For a very short season, I had a friend in high school who gave me one of my first real-life glimpses into the bone deep reach of daddy poison.
I had just changed schools, and making friends was (and still is) difficult for me. He was a nice guy who befriended me in English class, funny, both of us shared a love for books, especially works by Stephen King. It was one of those friendships in which the dissolution was so gradual, I don’t remember exactly when we stopped communicating, but I remember some two or three years later seeing him in an arcade and recognizing the fierce dislike of me in his eyes.
About a couple of months after we had become friends, he started saying things that really bothered me. He had an older brother who had recently graduated from the school, and it was obvious that he worshipped him. From his stories and the collective gossip of other students, the brother had an unsavory reputation of being a proud racist. It was in the recollection of these stories that my friend began to say n****r, as if it was an accepted word on which we bonded. I saw something different in this new friend of mine; it was like a layer of cellophane pressing down on a genuinely kind young man, a layer that, when he delved into these brother narratives, dissolved into his skin and altered who he really was. It was mean and unthinking hatred that surprised me, confused me.
One story that will probably never drift away from my brain involved his brother and a teacher whom the brother hated. This teacher was a woman in her sixties whom doctors would describe as morbidly obese. The brother somehow procured keys to the high school and her classroom, and in the middle of the night, broke into her classroom and defiled all her walls with obscene references to her weight problem. My friend finished the story by laughing and telling me how the poor woman, when she entered the next day, broke down and blubbered. He grinned as he told me this, saying, “Isn’t that cool?”
I don’t remember what I said to him. I remember being shocked and silent and thinking HOLY SHIT THAT’S NOT COOL THAT’S FUCKING MEAN YOUR BROTHER IS A FUCKING ASSHOLE AND SO ARE YOU FOR LAUGHING ABOUT IT.
Another story involved his brother’s humiliation of a young black student at the school.The student was a young woman whom I thought was EXCEEDINGLY attractive, and it was through other friends I had made that he found out my attraction to her. He asked me about it; he was visibly pissed. I told him, yes, that I thought she was hot. It was after this that we went our separate ways. Luckily, I didn’t have any more classes with him after that. (My English teacher the following year was the one abused by his evil brother, and she was excellent.)
At some point during our brief friendship, I visited his home one afternoon, and discovered the origin of Evil Brother and gathering clouds forming over the kindness of my friend. Earlier that day, he had found one of those wallets with a long chain that attaches to a belt. His father returned home from work a few minutes after we got there. He introduced me to his Dad; I shook his hand, his Dad glanced at the chain wallet that his son wore and said, “Take that damn thing off. You look like a n****r.”
My friend tried to defend the wallet, and I distinctly remember the look on his face. He loved his Dad, but he was also embarrassed and ashamed. I saw that struggle - a young, shy and good-natured man fighting the daddy poison.
I can’t say if he ultimately lost the struggle, but he was certainly overwhelmed by it during that short season.
One fallacy shining in the loving eyes of sons is that Daddy is Super, Daddy is God.
But Daddy is not God. At best, Daddy is a loving, but flawed man, like everyone else, awash in the uncertainty of life. And at worst, Daddy is an ignorant asshole whose words are poison, poison, poison.