He punished himself as soon as they left.
A precious day had been fouled through weakness. Made awkward and uncomfortable.
He didn't see it coming and wasn't sure how the hell it happened. It seemed to happen instantaneously, in the wink of an eye, but that couldn't be the truth.
Immediately after the final wave goodbye he walked back inside to the chosen doorway.
Facing one of the door jambs, he hooked his fingers behind the half inch of wood on the left and the right that provided a good enough grip. Leaned back a little and then suddenly pulled himself forward, creating a violent collision between his forehead and the impassive, immovable door frame.
He was momentarily staggered and leaned back against the opposite jamb, barely able to hold his balance.
It occurred to him that it wasn't enough. He had not paid a big enough price.
Forced himself to stand tall, gripped a half inch of wood on each side once again and positioned himself at a severe angle.
This time, when he launched himself forward he caught the edge of the wood. He dropped to his knees but could only hold it for a few seconds before he fell backwards, banging the back of his head against the opposite door jamb, ending up in an awkward sitting position.
This was the retribution he was looking for.
Blood flowed from his forehead, down his left cheek and onto his chest.
It wasn't embarrassment that drove him to this punishment. It went way deeper than that.
He felt weak and exposed; lately he felt overwhelmed. It was getting harder to hide the truth and he felt that he was destroying whatever respect, and possibly love, previously existed.
Maybe a lifetime of weakness had already done the damage. Maybe this latest incident was just another nail in the coffin. Predictable and not so shocking.
He tried to think it through but could not. Could not make sense of the situation, could not even flirt with a possible solution, or dig deep enough through enough bullshit to get at a root cause.
This made him furious, as the blood ran, as his head pounded, as his dignity died.
Frustrated, he yelled "Fuck it. I am sick of the analysis, sick of the explanations and the apologies. Fuck it. Fuck it all."
He stood up uncertainly and grabbed the edge of the counter as a vicious smile spread slowly over his face.
He raised his right hand and slowly spread the blood all over his face. Painting his forehead, his cheeks, his chin, his lips.
He liked the way it felt. The sticky warmth. The juxtaposition of life and death inherent in the blood flow.
He staggered to the recliner and sat down heavily. Patiently waiting for the blood to dry as darkness fell.
He considered wearing the blood as a mask the next time he left the house. To provoke reactions against which he could unleash his fury.
It was a thought. A possible course of action.
For now he was where he needed to be. Feeling his skin tighten as the blood began to dry. As darkness isolated him.
Feeling the pain he deserved to feel.