I knew I had to get away.

For my sanity, for any chance of surviving.

Despite the terrible teachers, I would do as well in school as I could.

I didn’t rebel. I did everything they asked in their ignorance, their cruelty,

so I could get A’s in every class.

The key was a scholarship to a far-away college.


It was January and the deadline

for my parents to fill out the scholarship application.

I heard my father in the next room. It was one of his rants.

“Why should we tell them that?

Who the hell are they to ask me that?

I’m not gonna tell them that shit.”


He could go on for hours. I grew up with him hollering

about everyone’s persecution of him

each morning and every night.


I snapped. My years of holding on—

to sanity, even to life, and I’m not exaggerating—

my humiliating accommodation to those terrible teachers,

and surviving the boredom and the brutal students—

my future was exploding, evaporating.


“You have to! You better!” I yelled, and ran out of the house.

No destination—I needed to run in the winter dark, anywhere.


I heard a car following.

He stopped, got out. He grabbed me.

I started punching.

In our heavy winter jackets, the blows didn’t hurt,

but my mother was yelling, “He has a heart condition! Don’t!”


It would be easy to kill him, I realized,

this weak, small man,

to strangle him with my hands,

but why do that to myself?

Why give him that power over me?


I have no recollection of the ride back home,

but the form was filled out,

I got my scholarship,

I was able to leave.


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