|How I Became Stronger
Author: EthanCraft PM
A dramatic piece between a son and his father on graduation day.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Words: 3,113 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 12-28-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3086706
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
How I Became Stronger
Son: A young man who just graduated from high school, so eighteen years old. He isn't built physically, being tall and lanky in stature.
Father: Elder man of about forty. Graying hair and seems to have gotten fat in the middle after years of parenting.
An empty classroom, filled with desks and chairs lined up in even rows, which have been deserted for the summer months. There is a warm breeze coming from the three open windows in the back, giving off the scent of summer, a scent full of overpowering floral smells and damp leaves drying up in the sun. To the side of the room there is a blackboard with a series of childish posters used to teach kids how to make cursive letters hanging around the top. Through the window there are sounds of people buzzing with excitement, and words like "Congratulations" and "We did it" can be made out of the noise, as if everyone was saying the exact same thing at different times.
The door opens and a kid dressed in a graduation outfit enters the room, looking relieved to be away from the social atmosphere of outside. He surveys the room and walks over to one of the desks and lays his cap on it. Beat. He quickly then, moves over to the windows and shuts one of them, as if trying to shut out the world around him. The noise from outside is slowly faded out, as each of the windows are closed, and upon closing the last of the windows, he lets out a sigh and gives off a relieved look. He moves about the room, not really paying attention to anything in particular. He begins to hum a tune, one similar to what someone would hear at a funeral. Footsteps are heard in the hallway, and he turns to face the door, instantly stopping his humming and waits nervously for the person to either pass the room by or enter.
The father enters the room.
Father: So this is where you've gone off to, eh?
The son looks at him, no expression on his face for a second, but finally lets off a smile, as if he had to think of the proper way to respond.
Son: It was just so boring out there, it's almost annoying. You know, if I hear one more person ask me where I'm going to college or what I'm studying, I might just punch a small child in the face.
The father doesn't laugh at his son's poor joke, but also delays a smile, as if he too doesn't know how to respond to his son.
Father: Yeah, well sometimes you have to do things that you don't want to.
Son: Yeah I know…
Father: You know, back when I graduated from high school…
Son (Interrupting): Yeah, Dad, I really don't care that much about your stories from the past.
Father: I was just trying to say that…
Son: I know what you were trying to say, but I really just don't care.
Beat. The silence is awkward for the father who moves uncomfortably around the room, as if he is about to say something. The son appears to be less uncomfortable and moves over to one of the desks and sits down staring out into the audience, but only looking off into the horizon.
Son: You know, this was my sixth grade classroom.
Father: I remember.
Son: I was such a small kid back then. Mum always said I looked like a Holocaust victim, with my ribs showing like they did, but I always felt fine.
The father laughs at the poor attempt as a joke, but, as usual, it is a beat late.
Father: Yeah, but you weren't. You were a sick child, always having problems, and always having to be…
The Father freezes leaning on the teacher's desk in the corner of the room, it is as if time stands still. Only the son seems to have the ability to move, he seems to acknowledge the audience, directly speaking to them. (He is describing a scene from his memory, perhaps the characters from his past come and act out what he is seeing, and if they do come they should be silent.)
Son: I don't know why he is explaining this to me. I remember those days as if they were some dream. Like foggy scenes playing in my head, kind of like a nightmare. They have gotten so bad I almost can't sleep because they haunt me every night so much. It has gotten so bad that they have become imprinted in my memory, and it had gotten to the point that they even begin to play for me like a movie while I'm awake. I can't run away from them, but I can't keep seeing them. Every one of them starts out the same, I'm at school, sitting in this very chair. I see the teacher moving around the black board, teaching us something, maybe its math, but I can't hear what she is saying. It's as if she is trying to speak through cotton in her mouth, everything is so muffled. I sense that people are staring at me. I can't look around to be sure, because I might miss something important. But I know they're there, with their cold judging eyes. Finally, I just can't take it anymore, and I quickly turn to confront them, (he turns his head around quickly, as if hoping to catch them in the act) but I'm suddenly on the playground (he stands up looking around confused), with kids screaming and running in slow motion around me. It's very cinematic, almost like it's a Hollywood film. From time to time, it seems to pan out to see the other kids having fun, and then it cuts back to my face. (He turns once more and sees something, he looks scared) The scene then focuses on her, from the other side of the playground, and she then starts to approach me. She has a smirk plastered on her face, her too perfect face. She comes up next to me and starts to move her lips, saying something, but I can't quite make it out. I hear random phrases like "You're ugly," and "You have no friends," and I try to explain why she is wrong. She laughs at my attempts, as if none of my explanations prove anything. (The son begins to look around frantically) I look around trying to find my friends, hoping they could come and save me, but I can't find them through all of the running kids. My world is spinning, and I can't find …wait there they are! (The son stands up as if noticing people across the stage.) I smile at them, as if trying to get them to show that they do care about me. They whisper something to one another, and they turn away slowly leaving me. (The son's face falls) I'm pissed and pained and on the verge of crying, dying to show some emotion, but I can't. Not here. Not where she can get some satisfaction out of her actions. (He begins to walk back to his desk and stands by it.)
