There’s always a certain point where I can tell, he’s not human anymore.
When he’s screaming. The word is so deficient, but that’s because his baseline volume. No, when he gets to that point where his face turns purple, and the cords stand out in his neck, and the veins are like serpents over his dripping forehead. When he’s spitting words out like a bellow but more low pitched, like a snarl, like a growl, like an animal about to rip someone’s throat out- then I know.
When his friends come over. When those friends come over and give him lectures on how to keep his family in line, and he calls us out to clean the room in front of them or makes us sit while he recites our faults to them. Then I know.
When his friends come over, and praise us. And he sits there seething, silently bubbling and frothing that someone appreciated me, or appreciated us. Each word of praise lands on his ego like a dagger, and he flinches, he flinches at the thought that people could see worth in us, or that we would see something worthy in ourselves, when he’s spent so much effort programming us to be doormats- then I know.
Although, in these situations the friends guilty know too. And if they’re bad people, they quit the praise sharpish, so as to appease him. And if they’re good people, they know. They see the animal, and they generally withdraw, and stop coming to our house at all.
When he goes into that rage. When he starts slamming things off the shelves, or dishes on the floor. When he springs out of the sofa, or his chair, teeth bared and fists ready, a practices move from his old boxing days. Fists up, threaten, jab, shuffle back- I know that dance, and I didn’t learn it from Rocky Balboa either. But I know. Then I know.
I know when he eats. It’s a common scene in my house. Lunch, dinner, and that scene. God how I know it.
Food spraying out his mouth as he eats, teeth bared. The same bellowing. But accompanying by furious ranting, jumping up and down, slamming his fist on the table, and food. Repulsive, disgusting, nauseating food coating his mouth and chin, spit dribbling, and occasionally spewing out when he forgets to chew in his rush to fight. Then I know, I know, I wish that I didn’t but I know.
Just like I know when he wears his perfectly creased tailored suits, uniforms and shined shoes, and the impeccably groomed, cheery and jovial man walks out into the world that he rules in. Then I know more than anything. My father is an animal. And I wish I didn’t, but I know it.