Green Room II
Chapter 22

The moment Graham left, and closed the door, depression overwhelmed me. Sorry, G, but I couldn't help it. >From that moment, my day turned to hell.

I dressed in a vest and shorts, and went to the gym to punch away my anger. My dad was already there, which frustrated me even more so. I thought I'd be clever, and asked him if he wanted to spar. He agreed. This would be my chance to get even. I was amped to see him bleed; to see anyone bleed.

I danced around, using techniques I learned from Graham. My dad played with me, jab, jab, jab--soft punches to the arms and forearms, most of which I blocked.

With a hateful stare, I flew a right hook, which he blocked. Then he upped me in the stomach and knocked the wind right of out me, all without a word. Neither of us spoke.
I coughed a while until I caught my breath. We danced again. I caught my dad with a jab to the mouth. He bit his lip. The sight of his blood excited me, so I jabbed him again. He kept dancing, so I took another swing and connected. His lip was a little swollen by that stage, then he let me have it. His first punch snapped my head back. It felt like my teeth had penetrated my jaw bone. His glove swung to the side of my head, rattling my teeth again. I became so disoriented, I dropped my guard. That provided an opportunity for him to smack my ribs.

At that point, I made a fatal mistake. I lost my temper. Each time I tried to close in, I dropped my guard. The worst was an upper cut to my gut, which sent a searing pain to my balls. I collapsed to my hands and knees, and spat blood from a cut lip. One of my dad's gloves dropped to the floor in front of my eyes. The fight was over as far as he was concerned.

"Stay the fuck there!" I demanded. "Where the fuck do you think you're going, you cunt?" I was so angry, I almost cried--more angry with myself for showing him how weak I was.

Without a word from my dad, he retrieved his gloves and put them back on. He waited until I got to my feet. I swung, but he hit me instead. I swung again, but he connected a second time. He waited patiently for my wild swings before hitting me until my head felt like porridge. Tears and blood poured down my face, and my vest was bright red. Sweat drenched us both.

"C'mon," I teased, "hit me again, you fucking prick."

He did, with an almighty smack. It was the most reaction I'd gotten from him, ever. As far as I could remember, it was the closest contact we'd shared. I swung another shot and caught his ear. He retaliated with a flurry of short punches to the ribs and stomach until I collapsed in a heap on the floor. My whole body was wracked with pain. I heard him walk to the door.

"C'mon," I yelled. "Finish the job! At least say something!"

"Finish what, Stuart?" he asked, eyes filled with anger. "Do you want to tell me the pain you're suffering is just a small part of the pain we suffer every time you're high or pissed out of your skull? Is that what you want to hear? Do you want me to tell you I can't speak to you most of the time because you're flying on another fucking planet? You want me to tell you about the nights your mother and I lie awake, scared the phone will ring with bad news? Do you want me to tell you I wish we could be together but don't know what to say to you? Wake up, boy, before you kill yourself. And what the hell was all this sparring in aid of?"

He disappeared through the door before he heard my response. "Maybe because I love you, dad."

I rolled onto my back and laid there, still wearing my gloves, and stared at the ceiling. If he really cared, I thought, he would have spoken to me ages ago. Scared the phone might ring with bad news? He'd probably celebrate. Where does he get off trying to lay the guilt trip on me? As to us being together, what a joke. What we shared in the gym this day was the most togetherness we ever had. And I thought that was pretty cool, hahahaha! Wake up, boy, before you kill yourself? Fuck him. I'll wake him up next time we're in the gym.

I laid on the gym floor for ages with my mind a jumble of confused images and thoughts. When I eventually stood, I checked the mirror and saw someone who'd just stepped from a session with Mike Tyson. My left eye was swollen closed and seriously bruised. My vest was spattered with patches of red from my bleeding mouth. My lip resembled a Michelin tire. You worked me over good, dad. Even my fringe hair was matted with blood.

I showered and checked my face. It was a nightmare, so that put paid to going out that night. From my room, I heard my mom and dad argue about the fight. Much later, my dad entered my room to ask how I felt. He got me to stand in order to check my eye, which worried him. At least, that's what he said. He didn't stay long. Then the housekeeper arrived and asked me to lie on the bed. She patched my eyes with used tea bags. They actually did reduce the swelling quite a bit. Then she turned her interest to the swelling in my shorts.

Later, my mom informed me, to my surprise, that dad was a junior boxing champ at school. Hahaha! Oh, Stuart, you stuffed up so badly.

