“What- the FUCK is this?!”
I try hard not to curse, I really do. Being a Christian man in a Christian family, I felt I always had a responsibility not to curse. I had done well in the past, I always minded my words and my drinking tendencies. But as we get older, we begin to get laxer and laxer on our moral standings. Well… at least this was my case.
I’m 46 years old and I really put the ‘old’ in that statement. My wife often tells me I act as if I’m a 90 year old man with arthritis. I always ask her, “I’m really that bad?” And she just looks me in eye from where she’s sitting on the bed and nods smugly.
My wife is named Alice, and she’s got a literal heart of ice. A very strict mother, and a very strict wife. We didn’t fight often, thank God, but when we did it was brutal. And I can’t say it was easy to win arguments.
I acted like my grumpiness didn’t bother me, but it actually did. I didn’t want to be grumpy and bitter. I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be that kind of dad their kids look up to and say every day, “Wow, dad, you’re so cool!”
Unfortunately, I didn’t get this. At least at this point.
I’m the father of three children. Two girls and one boy. Raegan, Beth, and Maxwell. Raegan is 20, Beth is 13, and Maxwell is 16. Raegan was gone for college. She had always been very eager to leave the house and go make a living for herself. She is an ambitious and very smart girl, and I’m very proud of her.
Beth is youngest of them all, and she’s a self-proclaimed princess. I don’t argue with that statement, I agree with her. She is a princess. She had a few problems in school, as she is a rather slow learner, but she got better and now she thrives in school. She enjoys playing basketball on the school’s team.
And Maxwell… Well, Maxwell was the very thing I was cursing because of.
I stood in the bathroom, of all damn places, holding a paper which had an image printed on it. I had found it lying on the toilet. The picture was of a… well, a humanoid dog as it seemed. The dog was naked. And- yes, one could argue that dogs are naked all the time, but this dog was standing on two legs like a human and had human… sexual organs.
I did not understand what the Sam Hill I was staring at but the culprit was clear. On the corner of the drawing where the words written in cursive writing, ‘Maxwell.’
I stood in the bathroom and bit my lip. At least it looked like it said Maxwell. Alright, so I couldn’t fucking read cursive. I am truly a dumbass. But seriously, I had never understood the point of cursive in the first place. My wife always makes the argument that it helps you write faster, but I didn’t get the point of that either. Fuckin’ joy, I have a new way of writing so I can now sign gut-wrenching contracts with ease and style. I hate it when people act like cursive is the best thing since the goddamn slice of bread.
But enough of that, bottom line, I’m that dumbass father who dosen’t know cursive. But I knew enough to know that was probably Maxwell’s handwriting. And let’s be honest, this was the exact kind of shit I’d expect from my son.
My teeth dug further into my lip, aghast to the disgusting art on the paper. I turned around and hollered over my shoulder. “Maxwell!”
No response. He was probably asleep. Alice had taken Beth out to go grocery shopping, so only we were at the house. I flipped the paper over so I wouldn’t have to stare at it, and then made my way upstairs on a heavy footfall for his room.
Hoping the boy wasn’t asleep, I knocked on the door a little harder than I probably should have. Maxwell had several anxiety disorders, and he often panicked from people approaching him too abruptly. It was that bad. It was so bad he fainted at times.
My knock wasn’t answered. So, very carefully, I pushed the door open and stepped in. My eyes traveled around the maroon colored walls. “Max?” I said gruffly as my eyes swung to the bed.
My 16 year old son was there, sprawled out on top of the covers and completely motionless. I really didn’t want to wake the red-haired boy up, but the drawing he had made concerned me and I wanted answers. Even for him, this shit wasn’t normal to be drawing naked humanoid animals- or whatever the hell.
“Maxwell, wake up.” I ordered. I sat down next to his sleeping form and grabbed both of his shoulders, shaking him. He was a very light sleeper, and once again my flustered attitude towards the drawing made me more rough than I should’ve been. The boy squeaked and jerked away from me.
“Dad?!” Max seemed to hiss in his high voice. He rubbed his eyes and gathered the covers off his feet. “What’re- you doing in here?”
I turned on the lamp and gave my son a moment to compose. Then I abruptly picked up the drawing and held it in front of his face. “Mind explaining to me what this is?”
Max’s eyes adjusted to the light, and then his eyes grew as wide as plates when he saw what I was holding. “DAD!” He cried, trying to grope it from my hands. “You weren’t supposed to see that!”
“Yet I DID see it.” I said tightly, placing my hand on his skinny chest and pushing him back gently. “In the bathroom, of all damn places.”
Max’s face grew a bright shade of red but he shook his head vigorously. “Dad, c’mon, give that back. Just pretend you never saw it.”
“Maxwell, I can’t UNSEE this!” I snapped, looking at the digital drawing. “What even-”
He took the opportunity to snatch the drawing from my hands and slide it under his pillow. “It’s an anthro character.” He muttered, his face flushed. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Character? YOUR character?”
“Yes, my character.”
I rubbed my face with a hand. “Well, its not acceptable for your… ant-row character to be naked like that.”
“Ant-row?” Maxwell sighed, leaning back on the bed. “It’s anthro, dad.”
“Same damn thing.” I stood up from the bed. “Look, Max, I’m pretty laid back with this stuff, but THIS-” I moved my hand about the paper. “-Is not acceptable.”