Son: I can't give anyone that satisfaction. I have to be stronger.
(When he sits down, the father unfreezes and continues speaking where he left off).
Son: I know. You know I was there. You don't have to explain it to me.
Father: Right. I was just trying to say that you've had to go through things that people shouldn't have to go through at such a young age. But you've grown so much from it. Beat. I'm proud of you.
Son: I know.
Father: Aren't you glad? Excited? Anything?
Son: Not really. To be honest, it feels just like any other day.
Father: Well, it is, but today is a special day all about the achievements that you have done for the past twelve years of schooling.
Son: Thirteen. You forgot kindergarten.
Father: Oh. Right.
Son: Regardless, I really just don't care.
The father suddenly gets angry, as if he is being told something he is tired of hearing, and moves over to his son and pounds his fist on the "his" desk.
Father: I know you don't! You don't seem to care about anything anymore. Not me. Not your mother or sister. Not even God!
The father freezes again. The son turns to face the audience once more, and moves away from his father.
Son: I can already tell you how this scene plays out. It's happened so many times before that I can practically quote it. He begins to yell at me, about things that he thinks I've done wrong. Things that he thinks are wrong with me. I try to explain, but he snaps at me that I shouldn't talk back. I quiet down, and take it like I've been trained to do all these years. He shouts. I say nothing. What kind of cruel world is this where I can't even speak what's on my mind without having these words shoved down my throat? Finally, he says something that I just can't handle anymore, and, before I know it, I'm shouting back. He says things about me, none of which are true, but I can't let him know that. He tries so hard to cut me back down, calling me out on something that he has been doing this whole time, just so that he can just lay it all into me, but I'm not going down that easily. He's reaching a boiling point, voice rising to its full potential, eyes full of a fire that somehow I started. And then it happens. I see it coming right at me, but I can't stop it…I'm too weak. I'm suddenly looking at the ground, the fire I saw in his eyes now burning my face. The words I was trying to use to explain myself clog my throat as it all tries to come out at once. He asks if he finally has my attention, but I don't answer him. He shouts his question again at me, but I just try to leave, I don't want to hear this anymore. I have to escape. I can't. Something grabs my arm and pulls me back into the fray, but I trip on something, maybe it's my own feet, and fall to the ground. I'm at his feet, like a servant begging for mercy, and that's what I do. I beg not to be hurt anymore. He yells that he isn't hurting me, but reminds me that he could. I hear a scream coming from somewhere, it's from my mother, it shouts for him to stop. He does, and leaves crying. I don't understand why he's crying. He's not going to have bruises on his skin tomorrow. I'm soothed by my mother, saying what originally he was trying to get across, how I shouldn't tell someone because it will break up this family and how I should apologize to him. All of these words are whispered into my ear and suddenly it's like I'm intoxicated off of them and have no control over what I do next. I move back over to my father and I feign an apology. We "hug", but I know it won't last, but what can I do about it?
The son looks at his father.
Son: I have to be stronger.
The son moves back over to his father, and the scene picks up where it left off.
Son: That's not true. I do care about other people.
Father: No, you don't! The only person that you are capable of caring about is yourself! It's like you live in this world where everyone lives to serve you, and do you know what that will get you? Nothing. Nothing at all, and sooner or later the people you think are your friends will get tired of trying to please you and just leave, and you will be alone.
