A sinking feeling overcame him as soon as he knocked the plate off of the counter. Knowing full well that his father would hear the plate as it skittered across the floor, he stared at his sandwich and at the overturned plate as it finally came to a rest on the linoleum. You little fucking idiot, he thought to himself. Not now, not tonight. It was the weekend and he wanted to outside to play with Alex and Eddie. Now, as always, he had ruined everything. He closed his eyes and held his breath, and waited for the inevitable.
Soon, his papi's shadow appeared on the floor. A quick and angry slap across Rafael's cheek sent him flying against the counter. He pressed himself against the kitchen cupboard behind him, and his hands fumbled to support himself against the counter. Before he could brace himself, another slap across his face landed with a loud smack which sent the eight year old stumbling sideways. He closed his eyes and prayed for God to help him, to make Papi love him, to make him into a good boy that didn't make Papi angry all the time; but God was not on his side.
God wasn't on his side then, and he certainly wasn't on his side now either as his fingers curled around the ledge of the bedroom dresser. Here he was, more than 30 years later, cornered by another angry and violent man that could not be reasoned with.
Another violent slap stung his cheek, but Rafael remained emotionless. Tears formed in his eyes from the sting and shock, but he knew to ride this out and not to protest. Doug's anger will subside soon enough, the angry tirade will end, and everything will be calm again. Rafael was all too familiar with the predictable pattern that clung to him since he was a child and he knew how to handle this situation. Don't cry, don't beg, and don't apologize until Doug had calmed down. What Rafael didn't know, was how not to enrage the people in his life; be it his boyfriend Doug, or his father in the past.
Although Rafael's father had been dead for years, he and Doug had much in common. Rafael was a constant source of anger and frustration to Doug, just as he had been to his father. And like his father, Doug was obsessed with almost every move Rafael made. It was that obsession that had led to this particular beating; a series of phone call hang ups and blocked numbers that convinced Doug that the man who had flirted with Rafael one night was calling, and that Rafael was secretly planning to hook up with him.
"Did you give him your number?" Doug screamed as he grabbed Rafael by the collar and pulled him close.
Rafael shook his head. "No."
Another slap. "Then who is calling and blocking their number?"
"I don't know."
"Why are you lying to me? Does he know what a fucking loser you are? I don't even know why I put up with you."
Rafael closed his eyes and prepared himself for the next slap while trying to tune-out Doug's verbal tirade.
"Would you rather be with him? Then go ahead. But no one else will tolerate your crap. No matter what you think, you're just little piece of shit from the ghetto, just remember that," Doug screamed. He grasped Rafael's arm and twisted it behind his back, his fist clenched so tight that the friction felt like a burn. With all of his might, Doug shoved him forward and hurled insults as Rafael stumbled and fell face-first onto the bed.
"You'd better not forget that you owe me money," Doug yelled. "I am not taking you to dinner tonight. I don't know if I even want to be seen with such a disgusting little slut!" he screamed as he left the room and slammed the door behind him.
Rafael sat up and examined his arm; pink already. The outline of what was obviously a hand was practically faded, which meant it had been at least a couple of weeks since he had last really pissed off Doug. Fuck. Now, another handprint would mar his forearm. Fuck. To make things worse, it was early July and the temperature was supposed to be in the high 80s all week. Tenderly, he reached up and touched his cheek and hoped it wouldn't bruise.
As he held the side of his face, Rafael racked his brain, trying to remember the night the man had flirted with him. I did smile at him. I didn't want him to buy me a drink, but he sent it to our table, he recalled. Doug is right. Why do I always screw everything up? Rafael sighed and curled up on the bed and waited until he was sure that Doug had calmed down, which could take anywhere from minutes to hours. And then, when Doug was reasonable, he could approach him and apologize. Rafael's father had taught him well.