It all starts in a little trailer on Christmas Eve, the year I received the Nintendo, with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers. My dad had an old camcorder that rested on his shoulder. He filmed the entire trailer, each room, as if he was giving a tour of a mansion. I followed him, as a four year old, attempting to be included in every shot. If he was the narrator behind the camera, I was the host.
This is our life. Welcome.
Camcorders were always around in the early years of my childhood. I haven’t watched a single one of those recordings since then, but I remember, for every special event, a camcorder captured the entire thing. Eventually though, the camcorder stopped showing up.
I was around the age of 7 when it happened. I got off the bus, walked into the house, and went up the three little wooden steps that brought me into the kitchen. To my left, on the other side of the stove, was my dad, who had my mom trapped in the corner, choking her. I remember this vividly, as if it’s happening right now across the room from me. It was the first time I seen my two heroes collide, and looking back, it was the first time my mind and heart were scarred with something that could never be removed.
Months later, I can remember my dad crying on his bed as I got off the bus. Mom was gone, she wasn’t coming back, and the marriage was over. What I would soon learn is that she didn’t just leave physically, because the innocent mom that I knew up until that point, was replaced by a different version of herself: one that was harsher, edgier, and much more dangerous. The physical and emotional abuse must’ve run its course.
The room was dark, with mountains of clothes that I’d search through quietly, looking for me and my little brother’s outfits for school. I would use the dryer to de-wrinkle the clothes, before getting on the bus—and when we’d get off the bus, the room was still dark. The house didn’t move the entire time we were away. Everyone was still sleeping. Sometimes, it felt like they would stay asleep for days.
Trapped inside of a dream, my eyes opened up as a seven year old boy, in a pitch black room filled with candles that illuminated the hallway. The electricity appeared to be out, but the glow from the candles and the fire that crept through the curtains helped give the room a dim light.
I observed the room around me: blankets were tied to chairs, creating passage ways and tunnels with sheets filled with cold air, turning them into bubbles that floated over the vents on the floor. My brother’s eyes shined through one of the passage ways, staring back at me. I tried to make sense of his location.
“You’re just a kid,” my brother said. “You can’t save the world.”
I tried to respond to him, but every word seemed to block it’s way out, holding onto my tongue, and fighting not to be released into the dream.
I began to crawl through the tunnels, looking for my brother, but he was nowhere to be found. The room was tiny, so he shouldn’t have been that hard to find, but the passage ways, held up by air bubbles, went on for hours. I never did find my brother that night.
A loud siren began howling through the tunnel. A sound that only appears when a war is approaching, but this siren was coming from the other side of the dream, and had the same rhythm as my alarm clock.
Techno music would blare through the trailer for days (15 years later, the sound of that music still traumatizes me). There were strangers all around me that I never met before, and these people never went to sleep—they were like zombies. I would get home from school, change out of my uniform, and then go play basketball at the nearby park.
Eventually, after many hours of pickup games, I would get back home, to more strangers, loud music, and arguments. I would close the door to my room and attempt to escape reality: through consuming and creating music, through video games, and through learning how to use a computer. All of these things, including basketball, were like vehicles that would take me somewheres that was much different than home.
I would gradually fall asleep, wake up for school, only to see those same strangers still around. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, but years later, I learned what these people were doing in my home.