The son looks down, trying to hide his anger in his eyes.
Son: Maybe I don't have a problem with being alone. Maybe having to rely on other people makes you forget how to rely on yourself.
He looks up at his father in defiance, but when his father starts to yell again he is forced to look back down at the ground.
Father: You think you can do that? Well fine, let's see you pay your college tuition without my help! Can you do that?! No! You know, your mother and I work hard so that you can have a nice life, but you don't give a damn about that, do you? You treat everyone else like shit. Like the dirt that gathers beneath your shoe.
Son (looking back up): You're wrong!
Father: Don't talk back to me!
Son: I'm not talking back! I'm just trying to say…
Father: I said, don't talk back to me!
The father slaps the son, causing the son's face to be facing the audience.
Father: Do I have your attention now?
The son doesn't answer, as if he can't think of the right words he wants to say. He is still facing the audience. The father grabs the son's face and makes it face towards him.
Father: I said. Do I have your attention now?
Son (Smiling): I'm sorry. I thought you said that I shouldn't talk back.
The father slaps his son again, whose face doesn't remain toward the audience, but this time snaps back to face his assailant.
Father: I don't deserve your sass.
Son (Still smiling as if he knows it is fueling his father's anger): That wasn't sass, I am just getting so many mixed signals from you, and it's kind of hard to figure out what exactly you want.
The father takes a breath and releases his son's face. He then points at his son, trying to be intimidating.
Father: There's no need to be a smart ass.
Son: Yeah? Well, there's no need for you to be an ass.
Father: Oh so we're swearing now?
Son: You've been swearing for a while now.
Father: No I haven't!
Son: Really? "Treated people like shit," "No need to be a smart ass," "Don't give a damn?" What do those words sound like to you? 'Cause they sure as hell sound like those god forsaken swear words to me!
There is a pause, as if the father has lost what he was trying to say. The son laughs and starts to leave, but the father grabs the back of his graduation robe and pulls him back to him. The son's foot catches on something, maybe it's his own foot or maybe it's his robe, but he ends up kneeling on the ground at his father's feet. His father has to hold him down so that the son cannot get back up.
Father: I didn't say you could leave.
Son: I'm eighteen now, why the hell should I listen to what you say anymore?
Father: Because the bible says to "Honor your father and your mother."
Son: Why should I have to honor you? You already said that I don't give a damn about god.
Father: But I am still your father.
Son: Who abused me!
Father: I never abused you.
Son: What do you call all of the slaps over the years? What do you call throwing me to the ground time after time? What the hell do you call all the bruises left on my skin? 'Cause I fucking call that child abuse.
Father: What I did was so that I could teach you to be a good man. That's something that you weren't going to become without my discipline. And speaking of bruises, what do you call the bruises you left on your mother?
Son: I call that you using her as a fucking battering ram to shove me against a wall, when all she wanted to do was stop us from fighting again.
The father shoves him down to the ground, hard enough to make him land flat on his face. He walks over to his son's desk and picks up his cap. He examines it sadly, as if he felt he has failed something, and finally throws it on his son's collapsed body.
Father: Here's your cap.
The father then proceeds to leave, but stops as he reaches the door. He looks down.
Father: I'm sorry I failed as a father.
The son finally stands up, letting the cap fall to the ground. He smiles to himself.
Son: Fuck you.
The father looks up and turns around, angry all over again.
Father: I will not tolerate that language.
He turns around and starts to advance on his son, hand rising to hit him one more time. The son quickly moves his fist from his side and hits his father first. A shrill woman's plea fills the room, but no one is seen to have entered. "Stop it!" Its cries echo through the classroom and everything stands still. The father stands as if in shock of what his son just did. The son stands, also in shock of what he did, but at the same time shows no remorse. He has done nothing wrong. The father leaves, almost on the verge of tears, not because of the hit, but because of a more emotional pain. The son watches him leave, and the father shuts the door quietly behind him. The son sit's back at "his" chair and looks out into the audience. Not happy or sad, but pained.
Son (reassuringly): I had to be stronger.
The son mutters his last line to himself as if trying to reassure his actions. Maybe it's loud enough for the audience to hear, or maybe they can't make it out.