Thursday, October 17, 2013

The story of a boy


I heard about a story about a boy that broke my heart. I feel for him and wish that I could hold him, help heal him and make him feel better. He shouldn't have had to go through all the pain and suffering that he did. But in order to convey to you the tragedy and pain that drowned much of his life, I'll have to begin at the beginning.

His parents were a strong-willed dad who was heavy on lecturing and was in fact a preacher with a stubborn, aggressive personality, and a emotionally wired and strained mother who was raised in quite the legalistic, repressive family. Both of them married and later on decided to have a son. They had dreams for this son of their own making, possibly that he would become as great of a preacher as his father was. That he would be a good, upright moral son who didn't question his parent's authority but respected everything they did or said.

The atmosphere was alright at first. The strands didn't start fraying until much later. At first it was all smiles and hugs, the dad coming home and the boy asking to wrestle with him, and later when it was his turn to stay home, the mother coming home from working at McDonald's with a smile on her face and a Happy Meal toy for him. He had it pretty alright, you might say. They loved him. He was a fine boy.

But he has memories, very early memories, of even the first hints of a problem. There was the strictness that began creeping up here and there. Neglected in front of the television, he caught a visual of some risque movie scene and she freaked out and quickly changed the channel. From the tone in her voice he felt as if he had done something wrong, when he had no idea what to think about it in the first place. To him it was amazing and mysterious, the human body, but there was no talk about the wisdom of saving such things to adulthood, no even relegating it to his father even who might have better ways of putting these things. Just strict moralism and a quick sweeping of it under the rug and leaving the boy to deal with these strangely awakened feelings spawning into what would later become quite a monster, all on his very own... a poor, defenseless young boy in the maws of this gigantic, strange beast.

And then her lessons. Oh, they were horrible. Not so much in the fact that it was revealed that the world is not as innocent and benign as any starry-eyed child who has yet to taste the bittersweet tragedy and vile potential human waywardness in life can only reasonably conclude that it is, but that she made it seem as if this vileness was a disease that was an intrinsic defect in the human species, as if people killing and slaughtering each other was just what humans do, kind of like how peacocks preen and cats lick their private parts.

It was a lesson about the world before Noah's flood. She taught that humankind was wicked all of the time, without exception. He felt dirty. It was fearsome - the picture of rotting, putrid, impersonal hearts and minds roaming about like wild animals scratching at each other and thumbing their noses at an imperialistic God. What a wretched picture it seemed; and was this all? No barrier to divide between these people and him, it seemed as if they were simply a part of who he was somewhere locked away inside. And then they were simply washed away in a torrent of water, a flood with precisely no explanation, no attempt at reconciliation. And this, she said, is how the end of the world would be too.

Then they moved in with his grandparents. Oh, it was fine sometimes. There were some enjoyable moments. There was the lessons about Jesus, the tapes about his ministry to the poor and downtrodden, the picture of him gently knocking on the door asking to be let in, the awe, the mystery of it all. And the boy embraced this vision of Jesus and never let go - or, rather, was embraced by it. It was just the whole world he lived in and was nourished by.

But shrieking into the middle of this tranquil world like a fire alarm slicing sharply through all that peace and harmony was the cold whip of legalism. For the first time he knew pain, knew punishment. The world of good and evil, black and white, authority and rebellion, favor and injury, split open and dragged him straight into it. He was a bad boy, he didn't pick up his crayons, he just wanted to rebel, he didn't care, he hated his grandparents, he refused to submit, he was irrevocably self-centered and snotty. All these ideas, these labels, and more, painfully stabbed into his soul and infused with his very emotions, thoughts, self-analyses, and expectations with every lash of the belt across his tiny back. A poor five-year-old boy who had known nothing but wonder and presence and awe and mystery and curiosity and diversity and love and affection, was being made into the image of a fierce, challenging, hateful rebel. He was no longer innocent. He was just wicked and incurably rebellious.

He also remembers a very curious moment that might seem inconsequential to some, but seems to symbolize something weightier to his mind. They went to a church featuring a bust of the crucified Lord at the altar place, not the picture of care and down-to-earth mindfulness that permeated the narrative of his ministry in the gospels, now traced with the wincing of undeniably deep and horrendous pain upon a wooden stake, but rather a picture of an otherworldly trance and an external suffering infused by mere vacancy. There was no care in the glance upward right, but a ready escapism painted with the finest streaks of bright red underneath the ghastly mocking crown. It was all too creepy to him, but he understood. He got that it was an image fashioned in the shape of very human conception, and saw through flaw and imperfection to the sacrificing heart of Christ beyond.

But it was not that that left him floating, disconnected, weightless in space from any human understanding. It was that queer moment when the boy realized that he would never be understood by any mortal companion on this rolling sphere wobbling through the galaxy of oceanic stars. He had colored a page out of his coloring book of an explorer tearing through the jungle, and he thought he was clever coloring the whole entire page black as if it were nighttime. But no, he was not. Not in the eyes of his grandma, who looked down and shook her head seemingly disapprovingly, though half-distracted. Perhaps she had better things to do, like listening to a cold, dry sermon. But she could apparently not understand why such a small boy could ever think to do something so stupid, so foolish. It was not becoming of him to be so unintelligent and undiscerning. He knew then that misunderstanding was just a brute fact of life, like gravity or the law of resistance.

