I believe it was the winter of 1984; my father and I were out having dinner to celebrate my birthday.
I remember the restaurant clearly; it was built entirely out of wood, and in many respects resembled a barn. Once you were inside it was huge—thick stone floor beneath your feet and walls painted in deep, blood red. Fires were blazing from stoves just about everywhere you looked, giving the place a warm, cozy feeling, despite its size.
My father removed his coat and gave it to the waiter, revealing his all black suit, with shiny black shoes, black trousers with a perfect crease directly down the center, a black sports jacket and black silk tie hanging perfectly from his wrinkled neck. He looked over to me as I removed my coat. I saw him looking at my clothes—my jeans and lambs-wool sweater with a blue collared shirt underneath. I could see the disappointment in his eyes.
We sat at the table, but before I had even begun looking at the menu, my father ordered two of the biggest steaks they had. The waiter happily obliged, and I watched him with contempt as he quickly frolicked off into the kitchen. I turned back to my father.
"Why did you do that? I hadn't decided what I was going to have yet."
"What the hell are you talking about," my father said. "You love steak. It's your favorite food."
It was true… well… not that steak was my favorite food, but I had given him the impression it was. I'll explain: My father was a big fan of steak, whereas I've always been more of a cod man. During my childhood, he would always serve huge batches of steaks during family meals and celebrations. I could never eat a whole 14" rump steak, so I used to eat about half and then leave it. My father never said anything directly to me, but I could tell in the way he looked at me after we'd all finished our meals that he was severely let down by me; his only son couldn't handle his steak. After that, whenever we ate steak, I would hide anything I didn't eat just to impress him.
When the waiter came back with our steaks, my father looked over the moon. His happiness struck fear into my heart, for earlier that day, just before I met him, I had eaten a packet of hula-hoops, and I knew I wasn't going to handle this steak.
We started eating, and midway through the meal I found my opportunity. "DAD!" I yelled. I then picked up my glass and threw it into his face. He began screaming and yelling, plucking pieces of glass from his eyes and forehead. As he writhed in his chair, twisting and jerking with the pain, I grabbed my steak and threw it across the room like a meaty discus. About 5 minutes later, my father had managed to get all of the glass out of his face.
"What the hell did you do that for?" he yelled, wiping his face with his napkin, "and where the hell is your steak?"
He stared down at my plate, his eyes wandered a little, and then he stared up directly into my eyes.
"Well, son?" he said, the mood suddenly turning deeply serious. "Where is it?"
He looked as if he could swing for me at any moment, and in that brief second, as I stared back into his eyes, I lost it, and finally told him everything I'd held back since my early childhood.
"You bastard, I don't even like steak. I only ever said I did to make you happy, and look how you treat me. I had a pack of hula-hoops before I met you, you bastard, so how am I then expected to eat a steak this size?" I didn't let up. "I hate steak. I've hated it since I was a baby. I've always hated it. I've… I've…"
I stopped, lost for words as I kept looking him in the eyes. His whole face twitched, his eyes blinking and winking, his mouth smiling, then half-smiling… suddenly he burst into tears.
"Oh son," he sobbed, "I don't like steak either. I've been living a lie for all these years, a filthy, horrible lie."
His words became lost amongst the tears.
About a week after this incident, my father and I became vegetarians, and ever since, our bond has become stronger than it has ever been. Unfortunately, I feel my bond with my father has alienated my mother from our family. But, I've bought a scarf for her, so all shall soon be fixed.