“Finally some peace,” Michael let out a deep sigh as he pushed the door open to his new apartment. Closing the door behind him, he flicked on the hallway light and turned to hang his keys up. After neatly lining his shoes on the kitchen floor, Michael stepped into the dimly lit living room and sank into the couch. He closed his eyes as his mind immediately flashed through all the drama leading up to his solo return back to Milwaukee, his hometown. Michael popped his eyes open, now glowing from the hallway light, and thought aloud, “it’s time for some fucking stability back in my life.”
However the word stability was like the proverbial ring just out of reach and no matter how hard Michael tried to obtain it, another asshole would come along and snatch the word that danced his head. “Or maybe I’m the asshole,” Michael pondered, letting out an artificial laugh as he reached for the ashtray. Lighting up a half smoked blunt, Michael deeply inhaled and closed his eyes again, returning to the movie reel that spun in his head. “Fuck ‘um,” Michael let out, slowly releasing the smoke from his lungs. Michael had accumulated a lot of “fuck you’s” in his twenty five years on the planet. Sometimes in his mind he would go over the names on his “fuck you list,” but it always began the same no matter how extensive or jumbled it became; it always started with his father.
Michael couldn’t remember many happy childhood memories with his father or if there ever was a time that he looked up to him as most boys do growing up. Instead he lived in constant trepidation of his dad’s drunken tirades, especially when his dad would return home at strange hours of the night. He could still hear the roar of the big Cadillac engine pulling up and the heavy steel door slamming shut that sounded like a gunshot shot went off. Michael never knew how his brother remained asleep. Taking another pull from the blunt, Michael thought to himself that it’s been a long time since he felt sorry about his past, but he sure missed his brother.
Michael’s brother was younger than him and the more fragile of the two. Naturally Michael became the protector and often times he felt like it was just the two of them against the world. With their father always in the streets and their mother working around the clock at the hospital they spent a lot of time together fending for one another. Michael glanced over at the silhouette of a ceramic mask that his brother made back in middle school, now hanging on his wall. His mind raced to the 3AM boxing matches that his dad would put together in the basement, all the while their mother was in a blissful, sleeping pill induced slumber upstairs.
After bursting through the door to the bedroom he shared with his brother, their father would flip on the lights and dramatically announce, “all right boys, time to test your mettle!” He used to say that you always had to be prepared and that it was better to take a beating from your own blood than someone who really wanted to hurt you. As Michael’s thoughts drifted, he stretched his legs out on the coffee table and suddenly felt the eyes of his scared brother staring back at him through the darkness. Abruptly swinging his feet to the floor and sitting up, he spiked the blunt into the ashtray. Taking his phone out of his pocket, he checked the time, set it on the table and made his way to the bathroom.