The black box

(life writing attempt)

 

I will tell you all my secrets, but I will lie about trivial things.

Firstly, you have to believe in fairy tales, which meant nothing to you when you were young. And yet, you hid some free-range eggs underneath a blanket, thinking that a dozen baby chicks would hatch. But they never did, and you never bothered to open the first box of your life.

The first fairy tale is about self-awareness. I was fifteen when I discovered the values of honesty and what it meant to be an individual.

Life seemed to be going backwards, whereas the future was a distant memory.

 

I remember helping Janine decorate her huge cellar for her sixteenth birthday party. I celebrated my seventeenth birthday there and got very drunk. That was when the power of peer pressure went over the top.

Janine was now sixteen, just like me.

“It looks gross when you and Daniel snog,” I said.

“Are you saying that because you’ve not been kissed yet?”

I carried on putting beer bottles into the fridge. The louder the bottles banged against each other, the better.

“The fridge is full, and we need ice tonight,” I said.

“We have snow outside, don’t we?”

Outside’s temperature was -1°C. Janine’s birthday was a day before the winter solstice – that was how I always remembered it. Her shiny blond hair used to be longer and thicker in Year 10. Ever since Year 8 started, they had become thinner and looked dirty blonde.

I opened a bag of crisps.

“You should give Linus a chance,” she said.

I put some bags of crisps on the table. The smell of cheese and onion makes me ill. “And why do you think I should?”

“Come on,” she said, “he talks about you, non-stop! I thought you like big brown eyes.”

I like green eyes.

The party started at eight. The cellar was filled at ten. Linus was trying his best to ignore me, whereas I was trying to ignore everyone. The beer tasted bitter; it always had. I didn’t like my Asian flush, but they did. My eyes would also narrow into slits. I left the half-full bottle at the bar and grabbed my coat. I went up the stairs to the backyard, where I lit myself a cigarette and sat on the bench near the half-frozen pond.

I was nineteen when I smoked my first cigarette – three years ago.

I heard the cellar door open and close, leaving the drunken laughs and shouts behind. Someone was coming up the stairs.

“You must be crazy,” said Linus, “it’s fricking cold out here.”

He sat down next to me with a smile.

“Are you having fun?” I said.

“Yeah, but you’re not.”

The shimmer in the sky was gone, although the moon was still bright.

“I’m tired.”

“Snap out of it. Have another beer or some vodka.”

I looked at him, marvelling at his brown eyes. If only they were green.

He started shaking in the cold.

“I just quit drinking.”

“You’re joking!”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“Have you changed from a Punk to a fucking Straight Edge?”

Something inside me snapped. “Will you stop categorising me?”

“I’m just saying…”

“Saying what?”

“You’re only fun when drunk.”

I smiled and lit another cigarette. I looked at my watch and saw that the numbers were reversed. One o’clock. The moon had moved. I was watching the water’s reflection shimmering against the wooden fence. The movements signalled inconsistency and unpredictability, which were a sheer symptom of life’s mental instability.

“Do you remember when I got shitfaced, drinking pure Korn on my seventeenth birthday?”

He laughed.

“So, you’re envisioning your own future in which you’re still getting drunk?”

“I’m jealous of you all,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

“You are all moving on so well.”

I finally grabbed my black box from under the bench. Linus was mumbling words that no longer had any meaning to me. 

When I opened the box, I found myself in bed with both hands clasped.

 

I was praying.

“Please, dear God, stop making me feel this way. I even talk to you through my diary; can you not hear me? I asked you to speed up time so that I no longer have to go to school. I want to be an adult and do what I want. I asked you to make Andy look at me and maybe ask me out. Are you not paying attention to me at all?”

I fell asleep, crying.

When I woke up, I noted down the nightmare that I had about a fairy tale in which you learned that dreams didn’t come true. I no longer prayed after that. Something inside me had died, but hope outweighed that feeling of dissociation.

During my school holidays, I read The Misanthrope by Molière. Reading peacefully in your bedroom was more pleasant than standing around in the schoolyard, watching other children play. But I spoke too soon because a large shadow started looming over me and my book. My teacher Mrs. Kelmann was smiling at me.

“Don’t you think you’re a little too young to read this?” she said.

“No.”

“I don’t think this is suitable for a seventh-grader.”

“But it rhymes so beautifully,” I said.

She smiled and finally left me alone. Once, she caught me reading Sartre’s The Chips Are Down, which was a non-philosophical piece about unrequited love. She’d enjoyed that one too and didn’t tell me off for reading it. The conclusion I drew from that story was that there were more important things than love. It helped me understand that, in reality, I didn’t have any feelings for Andy.

