“I love you, Son,” he said, bringing the belt down as hard as he could. I screamed out, wriggling in agony, desperately trying to cover my bare
flesh. “Move your hands,” he ordered. I did, and the next lash fell. “I love you, Son,” he deadpanned. Of course, he did. He was my
father. It was his job to love me. I deserved what I was getting. I don’t remember why, but I must have done something very wrong. My father
only told me that he loved me when I was being punished. I squeezed my hands into fists, my nails biting into my palms. I didn’t even whimper when
he hit me again. “I love you, Son.” So, that is what love felt like.
* * * * *
I am older now. My father is long dead. I have a wife, a mortgage, a dog, and three children. My youngest is my only son. His name is Gregory,
and he is small for his age. I remember being taller when I was seven. He does not have any friends; I feel sorry for him. I would spend more time
with him, but I work a lot. When I get home, I am too tired to do much more than sit down in front of the television, drain a six pack, and go to
sleep. My eldest daughter, Elise, came to me tonight while I was doing just that; she woke me from a light doze.
“What is it,” I mumbled, sitting up in my armchair, beer still firmly in hand.
“It’s George,” she said, her voice shaking. “You need to come and see this.”
Rising from my chair, I had a sense of foreboding, but also of déjà vu. Something was not right, but it was something that had somehow never been
right. We walked up the stairs from my mancave to the kitchen. We turned into the hallway that led to the bedrooms. We stopped in front of
George’s door. Elise nodded at me.
As I walked inside, I flashed back to a memory. My father stood in the doorway of my room, looking at me, but staring past me, as if he were
remembering something from long ago. In my hands, I held the corpse of a rabbit that I had caught in the back yard. I wanted to see what was inside,
so I had borrowed a knife from the kitchen. I had started with the eyes, then begun the dissection in earnest. I think my sister must have told on
me; those rabbits scream so loud. It wasn’t my fault. I was just a little boy. I didn’t know any better.
Gregory can scream loud as well. I was surprised. But as the belt came down, again and again, I reaffirmed with each lash what I knew to be true.
“I love you, Son.”