Warning: Offensive Language
Jeremy’s father started to have tantrums as if he was a toddler, except he was a grown man, advanced in age but still strong, and so was a danger to himself and others when he flew into these blind rages.
It was probably a kind of dementia, his doctor told Jeremy. Jeremy disagreed. He was just a selfish, violent asshole, and the older he got, the worse he got. “Right,” said the doctor. “He loses the filter. He can’t help it.”
So Jeremy tried hard not to hate his father. He tried hard to understand him. He generally failed to do both. It was much better since Xavier moved in; Xavier had a serenity about him, or perhaps it was just an indifference to the insults and rantings of an old man. But with Xavier around to look after him, Jeremy all but abandoned his plans to get his father into a nursing home and out of his life. Working two jobs was not the brilliant savings plan Jeremy had envisioned. There was no way to fast-track his father out of the apartment and into an institution far away from him.
Jeremy resigned himself to the unforgivable plan of cohabiting with this father. He felt terrible about it, and realized it was not a good solution for either of them. Unless, Jeremy realized, he could arrange schedules with Xavier and the airline so that he rarely had to see his father face to face.
He worked the late afternoon shifts and the overnight shifts as often as he could. For a week at a time he would not see his father at all, arriving home when his father was in bed and leaving again before they had time to confront one another.
The tantrum came one afternoon towards the end of that quiet (for Jeremy) week. He was awakened from a dead sleep, having returned home pumped up from a bomb scare at the airport. He’d played video games in his room until he literally fell into bed unconscious.
“Don’t you— don’t you talk to me like that, you spic!” His father. Jeremy put the pillow over his head.
Then some furniture scraping, and finally, something picked up and hurled against the wall. It sounded like the building was imploding. Jeremy dragged himself up and into the kitchen, where he was startled to see blood streaming from his father’s nose.
Xavier stood near the back door, a frying pan in his hand. A loaf of bread had been emptied and scattered around the room. Blood covered the front of his father’s shirt.
“See what he does? You leave me alone with this… thing, day after day!” His father wiped blood from his nose with a shirt sleeve, and then kicked over a kitchen chair. “Faggots, both of you, abusing an old man, both of you!”
“Xavier?” Jeremy said quietly.
Xavier shook his head. “I did nothing. He requested his lunch, I prepared it. He did not like it. He threw it.”
“Fucking teenage faggot!”
“I said, ‘Why do that Mr Connor? This is what you say you want.’ I don’t know, he forgot? He—“
“Call the police!” said his father. “Get this wetback deported.”
“You didn’t hit him,” Jeremy asked.
“I did not,” said Xavier. “The plate he threw hit me, though, so…” He held up the frying pan, indicating its purpose was to shield himself from flying objects.
“Are you seriously going to believe that filthy foreign thug over me?”
“Dad, go lie down for a little bit. Really. I’ll bring you some tea.”
“Shut the fuck up,” said his father. He suddenly looked at his sleeve, and the knocked over chair, and Xavier by the door with a frying pan. “Just leave me alone.” The blood seemed to have stopped flowing and Jeremy handed his father a fistful of paper towels.
Subdued, Jeremy’s father shuffled out of the kitchen.
“How often has this been happening?” Jeremy said.
“Just a few times,” said Xavier, placing the pan carefully on top of the stove. “He just goes off like a firework. Boom. Pop. Pow.”
“I think is a nose bleed,” said Xavier. He started picking up pieces of bread from the floor. “Your father is angry.”
“He is always angry,” said Jeremy.
That is a good question, Jeremy thought. It wasn’t all dementia, or lack of filters, or a vile temperament. He knew this for a fact, because he himself was full of anger towards his father. Rage, suppressed. He understood how anger felt, but was ignorant about where it lived and how it flourished.
He helped Xavier clean up the kitchen. He ate a grilled cheese sandwich that Xavier prepared. He took a cup of strong tea into his father’s room. His dad lay under the covers, in his clothes, blood clotting around his nostrils, sound asleep. Jeremy put the cup on the bedside table. His father, he knew, would awake and be enraged by cold tea.