I looked around me and saw that people were still playing the same games as if it were a tape on repeat. I realised that I was no longer walking on solid ground and needed to venture into something drastic. Maybe I should become a secret agent, if not an assassin.

At home, my mother prepared some lunch for me.

“How was school?” she said.

“Why do you always ask? What do you care?”

She looked hurt, but she was a reasonably patient person back then.

“Don’t talk to me like that again,” she said.

I looked at the ceramic cup that I made for her when I was still in kindergarten. It said, “Best mum.”

“You’re not the best mum in the world. There is no such thing,” I said.

I didn’t touch my lunch, but she went to the living room with hers and sat on the couch. I saw her take a small bite into her sandwich. The peanut butter must have tasted really bad. She started sobbing.

 

My friend Katja came to pick me up after lunchtime. She was a lively kind of girl who always attempted to lure me into coming outside, which I did, although I had no desire to. The reason was I still had stories to write, and I wanted to finish them by midnight.

The sun was shining, so we went for some ice cream. I’d forgotten my sunglasses and hated how she was looking at my squinty eyes as if they weren’t already small enough.

“I don’t understand why you do your homework straight after school,” she said.

“What else is there to do?”

“I don’t know! Why not take your dogs for a walk or watch Sailor Moon?”

I was swallowing my ice cream so quickly that I got a brain freeze. The pain was sensational. Katja looked at me in disgust.

“You eat like a monster,” she said. I must have robbed her appetite as she was spooning her ice cream without eating it. I would’ve finished it for her.

“Andy kissed me,” she said, “we were touching each other as well.”

I spooned more ice cream into my mouth and then swallowed everything at once. I waited for it to slide down my oesophagus and freeze my entire body. For a moment, I felt stiff, but then the headache came.

“Will you stop it?”

She seemed more disgusted than before.

I pressed my tongue hard against the roof of my mouth to warm up. I was full.

“Katja, I lost my virginity at the age of nineteen!”

“Fucking hell, you’re insane!”

She rose and left me alone at the ice cream parlour, where all the elderly couples stared at me like I was some dope. My bloated belly wanted more, so I started spooning Katja’s half-melted ice cream. 

A medium-sized black box was on her seat. I wanted to have it done with, so I picked it up and opened it.

 

I saw myself lying on the sofa in the living room with my hand placed underneath my skirt.

I was touching myself. In the background, I could hear some Disney cartoon music. It was early in the morning, and I was sighing, sighing as my hands moved along my little tummy and undeveloped breasts. I must have sighed loudly as I heard my father saying, “What are you doing!”

He was standing by the door, angry. I immediately got up but didn’t know what to say. On the screen, I saw Goofy running away from an elephant.

This was another fairy tale about self-discovery on the sexual plane and learning that my childhood had no foundation.

 

I got ready for school without eating breakfast. I hardly ever had breakfast. Usually, I’d wait till the end of school and had lunch at home. Ever since primary school, I’d felt less hungry and less excited about life.

The girls tried to befriend me, and I wanted to be friends, but something inside me didn’t let me talk to them.

“Can you not speak?” a girl said, staring at my almond-shaped eyes.

I wanted to play with them badly, but it was too late; they’d already lost interest. Why couldn’t they read my mind?

I looked around me in the schoolyard and realised that I wasn’t the only one on alone. An Egyptian boy was playing alone in the sand, a Russian girl from the other class was walking around alone. Some kids laughed at me while singing offensive, racist rants. They narrowed their eyes by using their fingers. I only had twelve to thirteen years of school left. It’d be over soon.

During art class, I needed the loo badly. I wanted to leave the classroom, but I knew I had to ask Mrs. Cube first, so I walked over to the front desk and hoped that she could read my mind.

“What’s the matter, dear?”

I told her in my head that I needed to piss. I wanted her to send me outside. I eyed at the door, but she didn’t notice and told me to carry on painting my rainforest. I sat back down, unable to concentrate. I heard water flowing everywhere. It was raining outside, and kids were rinsing their watercolour boxes or washing their hands. And then, a boy started whistling. My bladder was sensitive to whistles. I couldn’t hold it any longer, so I grabbed a tissue out of my pocket and placed it in my pants, between my little legs. I released.

 

Here, I failed Bukowski’s endurance test. I’ll never forget that. He’d held his shit during class. With success.

 

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

 

I tried to open the next black box, but I got distracted by the endless shouts from my distant memory – when I was twenty, nineteen, seventeen. I heard voices arguing about the moral of the story.

 

The truth is, there is none. I’m just glad that the eggs never hatched. I’m thinking of the ladybirds that I used to catch and keep in glass jars. I used to catch tadpoles as well. I never bothered piercing holes through the lids.

I’m glad the eggs never hatched.

 

 

by P-chan (c) 2011

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