I’d like to think that the smiling man before me, waving exaggeratedly, for the benefit of Mark and his family, was real. That I would walk up to him to receive a strong hug on my shoulder, and maybe a tender kiss on the top of my head. That my father would say “I’ve missed you my son. What in the world happened to your foot?” But I knew better. As I slowly walked toward him, listening to the sound of the SUV pulling away, I saw the facade melt away. The aggressive, alcohol fueled monster returned. The cheerful eyes, replaced with narrow, hooded slits of menace. The smile reverted to a tight-lipped, teeth gnashing scowl. A look of pure hatred and utter disgust.I approached ever so slowly, shuffling sideways, holding my arms in close, as if protecting as much of myself as possible. My head down, like a puppy who made a mess, awaiting his punishment. Yet, I did not know what my crime was, or what was going to happen next. His alcohol induced madness was so unpredictable. He didn’t need a reason to lash out. Sometimes my presence alone was reason enough.Without a word, he gripped my shoulder roughly, and jerked my toward the front yard.“Daniel, I need you to rake up all these leaves. Snow is coming. I need them gone.”I looked at him, pleading. “But dad. I can’t” I said, pointing down to my casted foot, thinking maybe he hadn’t seen it yet.He glanced down disgustedly at my foot “hmm. You will rake these leaves. NOW!”“I…I…I can’t” I responded, barely over a whisper.He grabbed my chin roughly, and pulled my face up, forcing me to stare into his wild eyes “DO IT!”He snapped my head back . A voice from somewhere deep inside of me, responded to his show of force. “I hate you” it spoke defiantly.He responded with a vicious slap across my left cheek. It stung as bad as anything I had ever felt before. Like the sting of a hundred wasps. My ears became full with only the sound of my scared heartbeat and a high pitch ringing. The impact of the blow nearly caused me to tumble to the ground.My inner voice was not done. “FUCK YOU!” I screamed, not worried about any bullshit consequences for my disobedience.His hand bunched up the shirt around my collar, pulling me in close, with his other arm raised over his head. Prepared to deliver another blow. I felt his hot, intoxicated breath on my lips. Through clenched teeth he said “watch that mouth, unless you’re prepared to back it up.”I stared him right in his eyes. I could feel a trickle of blood seeping from my nostril. My left eye was swelling over from the pain on my throbbing cheek. My eyes were pooling with moisture, but I was not going to cry for this bastard. Not today. He was waiting for me to give him another reason to strike me. I just stood there, deadpan, adsorbed in the hatred I currently felt for him. Fighting mightily to keep from giving him that reason he was looking for, and fighting even harder to keep from lashing out at him.I heard a noise somewhere behind him. I looked and saw a few neighbors, watching, and waiting. He turned his head and scoffed at them. Then he lowered his arm and let go of my shirt.“They are not going to help you. Nobody is going to help you. Do you understand? Rake these god damn leaves!” He poked me in the chest with his angry finger, repeatedly, pushing me back, imposing his power over me. A demented smirk, displaying the pleasure he got from hurting me. He stepped away from me backwards, never taking his eyes off of me. He went into the garage and disappeared. I heard the door into the house slam hard, as he went inside.I looked at the rake in my hands, squeezing it as hard as I could. I wanted to take this rake, storm the house and smash him with it. Over and over. My anger was topped out. I was hyperventilating, nursing a growing rage, at the pit of my stomach. I stepped forward. Then stopped. Another step. Another pause. I was tired of running from him. Tired of cowering. Tired of hiding. I launched the rake into the air and ran into the garage. I grabbed his drink off the counter, and threw it at the door of his truck. The impact resonated with a loud smash, as the glass exploded on the door. Suddenly the air in the garage changed, as the door from the house flung open. I didn’t have time to admire my handiwork, as my dad now filled the open doorway. I ran around the side of the house, throwing a final “ASSHOLE!” as my parting phrase. I ran onto the trail leading to the woods, and I kept running. The pain in my foot was there, but it was dulled by my adrenaline, and the knowledge of what was waiting for me, if I happened to get caught.My dad attempted a half-hearted pursuit, but he knew that I had a far better mental map of the tangled mess than he does. Still, I kept running. I couldn’t risk stopping, in case he was out here, slowly combing the woods.I had never ran through here full blast before. It was almost like I was floating over the fallen stumps and debris. This forest was not going to take me down. Normally my anger would have subsided by now, returning me to normal. But this was different. Liberating. I kept running, numb from the pain and damage I was no doubt causing my body. Blind rage!I ran all the way to the familiar broken farm. I was not in control anymore. Something else pulled me there. Was it my inner voice, that for the first time in my life, defied my father? Did it come from the same place that challenged Derek? That wanted to hurt him. It felt so unfamiliar, but oh so satisfying.I approached the old farm house, for what would prove to be the last time. I stormed the door with the fury of 10,000 dark thoughts, seeking total annihilation. My blood boiling so hot, I thought my mortal flesh might spring leaks to release the putrid energy, coursing through my veins. I had found a new, dark place within me, and it was not going to be denied. I ripped at the old barn wood, nailed at the entrance, easily jerking it free. I stepped inside and whipped into a chaotic frenzy like nothing I’ve ever done before. I worked my way through the house, kicking in doors and walls. Swinging a table leg violently at anything in my path. I took the top off a toilet and threw it through a window. I was an unstoppable force of rage, using every ounce of my power, hellbent on destruction. I yelled out with a guttural roar, sounding more animal than human.I climbed upstairs and ran to the last room on the left. The source of my nightmare. There was nothing there. No fancy wallpaper. No headboard. Satin sheets. Candles or sex. Just another room full of trash and decay. I drove my fist through a wall. And another. And another. I punched a fuck you for Derek. One for my father, and many, many more for all the hate, and all the pain. My hands were cut and bleeding. My knuckles skinned back and raw. The air was thick with sheet-rock dust, causing my teary eyes to burn. Then it all came to an abrupt halt, as my punch connected with a stud. My wrist folded in half, and the pain was gut-wrenching. I let out an agonizing scream and dropped to my knees. Defeated. The buzz was gone and I wept. The adrenaline that had kept me in my rage fizzled out and I tipped over. on to my side. I curled myself up into a ball and cried. My body hurt everywhere. My mind was overflowing with so many confusing and painful thoughts. I laid there, hurt and exhausted. Scared. Scared of what I had just done. Who I had just become. This wasn’t me. Where did this come from, and how do I keep it from coming back?When I finally stopped crying and my heartbeat returned to normal, I drifted off, passed out on the floor.I’m not sure how long I slept, but the room was becoming dark when I came to. I sat up, shivering. I slowly got myself to standing, my aching body didn’t want to cooperate. I looked at my hands, tore up and caked with dry blood. The rest of my body was covered in white dust and dirt. My shirt and jeans were filthy with dirt and blood. My shirt torn.I navigated my way outside and sat on the stoop. I fished my cellphone out of my pocket and called the only person I could think of to help me. The only person who really understood me.