THE PAIN IN MY HEAD INTENSIFIED, throbbing in time with the slow beat of my heart. My blurry vision shifted from double to single with each blink of my eyes. I felt the back of my head from where the pain radiated; warm, sticky red coated my fingers. The cold grit of the tile could be felt through my thin t-shirt.
I looked up from where I was splayed on the floor, into the crazed, bloodshot eyes of a man I had known all my life—or at least I thought I’d known. I was instantly sober, the fog cleared and my heart raced. He was poised to strike, ready for the kill. Thick veins bulged in his neck; I could see them pulsing with each strained breath he took. I saw past him, to the ax raised above his head. Without hesitation, he brought it down to split my skull down the middle. Just before the blade was able to tear into my forehead, I freed myself of his strong grip and rolled onto my side, avoiding the axe—and infinite blackness—by mere inches.
I stood on wobbly legs, trying to pull air into my lungs as I turned to brace myself for the next attack. I was stunned to see the man who was a monster just moments before crumpled on the floor, face first on the Mexican tile. He opened his hand and let the ax slip from his grip. His shoulders shook.
He was sobbing.
"Dad?" I asked. I’d tried everything I could to take away his pain, and in return he had done his damnedest to make sure I felt the very depths of it.
"Get the fuck out of here!" he roared into the floor between sobs.
"Dad, let me help you," I begged, kicking the ax out of his reach.
"Get out of this house, and never fucking come back!" He reared up and sat back onto his knees, slowly lifting his head to face me. Drool leaked from the sides of his mouth. His eyes glistened with moisture. The stench of alcohol stung my nose when he spoke. I'd seen my father in a bad way before, but this was something else entirely. "I don't want to see you in this house ever again."
"Dad, just let me help you," I insisted. I could do just that: get him into rehab, grief counseling—whatever it took to make him stop feeling like his life was over.
I leaned over and grabbed him by the arm to help him up. "Don't fucking touch me!" He jerked out from my grip. "It's you...it should have been you. You're the reason they're gone." His words stung, but it wasn't the first time I heard him say them. It'd been two weeks of cleaning up his vomit and trying to stay out of the path of his drunken rage. "I wish it’d been you," he said, softer this time.
"Dad, you're drunk. You don't mean that."
“Yes, I do. I just tried to fucking kill you, Jake, and in all honesty, I wish I had." He looked me straight in the eye, and in that moment, he appeared completely in control. “It should have been you. You should be dead. Not them. I just wanted to fix it, trade you for them. Make it the way it should’ve been." His voice turned to a whisper. “You're dead to me now, boy."
Something inside me snapped.
If I had to choose a moment in time when I knew my life would be different going forward—when I knew I would be different—this would be it.
It was at this very moment that I knew in my soul I was capable of murder.
I picked up the ax, stood tall and headed straight for him, stepping around the overturned living room furniture. I raise the ax over my head and gripped it with both hands. The look of fear and surprise in my father’s eyes was welcome. I savored it. I wanted to remember that fear, to play it over and over in my head. He didn't even try to move out of the way. I swung down hard but stopped the blade less than an inch away from slamming it into his chest.
The sheer look of horror on his face did nothing to unnerve me. I was done fixing him. "Never forget that I stopped this time. Because if I ever see you again, I will tear your fucking heart out, old man." I threw down the ax and spat on him, making sure he knew he was as nothing to me as I was to him. I left him trembling on the floor and didn't so much as pause to look back at him before I ripped open the front door and stepped out into the night.
I lit a cigarette on the front porch before walking into the shadows of the driveway to mount my bike. I didn't bother to pack a bag.
There was nothing I needed or wanted from that house anymore.
As I started up the bike and let it roar, I could’ve sworn I heard my father wailing just beyond the noise of my engine. But, it was too late.
I was well past the point of going back.
In more ways than one.
That was four years ago.
Six days had passed since I last took a life, and now, my bike and I were headed back to the very place I hated most.