A Childhood Apocalypse
I was sobbing. My entire body heaved with the weight of a thousand pound bulldozer. My miniscule shoulders shook. My life was ending. To my seven year old self, there was no more acute pain than the shrill screech of my mother’s voice colliding violently with the threatening hollers of my father. I heard dinner plates breaking. I heard silverware clatter. I could almost feel my soul rip apart. No matter how irrational this thought was, no matter which way I thought about it, I could not make myself feel better. A very untalented conductor was directing and orchestra of angry zoo animals in my kitchen and there was nothing I could do. My seven year old self was dying.
For the most part, my childhood was blissful and serene, but like many families, mine was mildly dysfunctional. My parents were by no means soul mates. Drawn together by practicality rather than love, anger and discontent were bound to spew out of the chasms of their relationship periodically. I’ve since learned to deal with it like the inhabitants of earth have learned to deal with earthquakes. We ride out the storm, with the knowledge that it will pass. We resolve to clean up afterwards, make stronger structures, and move along with life.
On this one particular occasion however, before I learned to productively channel my anguish, I was helpless. I was young and incoherent. My cousin, who had spent the night over at my house, came into my room. He was a year younger than me, a gangly, shy Asian kid. I was not so fond of him at the time and I barely noticed his entrance. I could feel him staring at the hot tears streaked across my face. I was embarrassed. I met his eyes as he told me, “It’s okay. It can’t go on forever. My parents do this too.” It can’t go on forever: that phrase, that small bit of sanity that I desperately needed. We sat in silence until my parents stopped yelling and came to get us.
I wouldn’t know it until later, but I would be eternally grateful for that one moment. That one moment is the basis for my entire outlook on life. Every moment that I’m in pain, I think of his unintentional moment of insight. A six year old child saved my life in the midst of an apocalypse. In those five words, he taught me perspective. Realizing now, how silly I was to cry over an argument, is also realizing how silly it is to cry over anything. It can’t last forever. Nothing that can hurt me can last forever. I can do anything.