wounded animal complex – a lament

// preface –

In light of recent – and not so recent – traumas, here is my personal piece of lament. Birthed from a place of anguish and hopelessness, this is an attempt to make sense of the pain.

This is the tale of a loved one I had to euthanize. The one I watched grow up.

This is the sad story I’ve decided to stop writing.

 

wounded animal complex

// part i –

I can’t believe my own life sometimes.

And neither can my friends.

“This has never happened to anyone of us before…”

We’re walking through the thick Bangkok summer heat, trudging our way to Victoria’s small shack in the neighboring swamp. It felt nice, taking a break from our grueling day-to-day scene. Change of swamp scenery for once. Visit a friend. You know.

“Sa wat dee krop!”, we bow and greet Yaai Noi, who is squatting on the creaky floorboards of her less-than-humble abode. She is Victoria’s host for the summer.

We chat and laugh with the sparse, broken Thai that we have, and Yaai insists that we sit down and make ourselves at home.

So we try. There’s only one chair, so I take the floor and sit cross-legged. Yaai’s hospitality is remarkable; she points the only fan she has towards us.

The heaviness of this strenuous summer is suspended and the air is filled with laughter and good energy – but only for a moment,

until an 8-inch long, black centipede crawls into my pants.

At first, I do not see it because it is so fast but within a second, my body somehow still registers that something is wrong. Dangerously wrong.

Without thinking, my hand immediately shoots for my left leg. My body is in defense mode, doing all the thinking for me and it has only one thought in mind, “Stop the danger from going further up my pants.”

Finally, my brain catches up.

“OH FUCK –”

The beast – feeling my hand smash over him – likewise panics, turns on its survival mode and bites down, hard. I feel its pincers sink deep into my flesh.

Searing, acid pain.
I can hardly speak.

“WHAT IS IT?”, my friends look at me, concerned and confused.

“I… don’t.. know…
…poison……”

“Is it a spider?!”

“…No……”

“Is it… a snake??”

“…noooooo……”

It takes a second bite. I feel the poison, surging into me.

I am determined now, to kill this thing. Whatever it takes to keep it from crawling up.

I squeeze with a strength I did not know I had. I’m not sure which is worse, feeling the venom burn my insides, or feeling the thing squirm in my pants.

I am squeezing so hard I can barely breathe.

“…Is it dead..?”

I catch my breath. Afraid to let go.

“I.. don’t know…”, I manage between breaths.

At this point, I’d been squeezing so hard that I can kind of make out its texture and details through my pants.

Not a spider. It’s too long.
Not a snake. I can feel legs.

Oh no.

“I have spare pants”, Victoria hastily offers. “You can change in the bathroom and get rid of it!”

I think about it. I’m pretty sure I squeezed it to death. But if I didn’t, it could escape my grip and crawl up.

This is life or death, I think to myself.

“…Okay.”

I get ready. Just have to hobble a couple more feet over and close the curtain. This is the moment your whole life has been leading up to. This is your greatest battle.

I stand up slowly, and of course,
it escapes my grip.

But apparently, there is this thing called mercy, and the gods decide that today is not my day of reckoning.

It crawls down, instead of up.

It is only until now that I actually see what it is, and my fears are confirmed. It shoots out of my pants and snakes its way to safety.

I had never seen a centipede in real life until that point. And if I had, then they were just lame, fake-ass wannabes. This was the real thing. Despite all that squeezing, I didn’t even put a dent into it.

Next thing I know, I’m being carried to a hospital and rushed into the emergency room on a gurney.

Apparently, I’m on a six-week Christian mission trip or something.

But now, I’m staring at cold ceiling lights while doctors shoot antitoxins and morphine into my leg,
and I’m screaming at God,

“Why am I here?”

I can’t believe my own life sometimes.

I’d only been in Thailand for three weeks, but this trip had unfolded itself in such dramatic, storybook fashion.

That summer, I met my supervillain.
And he came in a form of a grumpy old grandpa.
We called him Daa.

When I wasn’t out visiting Yaai’s and dodging demon centipedes, life was slow at home, taking care of my host Daa and doing chores with him.