And then they moved away, far away to the land of Texas, where the people had been isolated far from each other by the vast reaches of flat plains that stretched them all out away from close proximity. He was now in a land of cow pastures and cryptic forests and glass shard sand and eerie hailstorms. There would be visitors sometimes but mostly he was left to himself and his encyclopedias and his drawings of parallel worlds with talking animals that he created himself (and a brother five years younger who wouldn't understand some of these things).

And his lusts. That former undercurrent of feeling so long suppressed by his mother resurfaced and swelled into new and exotic daydreams about voluptuous mermaids that would emerge sometimes in his drawings, and the longing to be with that girl in that movie about rescuing the kids from the orphanage. Finally, he could take it no longer. He needed that motherly affection that was so divorced from him, and not within him, within his heart. He said he wanted to marry his mother, but what he really wanted was the kind of love that would never have made such thoughts appear at all, that would ensure that that womanly affection had been so infused in and throughout every absorbing pore and fiber of his being that the differentiation of 'I' and 'you' was gone, and love was the only reality.

But instead, he was stuck in the hard and cold world of alienation that he knew no different than. Trying to capture the uncapturable, the ineffable, was thus impossible, though his pencil strokes desperately tried to bind them within. First, the mermaids, then something more forbidden - the form that he had only known his mother to take, but that was common to all women, the naked female body. He had somehow deduced it from snapshots here and there, from the nourishing sight of the wholeness of being that she embodied but would not truly, affectionately embrace him with with all her spirit, would instead put behind an impenetrable wall of unworthiness and blame. So it came out in a flurry of impassioned artwork, hardly even knowing how it came to be on the paper. One moment it was blank, and the next... they were there. Two oddly misshapen and lumpy figures, but functional all the same. And he slid up and down the bed to the rhythm of the heavenly beauty, to the practical aesthetic pleasure of his own body. It was what he had never known but longed to grasp.

Doors opening and closing, someone down the hall, slip the paper behind the bed so no one would see it and run quickly out. She was coming in to clean his room for him (which she did often in surrendered resignation). He scampered off to find something else to do. But it wasn't long before the stern, booming voice of his father followed after. "Son," he heard, "come see what your mother found." And there it was, burning a hole in the universe, in space and time, the unthinkable had happened and was sitting there static in the air crossing worlds together and creating a fierce agony of dischord. "She found this hidden behind the bed. Did you draw this?" he still remembers his father saying. He nodded demurely, wincing at what seemed to him like a perfectly innocent jaunt now turned black and insidious with the disease of lurking EVIL. "How did you know how to draw this?"

Something about the question hung in the air, a creeping feeling of mystery, as if, in the back of his mind, something eternally unanswered, a curiosity of existence, a holy conundrum that had not occurred to the young boy until that very moment. To him it had only seemed common sense, and still seemed that way. But he had no time in that tiny millisecond slice of time from the forwarding of the question to fully come to terms with its mystery in that moment. Before the barrier of normalcy had been breached, the next thing that was known was that he had to lean over the bed and pull his pants below his bottom. Unthinking animal sensation took over as he, cornered, did as he was told and heard, "This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me..." that blind, unthinking, meaningless phrase that so haunts the syntax of every morally conscientious and upright, but dutifully empathizing parent. It means no more than the breath which utters the sounds that make it up before they fall flat to the floor. It means nothing to the child dropping his pants, humiliated and laid shamefully bare before a towering, threatening giant. He might as well have said that he regularly gets stabbed by evil dwarves. It would have had as much relevance to the pain the boy was going through right now as a lash of alienation, of scorn, of furious, confused rage unrolled across his trembling back. No understanding, no questions, just simply the inexplicable pain from having done wrong, of having transgressed some invisible law that the kid had never seen, of having felt strange emotions that had harkened unbidden to the recesses of his soul and taken over his young, unaware mind and body as the ritual of released emotion had come rushing through him, him as a witness of something seemingly greater than himself.

And then it was over. A world had finally split off in the vacuum of space and an alternate universe was spawned, separated from his parents as if in two different worlds, ever to be misunderstood and to misunderstand, ever to rail against each other from either side of an invisible wall. And no information, no facts, no evidence, no pleas, no demands, no complaints, no cries for help or mercy, would ever breach that wall ever afterwards. Two worlds had been permanently spawned, and his own barriers of protection against the dark, unruly, tumultuous waves of the subconscious mind to be held at bay were built on his journey ever higher up the abandoned island in the isolated ocean of hatreds and fears and confusion and despair, locked further and further inward in a castle with the foggiest windows on the world beyond, withdrawing ever deeper into the dungeons of tortured logic and judgmental condemnation with the rotting skeletons of pain, a hateful reality only ever evaded afterward by the cheapest hard drugs of the imagination...
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