Tough love, a parent’s perfect excuse to be an asshole. It sucks the life and soul right out of an innocent child to have a parent who doesn’t seem to love or care, but after years of repetition of meaningless conversations, it becomes nothing more than an irritating buzz.
The days were counting down; most of his belongings were in boxes. His books were packed up, and his closet was becoming ever more empty. The sun shined through the blinds, giving Aiden a rude wakeup call. He struggled to get up from his bed, knocking down his class schedule and awaking his cat, Muffin, in a not so nice fashion.
The day was planned, picked up by Lily to get Muffins medicine for the plane ride, meet up at the park to hang out with friends, and then go have dinner with Lily’s family. The longer he is out, the longer he is away from here. Anywhere was better than this depressing hellhole he called home, well his home for only a week longer.
After Aiden trotted down the stairs, he didn’t bother to look for his father. It was more than likely he was seated in his ripped recliner passed out after a night of drinking alone because it was ‘too gay’ to make friends at his age. There is a fine line between introverted and pathetic, and Aiden witnessed him cross that line years ago.
A couple of minutes into his bowl of cereal, Aiden watched his father stumble into the kitchen, still wearing his pizza-stained clothes from yesterday. He didn’t say good morning, but that was something Aiden had learned to expect, so he didn’t bother putting down his magazine. Greeting his own child was apparently too intimate.
“I’m making coffee,” he commented, pulling out his shitty instant coffee and creamer that was quite close to the date. “You want some?”
“I don’t like coffee,” Aiden told him for the second time this week, to which he didn’t respond. They fell back into their silence, or Aiden wanted them to fall back into silence.
“When do you and Lev leave?” The word ‘Lev’ stung like venom, Aiden’s grip on his spoon tightening as his once neutral expression turned to a frown. If anyone could press Aiden’s buttons, it was for sure his father.
“Lily and I are flying out next Monday,” It had been five years, and he still couldn’t bother to say his girlfriend’s name right.
“You got enough money to pay your own rent?” His father pried forward, asking questions he should have been asking months ago.
“Lily’s father owns an apartment building there, he is letting us stay rent-free while we are in school,” Aiden answered his father’s questions like a second thought while keeping his focus on the magazine. The apartment was coming with furniture, but Aiden was hoping to get Muffin a new cat tree and couldn’t decide which model she would like most.
“How long are you planning on staying there?”
“I don’t know yet,” Aiden lied, peering over at his phone to see a text saying that Lily was coming in two hours, along with a heart emoji. Aiden sent one back, a brief smile finding its way again onto his lips.
“Are you planning on coming back for Christmas break?”
“Yes, Lily’s parents already invited us to come to their Christmas family reunion and bought us the tickets.” Aiden felt so lucky to have a girlfriend with a loving and wealthy family.
“You’re not even planning on coming here?” His father started to raise his voice, Aiden put down his magazine to face him, the wrinkles in his expression playing into his terrible breath. “You would rather spend your time with that snobby white trash family?”
“That “white trash family” has shown me more acceptance and appreciation than you have in the last eighteen years.” He slammed his hands down on the table, causing Aiden to rise from his seat to stand his ground. This was not the road he wanted to go down this morning, but he was more than ready to go guns blazing.
“I am your father; I will not stand for this disrespect!” He shouted, trying to look tall and menacing, but his disgusting appearance made him look less like a threat and more like a sad joke.
“For your information, respect is earned, and you haven’t done a single thing to earn my respect.”
Aiden retaliated in a stern but calm voice. At the same time, he was furious, but he refused to stoop down to the same level as his father by using his voice to incite fear. That’s why his mother left, but no way in hell would that be a reason for Lily to leave. She always said he was nothing like his father, and Aiden intended to keep it that way.
“Don’t you throw that bullshit at me! I have put food on the table for you, bought you clothes to wear and pay for the roof over your head. I do all this for you, and you dare say I haven’t earned respect!” Aiden could feel drops of spit hitting his face, the smell of beer and coffee mixing together.
“You really want me to praise you for doing the absolute bare minimum when it comes to raising a child? It is literally your job as a parent to feed, clothe, and house me.” Aiden grabbed his half-eaten bowl of cereal and went to wash it, wanting to hurry up his painful interaction with his father.
“You're such an immature, selfish brat!” For a split second, Aiden wanted nothing more than to shatter his bowl but instead opted to take a deep breath before drying his bowl.
“Maybe I am selfish for wanting to be loved and cared for, but I am the child here. I should be able to make mistakes and build my own life without being belittled by my own father.” Aiden put away his plate and grabbed his phone and bag before heading out of the door.
His father’s loud voice follows him, but it turned to nothing more than an irritating buzz. It was still too early for Lily to come to get him, but maybe he could bike there and surprise her. He could stop by the park and pick her a bouquet of flowers, Aiden knew Lily loved getting flowers.
Aiden decided for that to be his plan. He grabbed his bike from the side of the house and left. Despite what he left behind, he had better things to look forward to.