I knew that from the beginning – he wasn’t the nicest person – but as the days dragged on, I knew there was something else. He had something against me.

For the summer, he adopted me under his care and everyday, taught me to run errands. Cleaning, cooking, and the sort.

I was slow to learn and he figured that out pretty quick. Getting a “good job” from him was seldom, getting him to yell at you came easy.

Within a week, I became his favorite target to yell at.
Which is tolerable, until he sets you up for impossible tasks. Until he sets you up for failure.

Within two weeks, I became an object of humiliation.
Anytime I messed up, he not only yelled at me, he would ride me mockery and shame me. He turned my incompetency into a laughing stock. Within two weeks, I learned how to say “mental” in Thai.

Within three weeks, I became an object of scorn.
He was on the lookout for my mistakes. Just so he could punish me. Any small thing he could yell at me for. He was out to get me. Within three weeks, I learned that I could be punished for scooping rice “the wrong way”.

Somehow, he had gotten underneath my skin and found my deepest childhood wounds. Somehow, he turned cooking dinner and doing laundry into a test to prove my own worth.

Within four weeks, I was starting to believe the messages he gave me.

“Maybe he’s right. Maybe I can’t do anything right.
Maybe… whatever I do, I always will end up disappointing him.

Maybe he deserves to punish me.”

So I let him.

We were wounded animals – creatures of matching scars – trapped in a cycle of wounding. Our insecurities fed into each other. We unlocked each other’s worst sides.

We were the perfect duo.

“We’ve never had this happen to an intern before…”, the staff would tell me.

I became that guy.
Always getting attacked by monster centipedes and grumpy grandpas. Always getting hurt.

I came home from Thailand in pieces, not knowing how to live life in its wake.

He was my worst enemy.

There is a phenomenon that I like to call the Wounded Animal Complex.

“Say you beat a dog once on a Wednesday night.
The dog winces and whimpers, maybe even bites back.

Say you beat the dog, every Wednesday night.
Then, the dog will eventually expect it as a part of its weekly routine. At some point, the dog will stop fighting back.

You beat the dog every Wednesday night, the dog will start believing that being hurt is a part of normal life.”

This type of thing doesn’t just wear off on its own. Being in Thailand began to feel like I was just waking up for my daily beating. This is my life.

It took three months, 8,000 miles, and another human being with a license for me to realize, “Oh, that was abuse.”

Oh. I’m depressed.

I’m not okay.

It is not that depression is so terrible because you feel sad, but because you feel nothing. The world loses its color, and everything is grayscale.

The first time I felt like I saw color in my life after Thailand was our Thailand trip reunion. For once, I was with the people who understood. People who were there and saw what had happened.

Minus the grumpy grandpas.

I am cooking, cutting vegetables for our pad khra pao moo. Classic Thai street food. It is my first time cooking since living with Daa.

But it is as if his eyes are still watching me.

Don’t mess up.

I stop. Take a look around me and breathe. Just my own head.
I keep cutting.

Don’t mess up.

I ignore him, and continue chopping away,
slicing and slicing,
scooping the chopped greens into a bowl with the knife,
slicing some more,
being careful not to make mistakes,

– until I really do mess up
and accidentally cut through two of my fingers.

Oops.

I rush to the bathroom, seeing vivid colors for the first time since Thailand. Deep, dark red – gushing out of my hand and into the sink.

But only for a moment, before I black out.

And just like that, I’m on my way to the hospital again.
I’m sobbing in the backseat on the drive there, feeling all sorts of things. Mostly shock, thinking that I had died. But also, just feeling stupid. Maybe a bit mental.

Of course, this would happen. Today of all days. On our reunion.
And of course, it would happen to me.

It’s like I’m a magnet for crisis situations.
I had come back from Thailand for some months now, but now, I really am in pieces.

The next day, my friends leave,
and my life becomes grayscale again,
with the occasional dark red.

“I’m never healed really. I’m some sort of walking wound.”

I’m counting up the months I’ve left from Thailand, because sometimes, time digs a greater rift of separation than distance does. Sometimes, 8,000 miles is not enough.

