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Rough and tumble, indeed.
Rough and tumble, indeed.
I remember a quiet confusion that came over me when I hit the ground, my brother on top of me.
Boys will be boys, some would say. Wrestling. Chasing each other around the living room as though we were on the school playground. Laughing and throwing our fists in the air as we howled and pounded the floor, imagining ourselves to be kings of the living room, proud and never to be defeated. That summer, just after a hailstorm made its way over our small apartment that never seemed small at the time, there was a body slam heard throughout the apartment.
Was he mad at me for throwing that acorn at his friend earlier that day? Was this his way of teaching me never again to defy him or his friends with a snarky toss of a silly hard-capped nut? I remember laughing and running away as the acorn ricocheted off of his friend’s narrow forehead. He never knew what hit him.
I tried walking on the leg that was pinned to the ground. Every step made sure that my tears knew what pain felt like. When my parents stepped out of the house briefly to go grocery shopping, we were left alone, my brothers and I. They were old enough to be left in charge, and I was young and didn’t know what regret meant – yet. I often tried the patience of my siblings – just because. My brother laid me on the couch with tears of uncertainty still dribbling down my face. There was an attempt to ease my pain with a warm wet cloth and the assurance that everything would be okay. I’m certain I cried with much more ferocity and contempt the moment my parents walked through the door. You know the way that kids feign tears for a second, but then realize that their faking has made it real? You know, when they fall and don’t cry until someone asks if they are okay. Ultimately, my parents ascertained that the throbbing pinch I was experiencing must be a fracture, the size of a hairline to be exact. My brother looked sorry.
I knew he didn’t mean to break my leg, but he did.
My father carried me to the car. I felt the warmth of his chest telling me – although he is a man of few words – that he cared more for me than I understood or knew at that moment. When he slipped on the concrete that just couldn’t provide enough friction to keep him on his feet, he fell to his knees, and though we both were pulled toward the ground by relentless gravity, my father never let me hit the floor.
I couldn’t say that I grew up unscathed; I don’t think anyone can. Why is it that sometimes it takes half a lifetime to understand that we will always carry the ones we love throughout all of the pain, no matter how much we try to deny it, no matter how much we try to fight it.
My brother – the one that fractured my still fragile bones – died more than fifteen years ago. Tears don’t force themselves on me anymore, but I still wonder where he has gone. Heaven is a place I can’t bring myself to believe exists. Perhaps his energy, still brightly-charged, surges through all of his siblings, his parents – or perhaps not.
I visit his mausoleum from time to time, when I’m feeling particularly emotional. It’s unfortunate that the place is so strange and stale. It’s strange because it feels so hollow; there’s so much empty space that is thicker than it should be.
Every time I visit the mausoleum, I try to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground, remembering how rough it was – and proud of the many times we’ve tumbled and still, we got up. Indeed.
Inthava Bounpraseuth-Hao is ethnically Lao and was born in a refugee camp in Ubon, Thailand. He grew up in Southern California where he still lives. He is less than perfect, and realizes that he wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite living with the occasional nocturnal panic attack, an undulating Depression & Anxiety that often makes him look lost or angry or annoyed, he’s earned his Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and is currently working towards his PPS credential in School Psychology and a PsyD in Educational Psychology. Yes, he prefers hanging out with sassy kids that give their teachers a reason to be exhausted between the compulsory hours of 8am to 3pm. They help keep his depression and anxiety at bay. He and his husband, Mark, have been married for two years now after finding one another 10 years ago as of November 17, 2017. They have two barking fur-babies, Pip and Grey. Sometimes you’ll find Inthava under a table or behind a door until his anxiety subsides. Sometimes you’ll find him feeling boojie amongst the bourgeoisie at the ballet. Surely, you’ll find him daydreaming. Wherever you may find him, he appreciates that you do.