Friday, 6:00pm, time to begin the weekend. Tony tidied his desk. Slightly OCD, he hated not having things neat before leaving work. Coming into his office each morning greeted by clean desk made him feel a new start was always possible.

He ripped today’s page from his calendar. Holding it for a moment, the date hit him hard. Nineteen years ago, his life turned upside down with the deaths of his mother and younger brother. Clutching the paper to hold onto the past, he stared at it, willing it to bring back some memory of a happy time. No joyful recollections came, only painful ones returned.  Loosening his fingers, he smiled bleakly, as it drifted down into the trash can. Holding in tears, he symbolically let go of his past.

Out of the building, the chilly air forced him to hunch into his coat and move briskly. Noticing couples walking around him, the longing for someone to share his life tried bursting forth but his lacking the ability to trust, held it in check. He wasn’t ready for that yet.

At the corner, Tony saw a woman with two boys. When she turned her face toward him, he did a double take. She looks like my mother. He watched her. The few memories of his early happy life flittered back. When the light changed, part of him wanted to follow her, to relive what happiness he could, to feel the sense of family again. His needs kept him on his path.

Coming into St. Gabriel’s, he ducked into the sanctuary for a few minutes of reflection and to light a candle before entering the al-anon meeting room. No one, outside here, knew he attended or how badly he needed these weekly meetings to keep him sane. Tonight’s meeting focused on confronting your pain, letting go of your past. How ironic, he thought.

Tony’s sponsor and mentor, Charlie, greeted him after the meeting. “Hi Tony, Good to see you. I’ve got tickets for the game Sunday, want to go? A guy’s night, just me you, and my boy.”

Tony nodded. A ball game on Sunday, he thought, perfect end to the weekend.

“Great, I’ll pick you up about five. We can grab a pizza before the game” said Charlie. “Gotta run. Promised I’d throw some balls with Nick tonight.” He clapped Tony on the back and hustled out.

Watching him leave Tony stood getting lost in thoughts. Does Nick know what a great dad he’s got, he wondered. He wished he had a memory of him and his dad throwing a ball, any ball, together. Instead his memories consisted of his father stumbling up the stairs, yelling at his mother, of a belt or fist striking his body. His memories were not filled with love but with terror. He had lived in fear of making a mistake, upsetting his father, crouching over his younger brother to protect him from the blows administered nightly.  Never could he remember his father sober.

Thirty-two years old and he still trembled whenever he heard angry voices thanks to the abuse he received from his dad. Tony should let Nick know what an awesome guy his father was. Maybe on Sunday he could talk to him.

Stepping into the bracing evening air, a light wind encouraged him to take the long way home.  Heading towards the park, he saw other walkers who like him were enjoying the crisp night. Unlike him, they were in pairs. Wrapped up in his longing for new start, he lost track of time. As church bells chimed midnight, he turned towards home, Tony thought, not for the first time, he was lonely. He had friends, but not companionship. He reached the point in his life where he needed that.

“Maybe a dog,” thought Tony. Someone to greet me at the door. Someone to spend the weekend afternoons with in the park. Someone to teach me to trust. The walk, the meeting, the falling of the calendar page, convinced him it was time to let go of his past. “ A dog it is. I’ll start looking tomorrow.”

Reaching his door, an unrecognized scent danced in the air, flirting with his nose. Something felt wrong. He looked around. No one in the hallway but him. Must be old memories coming home to haunt me, he thought placing the key in the lock and turning the handle. Entering his apartment, the faint smell from outside, more fragrant now, slapped his face, insulted he had not remembered it.

Sitting on his couch, dim light flickering off the open whiskey bottle held in an odorous hand, was a person he had not seen in nineteen years. A person he thought dead.  A person he hoped dead. A person from the past he needed to let go of.

“What’s the matter? Can’t you say hello?” came the gruff, gnarled voice whose power reduced Tony to a ten year old boy.

Standing in the doorway, unable to move, a roil of emotions overtook his body. Fear, terror, anguish, each wave coming so quick he had no time to recognize it before another emotion replaced it. Disbelief held in him place.

“Took me a while to find you what with changing your name and all. Then it took a while to convince your doorman I was your dad. Finally he noticed how much we would look alike.” The slurred words hurt Tony’s ears, clogged his body with pain.

The man cautiously stood up, gaining his balance before staggering to Tony and twisting his scarred, disfigured head sideways.”See,” he said. As he turned back into Tony’s view, he punched him in the mouth, hard enough to draw blood, pop teeth from their homes, and send small cracks that spread like broken ice on water into Tony’s jaw.

“Wanted to say thanks for keeping silent but I hear that’s all you can keep.”

He laughed, the harsh drunken sound which terrorized Tony as a child reverberated around him. Standing before him was his father, older but still the same drunken mess he remembered.

“I like you dumb. Too bad you weren’t that way always.”

Tony collapsed to the floor. The memory of the last time he saw his father returned forcing him now to relive the horror of that night. Like a bad movie replaying in his head, he saw again, his brother and mother, bruised, broken, battered, unmoving, not speaking, laying on the floor.  His father standing, eyes unfocused covered in their blood, not human anymore. Ten year old Tony paralyzed by the scene before him had tried to scream but nothing come out.

His father had seen him, “What, you want some of this?” He raised his fist, the liqueur bottle he was holding dropped. Neither of them noticed the whiskey trickle towards the fireplace where thirsty flames eagerly waited to lap it up.

His father had come towards him ready to strike as Tony backed towards the door, terrorized still unable to speak. Sensing he would never get away, he had closed his eyes and prayed death would be quick. Thud. His father tripped over his feet. Drunk, he had trouble getting up.

Tony had turned to the door. Opening it, he had plunged into the cold darkness. He had run. He had run until his sides hurt and he could no longer breathe. Falling on the ground he had waited in fear.

He remembered he prayed his father wouldn’t find him, but being alone, cold, scared, he remembered also praying he would. Tony had accepted his mother and brother were dead. On that night, the ten year old had wanted to die too.

His mind continued reliving the memory. Slowly rising after what seemed an eternity with no where else to go, he had turned towards home. A boom rocked that night. Firetrucks had screamed past him, smells of burning items had teased him. Coming back to his street, he had seen fire engulfing his home sending heat mixed with the smell of roasting bodies out to his neighbors who stood in their yards watching.

He sat now on his apartment floor. The replayed memory done. All the suppressed fear came back but so did all the anger he felt at his mothers’ and brothers’ death.

No longer a child, Tony raised up, unafraid to face his father. Emotion after emotion overtook him. Rage won. Lifting his father up by his shirt he stared at him. The smell of whiskey assaulted his senses. Adrenaline fueled by pent up suffering ignited his actions. Carrying his father to the balcony doors, Tony held him with one hand, pushing the doors open with his other.

Realizing Tony was no longer a terrorized child but a grown man able to fight back, his father’s face rapidly changed from unadulterated gloating to loss of command, to horror. For the first time Tony saw an emotion in his father’s face he had no memory of, unmasked fear.

Half pushing half dragging his father towards the railing he screamed “GO.” The sound so startled Tony he turned loose. Momentum combined with an alcohol induced lack of control propelled his father forward over the railing.

Staring down, breathing hard, adrenaline fleeing his body, he saw his past laying jumbled but still, defeated, having been let go, ready to be left behind.

With the weight of silence lifted from his life, Tony went to his phone to make his first vocal call in years. Pressing 911, he wondered aloud “What type of dog should I get?”