By Patrick J. Derilus
remember that time,
when we lived in West Haverstraw,
that time i was about a teenage boy in middle school,
and my mom was outside doing something,
you came out of the shower,
humming some kind of a
i walked out of my room,
and you snatched me by the neck
and demanded I give you your key.
i didn’t know what you were talking about,
but you insisted i did.
my bones shriveled up the first time you
attacked me like that.
i didn’t understand or
know what was going on.
it just happened all so very fast.
i thought you were just having a bad day.
then in the next two or three days,
you’d approach me, accusing me, of doing
some other random,
to hurt you.
i scratched your car, apparently.
i remember that day, too.
i looked outside my window,
a little perturbed to see you
using a knife to flatten the tires off my bike.
your unorthodox tirades continued.
hey, dad, remember,
my 17th birthday?
i was at my mother’s cousin’s house,
at around 7:00 PM,
and you were drunk, and a bit frazzled.
you thought I cut your phone charger.
there. i was sitting across
the living room from you
and all of my mother’s sister’s guests,
and you had a look of distrust,
and fictitious retaliation
in your eyes.
like, you’d very much like for me to die.
my mother saw that, too.
she nimbly pulled me out of
her cousin’s apartment,
and tried to get me to
we took the elevator.
when the door opened,
you lurched your hands out at me
while my mother held you back,
you got a jab on me:
On my 17th birthday.
On my 17th…birthday.
On my 17th….birthday.
and when mother’s friends and
her cousin saw how he reacted
they didn’t understand.
they chose not to understand.
they justified your attack, Dad.
they demanded i respect you, and
they invalidated my being attacked.
hey, Dad, remember?
a few months ago,
when you accused me of mistreating the car
my mother lent me to use to go to school and work?
i was supposed to
stay as far away from you as possible.
i was supposed to “stay calm.”
i supposed to “get over it.”
i was supposed to “let it go”,
but i couldn’t take it anymore.
i refused to allow myself
my well being
to your unmethodical,
psychotic whims, but
Dad, i was still afraid to face you,
because you always perceived
me as an adversary,
as you did to my mother,
to my sister, to my aunts,
and to my cousin,
even people who you’ve never met.
“they all hate me,” you’d angrily, and blindly claim.
in that instant, I lost it.
i rhetorically asked you
to repeat yourself.
i hurriedly approached you,
and you rushed back at me like an angry bull,
grabbed the nearest object you could find,
while my mother pushed
you and i away from each other,
and you shouted,
“if your mother wasn’t here,
this would be a different story”
i was trying to do good for myself
but the fact you never would,
made it impossible for me to live
with you and mom
that house, with its unending,
impending accusations and threats,
I can’t forget you.
and two plus times,
those times I called the police,
were foolish mistakes
because no policemen values my life.
all they would say is for me to
keep my distance from you in the house.
It was okay, but I was living in a purgatory
with this so called “Dad” of mine.
he was no Dad. he is no Dad. he cannot be a Dad.
i am delusional to think that he would not kill me if
i stepped another foot in that house with you and mom.
i am lucky to be alive,
but i am sad to be soul-deprived
of a beautiful being who can’t be a Dad,
all because he didn’t have one.
just a broken wise man, whose eyes look at me
and see me not as his son
but a faceless stranger in the street,
he’d love to thrash with his boulder-like fists;
Dad, remember, when I told you
of when you were chasing
me down a highway,
with a sawed off shotgun, making it
seem like it was your obligation to get rid of me?
My name’s Patrick. I’m a writer. I’ve been writing poetry since my junior year of high school. I’m currently attending SUNY New Paltz University majoring in English to earn a BFA in English with Creative Writing. I want to search for a career in being a Creative Writing professor.
This post is part of a joint series by The Good Men Project and Stigma Fighters in sharing stories of real men living with mental illness. To submit your story, see below.
Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.
The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.
For Stigma Fighters’ Founder Sarah Fader’s recent profile in The Washington Postthat discusses how more and more people are “coming out” with their mental illness, see here.
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