I was doing my homework at the dining room table last night, and my dad came in from cutting the grass. I knew he’d been drinking, because he was always drinking when he was in the yard. But he was drunker than usual, and I didn’t know that until his fist slammed into the table just a few inches away from my Calculus book.
“Why do you dress so weird?” he said in a haze of moldy wheat breath.
“Because I like it,” I answered. I moved the book over, sighed, and tapped my pencil against the table. “Do you mind?”
“Hell, yeah, I mind. You look like a lesbian. Short hair and baggy shirts and army boots. Is that what you are?”
I bit my lip and forgot everything I knew about numerals. My dad hadn’t talked to me much since I’d gone through puberty, and I’d just gotten accustomed to being ignored most of the time and staying out of his way when he noticed me. I wasn’t ready to have this conversation, but his other fist landed on the other side of my book, and I could feel his sweaty shirt against my back. My mom wouldn’t be home from work for another hour, and there was nowhere else to go, nowhere at all.
I took a deep breath.
“Yeah, maybe I am gay. Is that a problem for you?”
I didn’t know if it was a lie or a truth or a half–truth, but does it matter?
He shoved my face down into the math book, the paper cold against my cheek. “No, you’re not.”
I exhaled, my hands in fists. “Make up your mind, dad.”
He growled and pressed harder, and I closed my eyes and wished that he would quit, that he would just explode, that he would catch fire and scream and go away forever with his stupid face and bad breath and bigotry.
Something popped overhead.
“What the hell?” He released me and backed away, staring at the dining room chandelier. All four bulbs had exploded, and tiny bits of hot glass covered the table, my book, the arms of my sweatshirt. His bloodshot eyes jerked back and forth from me to the chandelier. His hands were covered in glass, red with tiny cuts and burns.
“Did you do that?”
I smiled, or maybe sneered. “Yeah, maybe I did. Is that a problem?”
“You didn’t. You can’t.”
I didn’t blink, didn’t waver.
“Make up your mind, dad,” I said.