I fell asleep, then slept through the day and all of the night.

Sunday I spent time in the gym on the chin bar, stretching my back to ease the ache in my muscles. My face still resembles a connection with an express train.

That night I visited a mate, the one with all the computer games. When I explained that my dad did the damage to my face, he suggested I lay a charge. I explained that I was the one who provoked the altercation.

I arrived home to a message to phone Brett. It was late but I phoned anyway. The first thing he said was that Melanie had called him. Uh, oh, I was in trouble again.

"She said she had a cool afternoon with you."


"She feels guilty about how she treated you, and wanted advice. What is it with you guys in Byron?"

"All I wanted was to connect and maybe go out sometime. Just friend type stuff."

"She doesn't believe you, though. She said she'd like that but doesn't want to get involved in a Stuart romance."

"I asked for friendship, not a bloody romance."

"Try again. She wasn't thinking when she spoke to you."

"Yeah, well, right now I resemble a train wreck."

"Stuart! You promised to quit!"

"No, no, no, my dad beat the crap out of me."

"Yeah, sure."

"I'm serious!" Then I told him the full story.

"Go dad!"

"Stuff him."

"Next time you visit Fremantle, I'll give you boxing lessons."

"Yeah, right ... so you can enjoy beating me up."

"That too. So what's the matter? You sound lower than shark shit."

That did it. The dam burst and I cried like a baby. "I don't know what the matter is," I sobbed. "I'm depressed all the time. Hell, Brett, I'm not handling anything at all."

"Mate, cool it for a sec. If you're off the shit like you say, it's probably because of that. Just a chemical reaction or something."

"It's this whole mess with my dad as well. My friends have all crawled into the woodwork. And you're a thousand miles away."

"Hey, hey, Stuart. Calm the fuck down. I heard from Melanie that you've been in one fight after another. Now your dad? I tell you what it sounds like to me; it sounds like you actually want people to treat you that way to reinforce your miserable self image. You need to stop being a punching bag or you'll end up psycho, making yourself a continual victim. You need to get your ass over here. I'll teach you how to deal with any prick who wants to take you on."

"That'll give you an excuse to have a go at me as well, hahahaha!"

"Fingers says you're coming over here during school vacation."

"I'd like to if you can handle that."

"I'm serious about training you, Stuart. I'll give you a hard time if you visit, and you know I will."


"Fuck off. You know what I mean. And there's still the unfinished sanding business on the yacht."

"I'll look forward to that. Thanks, man."

"For what?"

"For listening. At least you still listen to all my bullshit."

That's about where the call ended. I so much wanted to be in control of myself but I couldn't help breaking down.

At school today, I pushed a kid around but backed off when a friend of his rocked up. My face is still painful, and I couldn't handle another fist. It was the stupid comment he made that angered me--something about my girlfriend being too rough or whatever. A really lame comment he probably meant as a joke.

Yes, I am proud of you, Stuart. You accomplished a great deal on Friday night, maybe more than you realize. You elevated yourself in Graham's eyes, and gave him something important to cling to when he remembers the bad times.

I'm glad you complimented him on his swimming, but don't overdo it or it will begin to sound false.

I feel inadequate to comment on what took place between you and your dad. I don't know the man. Obviously, there's a lot of hate that has simmered for years. Who's fault is that? In any confrontation, each side blames the other. I hope the fight in the gym leads to something positive. Stranger things have happened.

Could it be that the two of you mirror aspects of character that are common to you both. You wrote recently to say you couldn't remember anything you did for someone else that wasn't motivated by selfishness. Do you have that in common with your dad? I ask these questions because sometimes they lead to answers.

Meanwhile, your mom is the meat in the sandwich, and probably resists taking sides. However, it's a good idea to chat with her one day about the relationship you have with your dad. Maybe she can unravel the mystery. You and your dad need to sort out this mess. The sooner the better. Hate is a festering sore that won't heal if not treated.

Brett hit the nail on the head when he suggested that you've been beaten so many times that you're developing a serious complex. And now your dad's joined the ranks of the Stuart bashers. If there is one guy who can toughen you, it's Brett. Mind you, I think you're tougher than he realizes. You showed remarkable courage and resilience lately that no amount of muscle could handle. You've been to hell and back. Give yourself credit, Stuart. You're probably tougher than a busload of big bros. And, one day, your dad will admit how wrong he was.