Of course she doesn’t believe me. What reason does she have?
I’m so far beyond being someone people trust at this point, I guess I’m almost not even hurt by the realization that hey, if I was in her shoes I’d probably feel the same way.
I kept repeating it over and over, like a mantra: “But he’s my boy, my son. I would never hurt my boy, Jess. You know me. I would never hurt my boy.”
Not everyone has had the occasion to see deeply embedded mistrust manifest in a loved one’s facial expressions. It’s simultaneously incredibly subtle and glaringly obvious. It starts in the eyes, and spreads to the rest of their features. Sometimes they even catch it happening and force a change to counteract it. My wife couldn’t quite manage it in time. Not with me. Not anymore.
Our son, Duncan, came downstairs for breakfast this morning with livid splotchy bruises running all around his neck, across his left shoulder and under the armpit, and deep scratches under his eye on that side. He’s 7, so it’s a rare Sunday morning when he isn’t the first person awake in the house. The dog hears him fixing his cereal,every time, and before you know it everyone is up.
This morning, my wife and I were up for almost an hour before she decided to call to him. When he came downstairs, she dropped her coffee right there on the floor. The mug shattered, which aggravated my headache. I looked up to say something sharp and unnecessary, to spread some of my private misery around a little in that special way only selfish pricks can muster. I saw him, she saw me see him, and she went berserk.
I’m an alcoholic, and I know it, and I’m working on it. I’ve managed a few month long stints of sobriety, but they haven’t been the catching kind. It’s put a lot of strain on my marriage, and by extension on the entire feel in the house. Something is brewing between Jess and I. The dog knows it. The kid knows it. She and I know it. The D word comes up with increasing regularity.
I’m on thin ice at work, money is tight, my shit is very much not together, and my wife is looking for a reason to split. But I have never hurt my boy. I would never hurt my boy.
“Jesus, Dunk! What the hell happened?!”, I asked dumbly, as my wife scrambled to kneel beside him.
My son looked at me with a mix of confusion and terror, held my gaze for a moment, and then the words burst forth from his trembling lips like pressurized water from a hydrant:
“Don’t be angry, Dad! I learned my lesson, I’m sorry I’m so, so sorry and I promise I’ll be quiet when you’re sleeping I promise just don’t get angry again!”
Then he broke down and the words became a jumble and my world fell apart.
Jess saw the marks, she saw the haze of confusion wash over my face, and I don’t know, I must have looked at him funny, because for her, in that moment, I was done.
“You fuck. You FUCKING FUCK.”
I tried to protest. I’ve never laid a hand on the kid aside from the odd love tap on the butt for especially grievous misdemeanors. Even then my heart has never been in it.
Sure, I had gotten completely hammered yesterday and fallen asleep early, and everyone knew the kid could be a contained explosion running around that place. Hell, I’d even snapped at him a few times for the noise, but that was it, I swear.
There’s a funny thing that happens, though, when a person stops believing you completely. Suddenly, after years of enduring your lies and your deflections and your bullshit, suddenly nothing seems impossible coming from you. You lose all credibility, and if that person so much as heard your name it Summons a surge of vitriol from their gut and they’re ready to believe just about anything except for your side of things.
So I sat there, dumbstruck, while she took the kid, packed a quick bag, called her mom, and started the car.
I snapped to and ran to the front door, the tears coming hot and unbidden, and I croaked after her, “That’s my son! My boy! I’d never hurt my boy. I could never hurt my boy, Jess!”
“Fuck you.”, she spat.
And then they were gone, and I did what I do when I need to bury something extra deep: I got completely and utterly smashed.
I woke up to a pitch black house, mouth like sandpaper, eyes burning, head spinning, and for a second I had absolutely no clue where I was. Then it all came flooding back, and I cried my fucking eyes out.
I was so absorbed it was a full minute before I noticed the sound of muffled footsteps sounding through the ceiling above my head. I sat in confused, semi-cocked silence, listening to the slow, soft, tap of someone pacing back and forth on the second floor of my house. Duncan’s room. She came back for his things, his boots or his toothbrush or his action figures. She saw me passed out and skunk by. Why hadn’t the cops come by now? Why hadn’t she woken me up to scream at me?
Didn’t matter, she needed to know.
I would never hurt my boy.
I took the stairs two at a time, rushed down the hall, and practically took the door off it’s hinges in my haste to be heard, to convince my wife of my innocence and my concern for our child.
“Jess, please, you have to believe me I-“
The room was empty. I checked the other two rooms, ours and the laundry room, and found nobody.
“What the fuck. Now I’m getting the DT’s.”, I thought out loud.
I walked back to my son’s room, and again ruminated on the fact that the police had remained mysteriously absent from my house today. Maybe that meant she believed me, underneath it all? Or at least pitied me enough to spare me a jail cell while she called her lawyer. Our lawyer.
I sat down on his bed and put my head in my hands. Why couldn’t I remember? When did my memory get so bad? I wouldn’t hurt my own kid. Would I?
Just as the addicts familiar self doubt began to creep up, something caught my eye. A glimmer from within Duncan’s half open closet. Something… off.
I crossed to the door, nudging a box of legos to the side with one foot to free up the door, and looked inside.
My heart stopped in my chest. His clothes, the few that a seven year old needed to hang, had been roughly shoved to the side. A piece of fishing line had been hung from the center of the crossbar, extending down into the center of the closet. There were three items tied to the fishing line, hanging vertically one above the next:
A small grubby copper coin with a hole punched through the center through which the line had been twisted so it hung facing outwards.
Below that, what looked like a rabbit’s head had been cruelly wrapped extremely tightly and without direction and was weighing the line down. The twine had lacerated the skin, and the white fur was stained with flaky brown. The eyes were wide open, and catching the light. This is what I had seen from Dunk’s bed.
The last item was a key, thoroughly modern and unremarkable, tied by a small key ring so the teeth of the thing hung pointing towards the floor. A few drops of rabbits blood had dropped from the head onto the key, and it was similarly stained brown.
Had I been sober, this probably would have startled me more, but as it was I stood there with my mouth open taking it all in with a drunkards dim focus.
Someone coughed behind me.
I jerked to attention , spun around, and found the room empty still. That got my heart going and suddenly the fear was upon me. I bolted, ran downstairs, heard the door slam behind me,freaked, chugged some bourbon, contemplated calling the police, decided against it for obviously selfish reasons, tried my wife to no avail, and finally settled on writing it all down, so here I am. I’ve heard footsteps twice more in the last hour. I have not gone back upstairs but I have also been unwilling to leave the house. I’m worried I’m hallucinating. I haven’t entertained the notion that any of this could be real. I can’t go there right now.
I’m not sure what else to do, or where else to turn, but I want to document the events of the day in case there’s a need for the info later. Like I said, my memory has been spotty. I’m going to ride this out, like always. I’ll be ok. The footsteps are back, I don’t have anything to defend myself, but I’m also not sure if I give a fuck.
I’ll keep you all posted, wish me luck.