“I’m your father.” Mr. Johnson stressed each word, speaking as though his voice could breathe life into the letters. “And you’re my son, don’t you forget it. Your place is with the family, we’re the only ones who have ever cared for you. You’re my flesh and blood, do you think I like seeing you hurt? Do you think Sophia didn’t ever do anything if she didn’t think it was for your own good? Other people start looking into other peoples’ business to distract from their own problems. There’s nothing anyone else will do for you; you only have yourself and your family to count on. No matter how much you think I hurt you, there is always one person who wants to hurt you more. You still have a place in our family— if you call me a monster, just remember that I’m also inside of you. I’m still part of you!”
When he finished, his chest was heaving again and his dark eyes were wild with the fury that beat in him like a second heart. It was rare when it came, but when it did, it drowned out all reason and pulsed blood into his thoughts. It was impossible to get through to that, there it was, that drowning.
You couldn’t fight it anymore than you could fight the tides, and once it took hold, it would knock the breath your lungs and clear all thoughts from your mind. You would lose control, you could lose everything in that one moment.
Each stared at the other, with the silent dare to contiue or to reply. It was Gentry’s turn to speak, Gentry’s turn to say something. Yet instead, he kept silent, as he had so many times in the past. Johnson grunted oldly, and turned away.
Sometimes he wondered why Gentry taunted him, yet never told. If it was still fear, or something else. If he burned himself for release, or for practice. He wondered if Gentry was hurt or if he just liked to hurt him… and if both, where one ended and the other began. As a man who relied on order, Johnson would later ask himself what it was that motivated him to step forward; and come towards someone who was all at once in danger and dangerous, perpetrator and victim, everything and nothing to him.
He tersely looked down at his his son, over the sour face and dark eyes, taking in the little details which made him his own. A curve of the lips, a weak chin. The body of hate he had brought into existence, which would eventually be the death of him. What an impressive piece of work.
He raised a hand to gently smooth over the stinging red cheek. There was no reaction or acknowledgment, but he wasn’t searching for it either. A hair was out of place, so he smoothed it down. Abruptly, Gentry slapped his hand away.
“Do you still go to Church?” he asked him, quietly.
“Of course.” Johnson replied warily, rubbing his hand. “Although, not for the reason you might think.”
“What should I think?”
“I don’t know the answer to that, Gentry. Only you know what you’re thinking. I can only hope you understand, that I don’t hate you for the way you’re born. Neither does Sophia; Your mother and I both care about you. Church is my therapy, I don’t expect it to be yours. But, you need to get help—”
“The kind of help I need doesn’t involve choir boys.”
“I will ignore that, Gentry, because you say these things out of anger. You can’t help it. I just pray that you’ll eventually be at peace with yourself.”
“I’ll be at peace when I’m dead.”
“You’ll find peace when you regain control.”
“And you did?”
“Yes, I did.”
“So." Gentry sunk into the chair, slouching with his fists crossed over his stomach, "That means that before, you were out of control?”
Johnson frowned, uneasily watching his son from the corner of his eyes.
“Where is this going, Gentry? What are you implying?”
“You talk a lot. Can you listen?”
When he glanced in those dark amber depths, he couldn’t find a sign. There was nothing wrong, but there was nothing right either. He didn’t like this tone, but couldn’t refuse such a gentle request.
“Depends on what you plan to say.”