So you did it. You punched Dan in the eye. Dan, the picture of maturity, the successful adult who has tried his best to remain patient when exposed to your antics. You punched him in the eye and now you feel good about it.
You smile as some of the party goers lift Dan to his feet. His eye is swollen and his thinning hairline is mussed. You’re tempted to take a picture with your iphone. Imagine how that would look on Facebook? New pics from Kendra’s party! Good times!
“Are you okay?” someone asks.
“I’m fine,” Dan responds. “Maybe we should be going.”
Dan’s wife, Brooke, forty-five and not a single gray hair, shoots daggers at you.
“Well done, Brett.”
“Thanks Brooke,” you respond with a smile.
“You know we can charge you for this.”
“Yeah, but you won’t. You’ll want to push this behind you as quickly as you can.”
Later in the night, while you’re nursing a beer alone on the bench, your father steps out of the house and takes a seat beside you.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough of those?”
“This is my first one of the night.”
Your father looks at you over the rims of his glasses. He can tell you’re speaking the truth. “Quite a scene you made,” he says.
“He had it coming.”
“I don’t know if he had that coming.”
“Fists are a great equalizer,” you say. “Dan’s got prim self-satisfaction. I have a solid right hook.”
“You made yourself look terrible.”
“I thought Dan was the one with the black eye.”
“Stop being a jerk about it,” your father snaps. “You shouldn’t have done it and now you have to apologize.”
Your father’s right and you know it. There’s just one problem. You can’t bring yourself to apologize for something you’re not sorry for.
“So,” he asks. “are going inside or not?”
“Dan’s still here?”
Your father nods.
“He and Brooke are in the kitchen.”
“Why the hell didn’t they just leave like he said they would?”
“Kendra asked them to stay.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t ask me to leave.”
“She didn’t want you to leave,” your father says. “She just wants you to apologize.”
You slowly get up and head back towards the house. You wonder why you don’t feel guilty. It’s wrong to strike a man, after all, at least a man who poses no threat to you.
Yet you know Dan has, in fact, posed a threat to you for years – a threat to your dignity. All your jokes, all your thoughts, all youreverything strikes him as childish and off-putting. The fact that he has a six figure job and two beautiful toe-headed children instantly makes him right in all matters, too.
Not that you begrudge Dan his success – at least not much. It’s the fact that he sighs that certain way when you speak. It’s the fact that he rolls his eyes at your jokes. It’s the fact that he’s built a wall between the two of you so that, even during holidays like Thanksgiving, there’s no warmth of conversation. The truth is, Dan’s disapproved of you for years. It took him until tonight, however, to finally come out and say it in no uncertain terms.
There’s a lot you do that I find tasteless, Brett. I just keep it to myself.
Who says that to someone they respect?
“I hope your proud of yourself,” Brooke snaps as you step into the kitchen.
You ignore her. Why bother bringing up the indignities you’ve suffered when she probably feels you deserved them?
You enter the living room where Dan is busying himself with his kid’s carry-ons. The thought of those kids seeing that black eye you gave him suddenly bothers you.
“How’s the eye?”
“Not too bad.”
“Look,” you say, “there’s aspects of your character that I find unsavory.”
“You don’t even know me, Brett.”
“Still, I should never have hit you. That’s the truth and I’m sorry for it.”
“Probably afraid of being sued,” Brooke calls from the kitchen.
“Naturally you’d say that,” you respond.
“Time for us to go,” Dan says to before taking the carry-ons out to the car.
He never utters another word about any of it – and you know he never will.
Sean Crose teaches high school students how to read and write well. He also blogs on literary matters for the Cheshire Patch. He and his wife live in CT with a fish named Jaws and Cody, the world’s greatest cat.
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