It was another typical weekend night. My father was already three sheets to the wind and was headed toward a blackout. My mother was in the small house that we rented in Yazoo City, Mississippi staying occupied and distracted with household chores, and my brother was tucked away in his room where it was safer. I was left sitting in my room hoping for a peaceful night when I heard the dreaded, “Honey girl! Come out here!” I closed my eyes and fought to keep the tears from flooding down my face. My chest felt heavy and my heart raced. I let out a small whimper. So tonight, I was the one my father chose to come keep him company. I always hoped it wouldn’t be me he called, but so did my mother and brother, and it had to be one of us. I didn’t understand why someone would want the company of a child, but I wouldn’t dare to ask. I took a deep breath and got to my feet. I eased my way outside making sure not to walk dangerously slow. I spotted the little white Toyota pickup truck that he called “Yodi” parked in the driveway and made my way to the passenger side. I climbed in the old, squeaky truck, barely seeing over the dashboard, and sat erect and trembling. Please God. Please God. Please help me.
My father didn’t speak for several moments leaving us surrounded in an awkward silence. Finally, he began talking about the song that was playing on the radio. His voice was calm, and he sat slightly slouched not moving much making him appear shorter than five foot seven inches. After a moment, a small unfamiliar sound escaped my father’s mouth. I couldn’t resist the urge to turn and look at him. His head hung and his face was contorted with his emotions. My father’s green eyes seemed dull with less spark than usual. His mouth was open, and the sound continued to flood from him. When I realized what I was seeing, I felt the blood drain from my face and for a moment I felt light-headed. I was shocked to see my father cry and to see his form fragile and vulnerable. I was scared to know why he was crying. I couldn’t imagine my father crying without a purpose that would benefit him in some way or another. My palms began to sweat with anticipation, and my body tensed.
Without picking his head up, my father spoke through his tears, “I’m sorry for how I treat y'all. I’m sorry for everything I do.” I immediately froze unaware of the appropriate way to respond. Did I stay silent? Did I thank him for apologizing? I didn’t know the safe answer. The longer I sat not knowing what to do, the more panicked I felt. Surely this was another trick, and any second, I would be made to understand. I braced my mind and body for the blow I knew would soon come. Please God. Just let it be over soon. But nothing happened. There was no screaming, or vile names coming from my father’s lips. His hands did not move, and his belt stayed on his waist. The sudden movements and quick tongue did not appear that night, but the tears continued to stream down his face. My father’s shoulders heaved and sagged as he struggled to get a grip on his breathing. At that moment, I had no more control over my trembling body than he did his raspy breathing. I was utterly terrified.
The first time my father had evoked extreme terror from me was when I was four years old. We were trying to get the run-down Oldsmobile to crank so we could return a movie before it was deemed past due. After much effort, my father was able to crank the car, but the movie was already late. Thus, he was triggered and angry. My mother attempted to assure him that it would be fine, it was just a late movie, but her words fell on deaf ears. He reared his short arm back and lashed out striking my mother across the cheek with great force. I was frightened and cried out to ask my mother if she was alright. I quickly discovered speaking during those times were not a smart idea. Before my mother could respond, my father once again reared his arm back, and his cold, turned-dark eyes pierced straight through my core. He bellowed, “Do you want some, too?” I cowered in the back seat and didn’t make another sound. From that day forward, I knew that the world wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, and the fear of my father was a seed that had been planted.
I struggled to accept that the unexpected event was just a simple apology. My father did not apologize under any circumstance because he was never sorry for anything. After my father cried for several more minutes with his head down, I decided to chance slipping out of the truck. By this point, it was obvious to me that the alcohol had kicked in full force, and he was getting ready to crash for the night. My father appeared to be lost in his emotions and perhaps didn’t realize I was still there by that time. I eased the passenger door open and quietly slipped out. After I made it inside, I ran to my room, jumped in my hand-me-down twin bed, and crawled under my thin quilt that my grandmother had made for me. Curling into a ball, I hoped and prayed that I didn’t hear the front door opening. Please God, just let him go to sleep.
I lay in bed and thought about what the apology meant. I couldn’t imagine my father truly being sorry for anything, but I was already shocked by his display of emotion, especially the tears. It looked and sounded real, but I couldn’t be sure. My father had cried before in an effort to trick us. As I considered the pain that was spread over my father’s face, and the way the tears rushed from his eyes, it occurred to me that maybe it was real. I guessed it could be possible that he was feeling guilty and hurting. At the thought of my father internally hurting, my chest tightened, and tears filled my eyes. I hated to see anyone hurting, even my father. In spite of the beatings and horrid mind games, I hurt for my father; I ached for his pain wishing I could take it away. Maybe he was sincerely sorry for abusing and degrading us. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t a complete monster.
I never discovered the root of the unexpected apology, but I sensed it was the one sincere apology I ever received from my father. I had seen my father cry only a handful of times, but it always gave him an advantage somehow. That particular time he said he was sorry did not bring him any benefits that I saw. I believe I was shown a glimpse of the human that resided inside of my father somewhere. Up until that night, I seen only bad in my father because of the overwhelming sense of terror I felt towards him. This night changed my perspective of my father and showed me a different side of him. It was a side I could feel sympathy for and forgive.
About the Creator
I am a Creative Writing major at Belhaven University in Mississippi. I was focused on writing fiction, but within the last year I have developed a relationship with God. Now, I am here to tell my story of survival as a testimony to God.