It’s around the 3-month mark – I’ve already lost most of my friendships and quit all my leadership responsibilities on campus. I don’t know how to live my life before Thailand anymore.

Month 4 comes, and I barely pass the two classes I’m enrolled in. I figure I need to do something to sort my life in order, because there is little to look forward to.

Graduation comes in another semester, and I’ll lose the few friendships I have left. We will all go our separate ways. Then, I’ll really have nothing to look forward to.

Then, the idea of Oakland comes to mind – a dream I had long given up on years ago. I think of moving far, far away into an exciting new land. Starting a new life.

And the idea excites me, because if I have a life here, it’s been crumbling, at best. And coming home to a place that no longer feels like home is one of most unsettling feelings.
So maybe finding a new home will do… something.

Maybe sometimes, 8,000 miles is not enough.

Month 6 comes, and I discover something that injects color into my life.

Dreaming.

Inventing something to look forward to when there is none.

So I feed this idea of starting a new life like I feed a dog. I nurture it and watch it grow, painting detail to it as I go. Where I’ll live, which coffeeshop I’ll work at, what non-profit I’ll volunteer at on the weekends.

I watch wide-eyed as this fantasy grows, until it is bigger than me and takes a life of his own. I start to develop an affinity for it. The more I feed him, the more comfort he gives me. The more hope he gives me.

Year one comes, and I’m filling out applications. Doing interviews.

As my dream grows and matures, so does my anxiety.
What if it’s not real? What if it is?

My care for the animal intensifies and I become increasingly possessive of him. I’m sensitive to anything that may threaten his safety. He is all I have.

Month 13, my insomnia is full-fledged and I literally cannot dream now. I am keenly aware of the other creatures that have birthed in this process. And these animals are not so kind.

Month 14. I think I am losing my sanity from the scarcity of sleep I’ve had in the last few months. I don’t know what is a dream, what is real.

Month 15.
A job offer.

I sleep like a baby that night.

// part ii –

I can’t believe my life sometimes, because I’m living my dreams.

Month 17, I move to Oakland.

I end up in a year-long internship with a missions organization. It’s been 17 months, so I figure I give this Christian missions thing another chance.

Weeks of job-searching later, I find another part-time that helps with the bills and I’m doing the adulting thing now. Living outside of home, hustling my own money, etc.

My ass is broke as hell,
I’m so lonely it hurts,
I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m doing,

but I’m here.

This is the return. I’m back on my feet. This is my life now.

I have never been so sad, yet regretted so little.

Maybe things will be better now.
Maybe this time will be better.

It’s not quite a cafe job, but boba is close enough for a first job so I take what I can get. Rent is coming up and I just need something for the time being.

So each day, I take 12th street deep into the heart of Chinatown to make tea drinks, eager to receive my first paycheck. It’s not quite minimum wage, but I take what I can get.

This is the first time I’ve worked in a kitchen setting in a long time. Say, something like 17 months.

It is also the first time I’ve worked with knives in a while, and the fingers on my left hand twitch involuntarily several times a day. As if some glitchy defense mechanism is kicking in after being buried away and dormant for so long. When it wakes, it is a tad over–caffeinated. Even the thought of scissors causes my hand to recoil.

Get away. There is danger.

Flinch.

“Shut up. It’s not the same thing.”

I spend my mental energy – the little I have left from communicating in broken Mandarin – forcing my fingers to sit still while I cut fruits and vegetables.

Most days, the job is grueling.
There are roughly 80 menu items to memorize and my boss does not properly train me. She just sort of expects me to know. I also do not know how to speak Cantonese, but she just sort of expects me to know.

And I am slow to learn, so when I mess up, she yells at me.

I know that she is a loud woman, so maybe she isn’t mad at me. But most days, I cannot tell.

I work harder and harder, because I just want to do a good job. I just want to do it right.

Don’t mess up.

Flinch.

“Shut up, it’s… not the same thing.”

One day, a customer walks in and orders in Cantonese. I apologize and tell her I can only speak English. The expression on her face changes, as if she is displeased, but she orders anyways.

