AJ sees his dad sitting where he usually sat for all of his football games: perched up on the hill towards the opposite end zone that overlooks the whole field. He always sat away from the other parents, and AJ never knew why. His dad never got angry over bad calls by the refs, piss poor play from other kids, or crazy parents from the opposing team. The ref blows the whistle and AJ shakes away his daily thoughts that had nothing to do with what he was currently doing. Through his facemask, AJ stares down the tight end while lining up inside of him and at a depth of 5 yards. AJ was happy only playing defense now that there was a new kid at St. Joseph’s who drank half a gallon of whole milk a day and took AJ’s spot on the offensive line. Now he can finally blow up people like this tight end across from him, and he knows that the eagerness to hit one another is there like a dog waiting for his owner to throw a stick across the yard.
The tight end comes bounding towards AJ. With every step, AJ’s confidence declines. The kid seemed AJ’s size from the line of scrimmage, but when their paths finally meet, AJ’s only wish is to survive to the next play so he can line up on somebody else. The tight end punches back AJ with both of his hands and knocks the wind out of him, his breath frozen in time. AJ, now staring right in the eyes of the grown man who apparently was an eighth grader, is lifted off the ground and then thrown down. AJ closes his eyes and lets his limp body tumble. He tries desperately to breathe. Still nothing. Finally, he manages a small heap. AJ opens his eyes and faces the hill where his father sits. Expecting a concerned dad looking at the play, AJ looks to where his dad is sitting.
“The fuck?!” AJ says under his weak breath, as he sees a young woman wrapped in his dad’s arms and kissing him passionately, almost like she was finishing her favorite dessert and trying to enjoy every last bite.
AJ cannot make out who the woman is or any of her features, but he knows it is not his mother. She would never pull a stunt like that in public, and even if she could, she was not in town. He glances up to his dad’s “situation” one last time but can only see a bright purple smudge. It looks like a winter jacket, but AJ does not trust his eyes after a hit like that. The thought of AJ’s dad cheating hurt worse than the tight end’s hit, but both were making him nauseous. AJ gets picked up by the shoulders from two of his teammates and they carry him to the St. Joseph’s sideline. He feels better, but it would be weeks before he could be on the field again. He realizes he has to take that stupid concussion test with all of the lines and shapes again. Before that, he has to go home and talk with his dad who would be lying when he said he watched the game. AJ knows what he was doing, but he also knows he can’t bring it up to him. He can’t even take out his anger on the football field anymore, at least for a few more weeks. He needs something that will release his thoughts, but definitely not a diary.
My Dumbass Dad
Ok. Let’s get one thing straight, AJ. This is NOT your diary, you pussy. This is you just putting your thoughts down so you don’t spill the beans to your innocent mother. She needs to find out from him. Not you. Anyways, just keep your mouth shut and act normal. If it helps, try to find out who the fuck was mackin on your dad. Not the best way of describing it, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Sincerely, Google Doc You.
AJ wakes up with a splitting headache. If there was any doubt that yesterday’s hit did not concuss him, that was now gone. It probably did not help that he made that google doc last night either. After slowly removing his covers and inching out of his bed to avoid any dizziness, AJ’s vision is noticeably worse: his sight is even more blurred— it feels like he’s walking through a thick fog. He manages to make it to his bathroom and do his morning routine. He brushes his teeth, fixes his hair, splashes cold water on his face (it did not help with his vision), and finally makes his way down the stairs. Slightly out of breath, he finds his usual stool and awaits his breakfast. Looking down at the counter, a plate is slid to AJ: slightly frozen hashbrowns and burnt bacon. He looks up to see his father attempting to clean the pan he used. He used hand soap and a paper towel— I guess one can say the gender roles are defined in AJ’s catholic household. In some odd way, AJ feels bad for his dad. He knows his job as a police officer is demanding but unappreciated in today’s social climate. He also has noticed that his mom has been leaving home for work more frequently. Only a man who feels both disrespected and useless at his job and in his own home could cheat on his wife. Even though he’s cheating, he does seem happier. His gray hair is growing back to its thick, jet black color. His “meatball” stature that ironically came from eating his mother’s Italian meals is now slimming down. But no matter how happy his father may seem, he can’t help but feel sorry for his mother.
“See ya buddy,” his father said between the front door’s creaking when it opened and again when it came back and closed.
AJ assumes that he’ll need a ride to school. This kind of stuff always happens when it is just his father at home, but now that he knows that his dad is kind of a dirtbag, the little things are pissing him off. AJ slides his plate to the side angrily and plops his computer in its place.
My Dumbass Dad Continued
You’re such a bitch. You still use MLA format for your journal? Shut up… not a journal. Anyways, this shit will not fly. Knowing how antisocial your dad is, he’s gotta be with someone who he already knows. Like somebody’s mom? Divorced mom maybe? I don’t fucking know. Help me out, Jesus. It’s adultery, right?
