair. Legs crossed. Legal pad perched on his lap, pen poised. Glasses covering gentle eyes. Eyes that seemed to bare into his soul – not judging, only wanting to understand. To help.
“Crappy. Horrible. Scary. It sucked.”
Mark took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “My dad. He was an alcoholic. Spent more time at Frankie’s bar than at home.”
“And what would happen when your dad got drunk?”
“Every night around midnight, Mom would wake me and my brother and tell us to get under the bed. Mom probably hoped the sound would be muffled under there but we heard everything. Dad slamming the door. His work boots thumping the floor as he staggered to the kitchen. His slurred verbal attacks on Mom. Mom quietly begging him to lower his voice. And then...then the banging around. Mom getting slammed into the wall. Her cries...”
The shrink’s expression didn’t change but he jotted something down on his pad. He'd probably heard stories like Mark's a thousand times.
“What about you? Did your father ever get violent with you or your brother?”
Mark looked away, his eyes clouding over. “When I was sixteen, he came after me with a baseball bat. Kenny tackled him from behind. Shocked the sense out of him. We pounded him a few times. It felt so good...he never came after us again.”
“Why do you think it felt so good?”
Mark clenched his jaw and snapped his head in the doctor’s direction. “’Cause we gave that scum some of his own medicine! He knew for once how it felt to be kicked around." He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "But Mom was crying, begging us to stop. Can you believe it? After everything he did to her, she didn’t want us to hurt him!” He shook his head and looked out the small window. The sun was shining – in direct contrast to his dark mood.
“Do you still see your parents?”
“I haven’t seen my dad since the day I left - thank God. My mom finally got the guts to leave after Kenny and I moved out. I visit her once in a while.”
“You sound angry. How does it make you feel that your mother waited until you left home to leave your dad?”
“It sucks! She should taken me and Kenny and left when we were little. He could’ve killed any one of us. But she stayed anyway. I don't get it.”
The shrink was silent for a minute. “So let’s talk about your wife.”
Sandy. Mark dropped his head in his hands and wept. He heard a box of tissues sliding across the coffee table in front of him. He reached out, grabbed one and wiped his nose then rubbed his eyes with his fists. “She didn’t deserve what I did.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“It’s like I couldn’t help it. Something rose up in me that I couldn’t control. I wasn’t going to hit her. But then she told me I was acting just like my father. I snapped...” He swiped at his cheeks. “I hardly remember doing it...God, forgive me...”
“And Matthew? Was he there?”
“He was in his high chair.” Mark’s voice broke and he choked out the words. ”He saw everything...he...can’t...turn out like...me.”
“He won’t, Mark. Not if you stop the cycle now. It’s up to you.”
Mark nodded. He had a tough road ahead of him but the memory of Matthew crying...Sandy screaming...Yes, he would stop the cycle.
“Next time, we’ll talk about what steps you can take to make that happen.” The shrink closed his pad and glanced at the door.
The door opened and the guard stepped in, motioning with his head that it was time for Mark to return to his cell.
Mark stood and gave the shrink a nod, blinking back the last of his tears.
As the door to his cell clanged shut, Mark was left alone to face what he did.
Like a man.
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