I start making her drink,
being careful to add the right toppings,
being careful not to make any mistakes,
until I really do mess up and put in the wrong type of tea.

She loses it.
“What is wrong with your brain? Why can’t you speak Cantonese!?”

My boss takes her side, and proceeds to yell at me.

So much yelling.

Within three weeks, I learn how to say mental in Cantonese. Within three weeks, I become an object of humiliation.

Every day, I clock in and accept that this is my life now.
Every night, I go to bed wondering why my centipede bite is itching so much.

Maybe some scars don’t heal so easily.
Maybe 8,000 miles and 18 months is not enough.

Every now and then, I start to wonder if the dark fantasies and creatures I invent in my mind are actually real. But there is no time for such ponderings nowadays.

My life is going at 100 miles per hour.
I’m living the dream, or something. Doing the Christian mission thing, making boba drinks on the side, starting my new life.

It isn’t until my friends visit me – friends from Thailand – that my life finally slows down. There were only a few of us, but I guess you could call this a reunion.

We’re driving 20 on the freeway –
weaving through afternoon traffic,
taking our time as we catch up on life,

– but someone else is going 60 and decides he cannot miss the freeway exit, today of all days.

My life halts instantly.

In the 2 seconds of chaos and thrashing, I ask God, “Is this it?”

I snap out of it, and my body does all the thinking for me. My hands grab the steering wheel, my foot slams the breaks, and keep us from rolling back into traffic.

My mind catches up.
“Oh fuck.”

It is almost a complete T-bone, driver’s side. I get out of the car, my body shaking.

I’m not 2 months into moving to Oakland, and I almost die.

My life is going at 100 miles per hour, and it is when my Thailand friends come visit that life slows down to a violent, abrupt stop. Today of all days.

So I guess you could call this a reunion.

The car is totaled.

On the outside, it looks kind of okay but on the inside, it is damaged beyond repair.

At this point, this is how I feel about my life. Okay on the outside, damaged beyond repair on the inside.

I take a day off work and spend the little time I have with my Thailand friends before they leave. I am determined to have at least a few hours of quality time without some crisis rudely interrupting us.

Now that things feel 0 miles an hour, everything else catches up to me and when it does, it hits me hard like a T-bone collision.
I spill out my guts to them. Snot, tears, and all.

It hits me, why I’ve been coming home from work each day, hating myself. It hits me, why it seems the world has lost some of its color lately.

It takes a life-threatening car crash and other human beings who were with me in Thailand for me to realize, “Oh. I’m not okay.”

Oh. This is about… him.

Somehow, an older Chinese woman yelling at me while I’m making boba drinks rubs salt in past wounds. So naturally, I let her. Because, I just want to do a good job. I just want to do it right. I just want him to see.

No, this is not the same thing. No, this is not abuse, but it still is not good for me.

My friends leave the next day, I make it my resolve to fight for color in my life.

I quit my boba job.

“Not this time.”

I think I have some sort of Wounded Animal Complex.

I keep getting hurt all the time. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m sensitive or if things actually keep hurting me.

But it seems that all the terribly-timed misfortunes and random crisis situations always happen to me.

“Say you beat a dog once on a Wednesday night.
The dog winces and whimpers, maybe even bites back.

Say you beat the dog every Wednesday night.
Then, the dog will eventually expect it as a part of its weekly routine. At some point, the dog will stop fighting back.

You beat the dog every Wednesday night, the dog will start believing that being hurt is a part of normal life.

You beat the dog every Wednesday night, the dog will start believing that being hurt is a part of who he is.”

I look up from my journal.

No. This can’t be right.
It’s… not the same thing.

That was 18 months ago.

I start scribbling out the page, hoping it would make what I wrote less true, but my hand stops.

It’s not the same thing.

…Is it?

“I’m never healed really. I’m some sort of walking wound.”

For two months, I don’t drive a car.
I’ve only just gotten accustomed to cooking with knives. One step at a time.

I have all my limbs, but I feel like I’m in pieces again. Back to square one. No car, no job, no friends. But I make it my resolve to fight for color, to keep moving.

