“Dr. Martins was in her office that afternoon when Steve went in for his appointment. An hour went by and they were still in there. I got tired of sitting by and the mental health magazines in the waiting area were just not doing it for me. I reached for the door to try and listen in, that is after confirming that nobody was around.
‘Mind telling me what that is all about’ said a female voice from inside the room. I assumed it was Dr. Martins’ voice.
“Every day at sunset I pull a lawn chair to my backyard, play the same song on repeat and stare at the skies. When the sun starts disappearing over the horizon, I shut my eyes and wish that it carries me along, but it leaves me behind, like everyone does. When darkness completely sets in I am forced to return to the harsh reality that I have and always will be a victim of time, the so called great healer. It’s funny that this great healer chose to drag my suffering throughout eternity,” Steve replied.
‘I am guessing this started after the accident.’
‘And how long has it been since then?’
‘Twelve years, two months and fourteen days.’
‘Down to the exact day, that’s concerning. Might this have anything to do with your childhood abandonment issues?’
‘This session is over.’
I heard footsteps coming toward the door, so I rushed back to my seat. Steve stormed off his therapist’s office, fists clenched with fury and on his face the devastating look that always got him in trouble.
‘She must have mentioned his dad,’ I thought to myself, ‘and these sessions are only worsening his situation.’
I sat still in the waiting area, following him would be of no use. I had learnt this the hard way, besides dusk was just a few hours away, and knowing him he wouldn’t miss his ‘sessions’ with the setting sun. I have known this guy for twenty years now. He is the closest thing to a best friend I have, and I’m sure he’d say the same about me. In the twenty years he only mentioned his dad once, after which he spoke to nobody for three whole days. Over the years I learnt not to ask about his dad after he nearly strangled a kid to death because the innocent boy asked what kind of job his(Steve’s) father did.
“You must be Ben, the friend?” Dr. Martins asked me.
I did not like this woman. I always wondered what was so special about her. I mean I have been Steve’s only friend since childhood and he never once spoke to me about his dad, then he sees this woman once a week for three weeks and she already knows more about him than I do. I know that’s her job, but still, I thought best friends were supposed to be therapist number one.
“Yes, I’m Ben. How may I help you?”
“‘Well you can help me by helping your friend. When you see him tell him to come by my office at his earliest convenience.”
‘Okay.’ I said while leaving.
I saw Steve get in his car and drive off. I took a taxi and followed him. He drove up to the residential homes uptown and pulled up in front of one of the houses. He headed straight for the door, rang the bell then momentarily shut his eyes as if to reassure himself that what he was about to do was the right thing. I wanted to find out whose place it was, so I got out of the taxi and followed Steve, but before I could get to him, a man stepped out, and I was forced to hide behind the car on the driveway. All I could do was spy on them from behind the car. The man looked at Steve then proceeded to shut the door behind him. The two stared at each other for some time, before the other guy spoke, “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Nice to see you again? Seriously?’ Steve started, “I’d like to think that after twenty years, you’d give me more than that.”
At this point they were both practically shouting.
“More, all I have ever done is try to give you more. I pulled strings to get you into that fancy foster home, I paid for your education, I even paid for your mother’s hospital bills after the accident, I…”
“Accident? It was no accident! We both know she was out looking for you that night, so that, just like everything else that’s wrong in my life is your fault.”
“What do you really want from me?”
“How about an apology.”
“An apology? What for? For giving you the chance to have a normal childhood?”
“Normal, what is normal about the times mom would cry herself to sleep because she was worried about you? Or the sleepless nights I spent wishing you’d come back and get me from that hell of a foster home? Or the days I spent on mom’s bedside waiting for her to wake up from her coma. If that is a normal childhood to you, then I’m glad you disappeared. You never even showed up to her funeral. Look at yourself, you are just a pretender, and a pathetic suburban dad to some innocent kids who I’m sure don’t know what kind of a monster their father is.”
“If you think I’m just a pathetic suburban dad, then why are you here in the first place? What is your problem?”
“My problem is if you were going to be a pathetic suburban dad, then why couldn’t you have been my pathetic suburban dad?” Steve asked, his eyes full of tears.
They both went silent for a moment there, and that’s when it really hit me that the man was Steve’s dad, Steve’s actual dad. Steve clenched his fists and the look in his eyes was a very familiar one. It was the same look he had before strangling that kid in sixth grade, the same look he had before beating up half the basketball team in high school, and the same look he had while leaving Dr. Martins’ office earlier that day. I was afraid Steve was going to do something that he would regret, and I was not ready to watch him get in trouble again. I crawled back to my taxi and asked the driver to take me home.”
“So, Mr. Ben, what you are saying is that you left the scene of the crime before Steve, correct?” Detective Smith asked after I had finished my detailed explanation of the events leading to Steve’s confrontation with his long-lost Father.
“So you have no proof whatsoever that Steve did not murder his father.”
“Judging by your story, Steve has a history of violence, so it is safe to assume that after you left the scene, Steve pulled out a gun, shot his father and went his way.”
I said nothing at this point.
“Your silence speaks volumes. Anyway you are free to go, but let me make this perfectly clear, there is no evidence of your involvement in the crime, but if by any chance you had anything to do with it then you will be charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Ben.”
I arrived at the police station completely sure that Steve did not kill his father, but at this point I can’t help but wonder if he actually did. What I am sure of is that right now he is seated in his lawn chair staring at the sunset, and if I have learnt anything over the years, it’s that you never ask Steve about his father, so even if I wanted to ask if he murdered his father, I just couldn’t.
I arrive home, and rush to the backyard to look for Steve only to find his lifeless body on his chair. An empty glass in one hand a piece of paper in the other, and his mp3 player placed on his lap. I take the note from his hand and written on it in capital letters are the three words that confirmed my suspicions, “I DID IT”.