Sincerely, Google Doc you.
With an aching head and still foggy vision, AJ closes his computer and calls Sarah for a ride to school.
“We’re outside, don’t worry,” she manages to say before AJ can even explain his situation.
AJ hangs up the phone and jogs to the car. He feels awkward after running so fast only to be slowed down by the automatic opening of the van door. The door makes its weird locking noise and AJ buckles in. He sees Sarah’s mom peering at him through her rear view mirror.
“Hi, Mrs. Smith!” AJ says with a somewhat fake grin.
“Hi sweetie! How are you?”
“I’m good!” Except for the fact that I feel like I’m constantly walking through fog and I witnessed the supposed “man of the house” break his most sacred vow.
Sarah notices AJ’s sudden change in mood and taps his shoulder.
“Yup. Fine,” AJ mutters under his breath. Trying not to think about his stupid father, AJ deflects to Sarah’s family problems. “How’s your dad doing?”
“Still asleep… It’s been an entire week where I talk to him and get no response or reaction. The doctors say he can hear me, but I’m having a hard time believing them”
Mrs. Smith peers at us through the rear view mirror for a split second and then focuses her attention back to the road again.
“I’m sorry to hear that” AJ whispers, trying to keep the conversation away from Mrs. Smith.
“I’ve been praying every Wednesday during school mass. Probably the first time I wasn’t playing on my phone or doing my homework from the night before.”
AJ would have to make the same adjustment for her dad and his own mother. However, he cannot help but think that there is a possibility the “mistress” is Mrs. Smith. She’s younger than most parents and has a sweet spot for AJ’s dad. But, like most parents who send their kids to St. Joseph’s, she is overtly Catholic. Not only would she never cheat, but she would never have the church know that “God never entered her relationship.” If it were to be her, it would take a drastic change in her life— Like her husband dying while in a coma.
AJ is sitting down. He thinks it’s in a wooden chair. Everything is still a blur. He cannot completely recall how he got here. He hears a voice; it sounds like Sarah’s.
“I’ll see you in class, AJ,” she says. At least he thinks it is her. It would make sense, he rode with her to school. He remembers, barely. Sarah opens the door, and the usual noise from kids talking between classes, lockers opening and closing, and teachers screaming how much time there is left for their class briefly enters the room until the door is finally closed.
“Hey AJ,” another familiar voice says. It’s Ms. Martinelli, AJ’s counselor. He knows that someone is sitting in front of him, but the fog is still making it hard to see clearly. However, he has talked with her enough to know that it is her. Also, he is slowly figuring out why he is in her office.
“I heard about what happened at your game yesterday. I Just wanted to let you know that if you need to take a break from school, you can come in my office or go to the nurse”
Immediately AJ breathes a sigh of relief. She is always so nice to him. The tone in her voice is so soothing. When parents come to the school, she uses the same voice — probably to let them know that their kids are treated well. After her reassuring talk and AJ’s small daydream, he heads out of Ms. Martinelli’s office and makes his way to the blurry hallway. He can manage to see the opening of a door and a teacher walking out.
“AJ, let’s go buddy”
I guess that’s where I’m headed for the first period.
AJ cannot focus in class. The board is a blur, and the teacher’s sporadic movements from his desk to the board and back again make him dizzy.
“Now, open your laptops!” AJ hears from the front of the classroom. By the unnecessary enthusiasm and commanding tone, he assumes it’s the teacher talking. He follows directions, but opens another google doc instead of embarrassing himself by asking what they were supposed to be working on probably right after he just said what it was.
My Dumbass Dad (Second One of the Day)
It can’t be Mrs. Smith, right? No way… That would be too messed up. If it is her, God has a horrible sense of humor. Dude… might sound crazy, but talk to a counselor about it. Don’t name names. Be SUPER vague. It might clear your head and narrow down the people who it could be.
The bell rings, and AJ makes his way to the counseling office. Just thinking about getting his thoughts out is clearing his mind. The fog is dissipating. He can finally see straight down the hallways. He sees the old, dark wood paneling that is wider than the rest of the other classrooms. On both sides of the slightly larger door, there is church stained glass. The right side is a Red Cross surrounded by a baby blue background with the black lines that separate the glass. The left side is Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. AJ is so happy he can see the beauty of his school again. He opens the door, and there she is, front and center. His favorite counselor, Ms. Martinelli, sitting in her black, spinning chair. He can finally see her now. Her brown, curly bangs, and olive skin are now visible to AJ. Even her slightly awkward-looking freckle right below her mouth. AJ turns back to shut the door, and in the corner of the room is a coat hanger. I’ve seen that before.
“You like my new jacket? I know, it’s a little purple, but…”