By now, I know all the coffeeshops in Oakland from all the resumes I’ve sent out. Slowly, my labor pays off and I’m getting calls for interviews.

Month 19 comes, and I get a job offer. Barista position.

Month 20 comes, and I have a car now. Insurance covered.

Life gradually picks up to a solid 70 miles per hour. Things are going okay, even if I am afraid to admit it.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it isn’t the same thing.

What a curious feeling it is to hope again.

Wednesday Night.

I’m walking down my street to my car, on my way to church.

It’s 6:45 in the evening,
still plenty of sunlight to burn,
still angry drivers zooming past on Foothill Ave,
still kids playing in the neighborhood.

I walk past a row of parallel-parked cars, looking for my own as I hastily scoop a couple spoonfuls of dinner from my tupperware into my mouth. I don’t make it 100 feet outside of my apartment when one of the parked cars opens up its doors and out comes some four or five guys, quickly approaching me.

The first one looks straight at me and mumbles something to me. I hesitate. Before I have time to think, he lunges straight for my legs and pulls. I’m on the ground now, and the other guys rush.

The beating begins.

They target my head, 4-5 of them throwing their fists and kicking. When you are about to die, your body does all the thinking for you. Arms up. Cover the face. Fetal position. Smallest target possible.

I hear them yelling to each other to hurry up, and yelling at me to mock me. So much yelling. I don’t even notice my phone missing from my pocket.

My mind catches up.
fuck…

But I cannot fight back, or they might hit harder. I can’t afford to move my arms away.

When there are five of them, all you can do is wait, and hope it ends.

I notice that my keys are now gone.
It’s been about a minute. They’re struggling to snatch my wallet, but at this point I want them to because two minutes just might kill me. At this point, I also want to yell at them to hurry up. Just take the damn thing.

Finally, they wrench it out my pocket.

They throw a last couple kicks before hopping back into their car, and take off.

Apparently, I’m doing a Christian mission thing. Apparently, I’m out here in Oakland starting a new life.

But now, I’m lying on the ground with my own blood on the sidewalk and I’m screaming at God,

“Why am I here?”

I can’t believe my own life sometimes.
And neither can my mind, so it replays the scene. Over and over again.

“Did you recognize the guys?”

“No.”

“You’ve never seen them before.”

“No.”

“So they just jumped you for no reason.”

“Yeah.”

The nurse looks away.

“Wow, that sucks… but I mean, welcome to Oakland.”

Thanks, man.

Cold ceiling lights. That sterile smell. Metallic carts being rolled around.

Here, once again.

They tell me that there are no fractures in the skull, no swelling, nothing broken.
On the outside.

I walk out the building with a bag of analgesics in my hand.

On the way home, my roommate tells me –
“In the year plus of living here in Oakland, we’ve never had anything like this happen to us… and in the 3-4 months that you’re here, you’re the one who gets mugged. It’s just crazy…”

Later that week, my internship staff tells me –
“In all the years we’ve been working here, we’ve never had anything like this happen to us. At least not this bad.. and not to an intern…”

One day, a neighbor who I’ve never talked to before, but witnessed the attack, tells me –
“I’ve been living on this street for six years and I’ve never seen anything like that happen… This is a pretty good neighborhood.”

Of course. Of course it had to be me.

Because wounded animals are easy prey.

I can’t believe my life sometimes.
And neither can my mind, so it replays the scene. Over and over again.

“Wednesday night.”

Truth is a slowly-sinking dagger you cannot stop from reaching your heart.

It is now month 21.

A little girl who lives next door says hi to me one day and asks, “Are you the guy who got mugged?”

I don’t know what to say.
“Yes. I am.”

I am that guy.

It seems that all the color I spent the last couple months trying to fight for is draining from my vision again. Life is slow, dragging along at an agonizing 5 miles per hour. My emotional capacity is near nothing, so I drop some commitments. After a few weeks, I drop some more.

I kind of want to do.. nothing.

Each day, I look out the window for a few minutes before going outside. I give an extra glance before crossing the street. I check every white sedan parallel-parked that I pass by on the sidewalk.

