By Elizabeth Kaur, TIWP Women’s Writing Program
If you let it in, how bad would it be? Would it hurt too much? Would it remind you of the chocolates they gave you when your dad died? Would it remind you of when they told you he was traveling and that because, they said, you were too much to handle without him home, you would spend the month at your uncle’s: more chocolate, no bedtime, and the chance to drive a car when you were eight?
Returned home, back at school, it wasn’t the same. And still, no one told you. You took to hiding beneath your brother’s desk until the day his teacher pulled you out by your shirt neck and instructed you to squat, in crow: legs tightly knotted, left ankle behind right, buttocks to your heels; arms tightly knotted, left over right; fingers clinging to opposite ear lobes.
“You’re The Boy With the Dead Dad. Stay like that.”
His lesson proceeded. Your speechless brother paid attention.
Your back ached, your heart pounded, your mind focused. DIE DIE DIE was your mantra.
When the bell finally rang and the Sanskrit master rapped your shoulder blades with a meter stick, you untangled, too prideful to reveal pain, and raced home to your shared room where your mantra continued: DIE DIE DIE. And he did: that night, the master died.
When you heard the news the next morning in the school yard, you looked around, guilty. “Would they discover I was the cause?” You quietly joined your class.
As the day continued and when no one came to accuse you, your guilt morphed into a righteous, abundant sense of power: The Boy With the Dead Dad became the destroyer of evil, destroyer of the words of unjust adults, more powerful than an older brother, fueled by confusion and sadness and the sweetness of gifted chocolate.