The skinny boy just sighed and ducked back under the covers. I wanted to confront him some more, but ultimately ended up excusing myself. I didn’t want to bother fighting him anymore.
Maxwell wasn’t like me or my daughters at all. He wasn’t- He wasn’t like a normal teenage boy. He was skinny, and weak, and he didn’t like sports or participate in sports despite sports being the only damn thing our school district invested in.
And it was hard for me to say I wasn’t disappointed. When I had seen my boy being born, I had told myself. ‘Alright, here he is, your son. We’re going to teach him to be just like his old man.’
But he wasn’t. He was the exact opposite of me. He liked strange shit, like anthros and, God forbid, ponies. He called himself a ‘brony.’ I don’t know what the hell that means and I don’t wanna find out.
I tried to hide my disappointment, I really did. But it was difficult when your only son isn’t how you want him to be. He was a smart kid, but he was just… So different. So alien to me.
He also had a lot of psychical problems. Maxwell had bad asthma, so bad that it parred with his anxiety. He couldn’t run for 30 minutes without breaking down and struggling to breathe. And it didn’t help that he was dramatic. If he just wheezed once when we were doing something he would break down and act like he would have a heart attack if we continued. And I couldn’t push him, because I was always horrified I would push him to an anxiety attack, and that’s the last thing I needed.
I walked down the hallway, rubbing my face and repeatedly sighing. What was I going to do with him?
I would soon find out.
A few days since I confronted him about that gross anthro thing passed. I was sitting in the living room. The TV was blaring but I wasn’t really watching it, I only had it for noise. I lightly scrolled down on my phone, trying to Google something I couldn’t remember at this point.
Suddenly, I heard shuffling in the hallway behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement. I turned my head to see Beth standing in the hallway, looking at me. “Dad?” The girl said in a small voice.
I sensed something was wrong. “Yeah?” I asked carefully as I began rising to my feet. “Is something wrong?”
She shuffled her feet and shrugged, although concern was in her eyes. “I think Maxwell is sad, he’s crying, really- …like bad.” She scratched her head.
It took me only then to hear the distressed wail come from Maxwell’s room. Dread filled me when I caught on.
“I’ll get it.” I said to Beth gently. I made a beeline for my son’s room.
I desperately wished for my wife to be back from her dumb fucking Yoga classes. She could handle this stuff better than I could. But one thing stuck out of me, and that was that my son needed me.
I approached his door and cracked it open. Inside, he was curled up in the covers. He was clutching his pillow almost as if for life. It was stained with tears and- blood.
I dug my teeth into my lower lip in horror. “Max.” I said quickly, and loud enough for the boy’s head to fearfully shoot up.
“Go away.” He said with his voice breaking. He began to back up on the bed.
“Honey, sh, I’m here.” I cooed, trying to calm him down before he did something crazy. I slipped my way onto the bed; on my knees. “Calm down, it’s okay. What’s wrong?”
Maxwell looked at me with tear soaked eyes. My eyes wandered down to his left arm, and I saw cuts embedded into them. It was then that I realized the use of the pair of scissors on his nightstand. “Oh, Maxwell…” I sighed. Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?
…Does he feel like he can even talk to me?
Maxwell began to sit up, seeming to choke on his tears. I wanted badly to rush him and pull him into my embrace, so he’d stop crying and- hurting himself. But would that even work. Did he even… feel comforted around me? Dread and questions kept coming into me, I couldn’t help but feel like this was my fault.
And Praise the Lord; it wasn’t. Maxwell sat up further and clawed at his messy hair. “They’re right.” The boy choked out.
“Who?” I demanded, tensing. I internally hoped he wasn’t talking about a hallucination. “Who’s right?”
“Them.” Maxwell breathed out, still clawing his fingers through his hair. “The people bullying me.”
I felt false relief and began scooting my way towards him very carefully. “Why would anyone bully you? You know they’re not right about you at all, right?” I asked sincerely. I sat directly in front of him now, so I would be able to access him quickly if he tried anything drastic.
“Don’t bullshit me, dad!” Maxwell nearly yelled. “You know you HATE me! You HATE that I’m not everything you want me to be!”
This hit me, and it hit me hard. But I can’t say I didn’t expect it coming. I dug my teeth even further into my lip. I reached my hands forwards and pulled him into me, and I breathed out as thoughts twirled in my head. I spoke my thoughts.
“Max, there’s not a bone in my body that hates you; and you know it. I don’t think you’re different, I was wrong to ever think so. You’re normal, and you’re my son. I love you dearly. Anyone who tries to bully you is a fucking idiot. They’re the flawed ones. Just because you have different interests in them, it doesn’t make you weird or abnormal. And you know what, lil buddy?” I pushed him up off me and ruffled his hair. “I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
Maxwell gave out a shaky sigh and leaned against me. I messed with his messy hair. “And we’ll figure out what to do with those dumbass bullies, buddy, I promise.”
Maxwell continued to give out shaky sighs, but he was still clinging to me. “Okay.” He said shakily. I could tell by his body language alone, that he was going to be okay. We were going to be okay.
Yeah, my son was, in a way; different. Yeah, he had weird interests, yeah, he did weird things.
But you know what I know and will forever know now?
I wouldn’t have him be any other way.