When I’m not calling credit card companies or standing in line at the DMV, I spend time staring into space at the park or local coffeeshop, unsure of how to live life now. Unsure of how to pray after you almost get beaten to death.

Unsure if I even want to pray. I don’t think I want to talk to God.

Some days, the silence is unbearable so I fill the void with more noise. TV shows. YouTube. Anything.

Month 22 comes, and things are still grayscale. I don’t know when I’m going to have an emotional breakdown. Going outside is like walking in a minefield of triggers. Thinking too much is very much the same.

My staff encourages me to take time off work and get away for a bit. Take a personal retreat, get away from Oakland.

The idea is appealing, yet unnerving at the same time. But I’m not sure why. Do I really want to go there?

I book a trip anyways. Three nights.

Month 23.

I’m driving up the Pacific Northwest Coast, snaking through Redwood Forests, trying to escape from everything. I glance over at my phone every now and then, watching the bars on my phone drop slowly.

I feel a similar sinking feeling somewhere deep inside of me.
Fingers on my left hand twitch.

Shut up.

I turn my music up.

A few hours of driving later and I’m in the middle of nowhere. Spotify offline only lasts so long when you forget to download enough playlists. I soon realize what is making me so uneasy.

Silence.

I get to the campgrounds, check in, and cook a quick dinner. I haven’t even finished unpacking myself, and I’m already cringing. Already holding my left hand and clutching my itchy centipede bite. Already grimacing and holding onto all my scars.

I go back outside because I’m not quite ready yet. I don’t want to go there yet. I’m not quite ready to confront what’s actually inside of me.

I’m not quite ready for the silence, because in silence, I can hear everything.

Perhaps, this was not the escape that I was envisioning. I’m not just in the middle of nowhere.

The next day, I figure that there is little use in trying to run away. I already did that. Here I am.

Out here, there is nothing to fill the void with. No Netflix. No YouTube. No one to turn to. Except God.

I pace around my cabin for a good hour,
biding my time and preparing myself,
until finally, I pick up the pen.

“You know what I’m feeling right now?

I feel like there were a lot of things that didn’t have to happen.

Things that cause unnecessary emotional stress and needless pain,
Things awfully timed,
Things unfolding in the worst way possible,
Things beyond my control that I could not prevent,
Things that no matter how much I prayed against,

still happened.

None of this had to be this way.
But they are now. And I got hurt.

You know what I’m feeling right now?
I feel like all those things that happened, You could have stopped,
but You chose not to.

That perhaps, the demons are out to get me
and You’re letting them.

I was afraid to come here, out in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of my nothingness. I’m scared of what I might find there. I’m scared of what lurks in my own darkness.

As much as it hurts to say, I kind of hate my life. This “dream life” I’ve created is not anything I had hoped it to be. As much as it hurts to say, all it’s been is a continuation of the series of unfortunate events in my life.

I may not be suicidal, but in many ways, I’ve already given up.

Because this is how I think of myself.

I keep separate clocks for the six different traumatic events I’ve experienced in the last two years. This is my obsession.

I am that guy.
And there’s nothing I can do about it.

And if that is true, is life really worth living?
What is there to look forward to, other than more trauma? Other than the next event?

I know this is about him.
The monster living inside of me, two years in the making.

I don’t want to admit that I had fed him and let him grow bigger than me. That he’s eaten me alive, consumed me.

At last, I fed him my heart.
I have forgotten who I am, without my scars.

If you don’t show up now, God,
I don’t know who you are.

I need you to set me free.
I need you to save me from who I think I am.

I need you to kill the Wounded Animal.”

.

wounded animal complex

haunted house – the Kid, pt. 2

My personal journey of finding my ethnic identity as a second generation Asian-American has been a turbulent one, to put it lightly.

It would take me a generous portion of distance and time for me to just understand the sheer magnitude of damage that was dealt to me as a child. Writing the Kid, pt. 1 was one of my best efforts at trying to decode and interpret my scars. (Read part one first! Don’t be that guy.)

