Flashback to an 8 year old boy, removed from all he had known and all he had loved. Gone were the friends he cherished, the play times he took for granted, the neighborhood that was his world. Entered by marriage into a new world: lonely, desolate, foreign. This new life, he was told, would be so much better than the life of poverty and single parent family he had endured for as long as he could remember.
The question quickly became in his mind, “better for who?”. The answer was all too evident as time was to pass.
He withdrew to things. In a new home on a busy highway the boy now sat alone where they once were more friends to count. The kids – the only kids he could ever remember knowing – were gone, replaced by trees, his toys, and the many trucks and cars that went zooming by his new home. He learned to hate the people who brought him here. Not really a “hate”, but a resentment caused by the fact that they simply would not understand what they had done to him. The fact that they did not care only compounded the issue, children could adapt and overcome anything it seemed. Well, at least those things their parents thought we necessary for them to overcome.
So he created a circle of attachments with his toys he had brought to this new world. He didn’t have many at this point, so he struggled to keep them working and close by as to make sure they were not discarded like his life had been. The once busy youth found himself replacing his friends with toys, he loneliness placated only in the times he would share with the only remaining vestiges of a life he wished he could return to. As he saw it, he was not poor in his old life, but he certainly was in this one. Sure, the house was bigger, the food better, and the clothes nicer, but he could not help feeling as if his soul was starving and that he had instantly become poorer the last time he left his old yard. The last time he saw those friends he would never see again was the moment he became the poorest person in his world.
One day his new father explained to him that his old “junk” needed to be cleaned up and thrown away. The boy had been conditioned by his mother to love this man as a sinner loves his savior, that the world would begin and end with this simple man who, nice as he was, was not the savior this boy needed. Sure, he would learn a lot as from this man as time went by, but he never would enjoy a relationship that all boys need with their father. Later in life this boy would question whether or not it was he who kept the relationship from thriving, but such perfect hindsight only confirmed that the lies, the beatings, and the man who stood by and let them happen simply was not worthy of such trust. He was a good man, he was an kind man, but he was not his stepson and his stepson was not him. Such are the ties that bind us through the acts that create us.
The man wished to clean out his new son’s “junk”. The boy simply had no choice in the matter, even as he was employed to assist in the carnage. With all of the strength he could muster this young man took all those things that bound him to his wealthy existence and threw them into bags. Gone were the things that calmed him in his times of loneliness. Gone was the stuffed pony he had had since his life began. Gone was the wind up radio that played music to him in his infancy. With each toy he played one last time before sending them to their doom. With each toy he held back tears that were months in the making.
Off to the dump they went. Dumps were the benefits to the new farming life his mother had conscripted him to. There, all kinds of things were sent to their graves. Today, a vast chuck of his life was being laid to rest, and with these things the domination of desolation was sure to be complete. With each toss his heart shattered just a bit more. He needed to be brave, this test was one he must not fail, and the tears that were streaming down his face he reasoned were from the bitter cold winds ripping at his soul. Finally, the carnage was complete, although the end had not brought with it the peace he so desperately sought.
One final goodbye to his life was all it took. He saw it instantly under the other debris brought by his new father to this land from the house they have bought. Under the garbage his stuffed blue pony looked back at him as if to say “you betrayed me and are leaving me to die in this hell.” Those eyes looked mysteriously sad and disappointed, and the guilt took over this young boy’s heart as if fell into the pit alongside his friend. Still, he must remain strong and brave, lest his new father abandon him like all others had before him.
The ride home was a blur. The man was talking to his new son, but the boy simply was walking elsewhere. Somewhere between the dump and home, it became apparent to the boy that his strength was misguided, that it was not in acting complicit to the betrayal he had just committed that there was strength, but standing up to it. The tears from the months of change, the loneliness that change had spawned, and the emptiness that his new life had caused. No one had noticed, no one had cared, but now the boy was going to let it out. And let it out he did.
To the man’s credit, he heard the boy and took him back to the dump. Nothing looked the same to the youth, and the pony he could not find. He looked for as long as the man would allow, but saw nothing of the friends he had betrayed without a peep. Perhaps had he just spoken sooner none of this would have happened. Perhaps if the man could feel any sorrow it would not have happened either.
In adulthood, the boy realized that the man took him to a different dump, as to let the boy continue to believe that it was he who had failed his friends. The boy who would become a man realized just how much of an impact that day would have on him, even decades later. This is but one story of a life lived from underneath the greatness that could have been the boy, if only he could have understood sooner the reason for it all.