Climbing up old, rusty fire escapes.
Frantically hiding behind grimy trash bins.
That was the gist of my childhood. Dark corners and danger make up most of my memories. Coming from a broken family, I was mostly on my own by the time I turned nine. Now, at thirteen, I realized that life for most people is not a fairy tale. In fact, I was situated in the farthest corner from a fairy tale, living¬–or barely surviving– life in the shadows.
It all seemed normal to me, though. Sure, sometimes wishes and thoughts of the life I could have had, with parents who took advantage of their opportunities, crossed my mind, but they were usually chased away by plots to keep myself alive.
Surviving doesn’t constantly occupy my mind, however. During the moments when I could relax on rooftops and fire escapes, my mind dreamt of my future– I would be rich, in a nice house, never wanting anything again. My husband would be something important, a doctor or a CEO of a large company or an international pop sensation. I wouldn’t care, as long as he had a job, with a large salary, and have a lot of money to spare. And I– well, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Maybe I would just enjoy living in the lap of luxury.
Staggered thumps nearby broke into my thoughts.
“Hey!” A deep, male voice makes its way across the rooftop. My thoughts finished scattering, and I jumped up. My muscles tensed, preparing to flee. Out of the corner of my vision, I saw a bulky male figure walking slowly over to me.
I spun around and jumped over the fence surrounding the roof. I was freefalling for a split second toward the busy intersection below, before my feet hit wet metal and I was off running. I threw caution to the wind, and flew down the steps of the fire escape, too scared to prevent my feet from slipping. Someone’s feet– the guy’s, I assumed– pounded above me, getting closer with each heavy step. I hesitated a moment, before jumping off the fire escape. I landed hard on the concrete, to the surprise of several commuters nearby. I didn’t give them time to stare, however, because I jumped up again, ignoring the pain in my ankles.
Sprinting down the street and around a corner, I started wheezing, my lungs burned, and my body begged me to stop. But I couldn’t.
I made my way into an alley, dodged a suspicious-colored puddle, jumped over a trash bin, and crouched down, trying to control my loud breathing. I pressed myself against a dusty red brick wall, and tried to prevent myself from sitting on the damp ground. I tried to focus on the sounds of traffic coming from the street I just escaped from, instead of the burning sensation in my lungs and aching in my feet. When I could be sure that the guy wasn’t chasing me anymore, I let my mind wander.
Then, my mind escaped to the dark.
Those haunting feelings. Nails on a chalkboard, filling my ears.
Not being wanted. No one to care.
I felt like a vile creature– I didn’t deserve to live. Why am I here?
There must have been a good reason my mother left me alone at the tender age of seven.
She probably knew there was something wrong with me.
Then, as fast as it started– it stopped. Suddenly. A screeching stop. Why did I succumb myself to it again? I knew the effects of not feeling wanted. I would spiral down farther, and land myself in a dark pit. I would ruin my own life. Not my mother.
So I would stop. I would. I could.
Tears streamed down my face, but I didn’t feel like sobbing. Inside, I felt empty. It was a cold feeling. I shivered, and goosebumps rose on my arms. I brought my knees to my chest, and closed my eyes. Maybe I would just sleep. Maybe when I woke up, the emptiness would be gone, and my life would go back to the way it was before. And maybe it wouldn’t.
Then the guy was in front of me. I just stared up at him, emotionless. Then, a badge. He was from the government, he said. Here to take me somewhere safe. With people who cared.
Maybe, possibly, I could feel wanted again.
This felt right.
A Dark Childhood