While I am, by no means, at the end of this windy maze we call redemption, these past few months have been important. I have been jumping into difficult conversations with my family, particularly those of reconciliation and relational healing. Conversations I never imagined possible.

This past week, I talked to my parents. At last.
If you are not 2nd-gen Asian-American, this can be a pretty big deal.

I never thought I would be writing this, but here it is.

The Kid, part two.

We traded stories. And poorly-translated scripture.

He told me a story of a boy who was born into a culture that didn’t fit him. Born into the wrong culture. Turns out we have more in common than I thought.

He started last place.

Born last into a family of five other siblings, he had a lot to live up to. Competition for a game he never signed up for. And the cards were already stacked against him.

He started last place.

While his close friends seemed to have no difficulty playing this game, the boy thought more of how to keep up with them, rather than actually playing the game well. As the boy grew older, he realized he no longer wanted to play the game. Perhaps the game was not meant for him anyways.

Everyone else made it. They attended the prestigious universities and flaunted hopes of a future as bright as their titles and accomplishments. They did it the “right way”.

The boy never made it past high school.

Never passed a math class after elementary school.
The boy ended up on an assembly line at a manufacturing plant.

The boy left church, running away from a community that he thought could never fully accept him.

He was thrown on a path and expected to trace footsteps he could never follow. So he carved his own. His defiance was forced. He had no choice. They labeled it rebellion. Disappointment. Failure.

The boy was misunderstood.

Though he found his own way, remnants of his past life still stuck to him, like thick blood. He only wished better for his children.

Who was this boy?
Had his story become so lost that it was nothing but a faded memory? Had no one ever stopped and listened to the boy’s story that even the boy, himself, stopped believing it was worth telling?

Turns out we have more in common that I thought.

My heart softened.

She told me a story of a young girl who knew how to play the game.

Her mastery was near unparalleled. “Top of the class” was no unfamiliar phrase to her. It was as if she was meant to follow this path.

I don’t think I would have been friends with this girl.

She made it happen. She did it. She was accepted into the best university in the nation.

And yet, it turned out that even she, of all people, had her imperfections.
P.E. class.

She seemed to be able to impress everyone with her academic prowess except for the person that mattered the most – her father.

“What is this? Why do you still have a C? Why are you so skinny?”

Despite her otherwise flawless report card, her stern father seemed to be unable to see past her one glaring C. Her accomplishments, he could not affirm her for. Or perhaps, he did not know how to.

It is striking how one person can change your world entirely and skew your vision forever – for better or for worse – if you let them.

“Wow. That sounds… awful. Did that not anger you?
What did the girl feel in the moment?”

“Oh, she was furious, alright.”

“But didn’t she do anything about it?”

“She wanted to… We all wanted to. But we were too scared of him. He would hit us if we forgot to do our homework. Or if we failed to meet his expectations.”

She told me how the girl used to help her unscholarly, less-than-studious little brother by doing his homework for him. The chilling sound of her father’s motorcycle rolling into the garage would send her into an episode of frenzy. She’d burst into her brother’s room and start filling out his empty homework sheets. Maybe this time, I can save him the beating.

One day, the girl was caught in her benevolent, clandestine activities.
Her father found her out. He struck her across the face.

“We were all scared of him”, she told me.

My heart melted.

Who was this girl?
Had her story become so diluted in a twisted effort to save face? Why is it that all we remember of her story is the picturesque, scholarly, and well-behaved daughter?

Had no one listened and validated her complete story, even the dark and messy parts?

Turns out we have more in common than I thought.

For the longest time, we were just ghostly figures floating lifelessly past each other in the hallways and dining rooms. We could only see the faded silhouettes of each other’s past selves. Our relationship was as blurry as our memories. Together, we shared a haunted house.

But something happened.
They met the Kid. And they had storytime.

For the first time in years, we shared this strange, yet oddly-familiar feeling together. One of being seen. Heard. Known. One of those songs that are so old that they are like new.

It was something like love.

I suppose the Lord, indeed, does perform miracles.

I forgive you, mom.

I forgive you, dad.

We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

UPDATE 3/9/2017 – Read the Kid, part three here.