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Sad Coming of Age Teens & Young Adult

This story contains sensitive content

This story contains descriptions of severe mental health difficulties and brief imaginary violence.

 

Where did everything go? My youth, my strength. Fighting battles and winning senseless wars, dreams of conquest that litter my life, so torn and hopeless.

My father so distant, my mother reading the paper. “Mom, I watched the whole news!” The black and white TV shines, as I plead, all of four years old.

Pay attention to me, love me, soon I will grow up, and a monster will take me where no one can rescue me, a place you know nothing about. But then it was always like that with my parents. Running late to birthday parties with unknown children, dressed in a suit and squinting at the unblemished sky. The perfect boy who always knew his place.

What I knew didn’t matter. What I wanted mattered less. Nothing was my choice, all those things, their worth hidden from innocence. I wanted what I could not have. What pot at the end of the rainbow waited for me? I watched Life while living in the playground of my mind, where boys race each other to push me off teeter-totters. The soft warm sand, the stand-in, my friend. It's my father who upbraids me, “It's only a thunderstorm!” he yells when we are inundated, the sky flashing death. The rain hides my tears, my unknown treasures.

I play with his toys, the ones that he likes. The football I never threw. The catcher’s mitt stuck on the sill. “Go outside! Get some fresh air!” If only I knew how many books my friends are, all dog-eared, scrawled upon, bindings broken. Escape. It is my only option.

***

“I never want to be a teenager!” I joked in the kitchen. "Everyone has everything they want! I have practically nothing!" Then my mom laughs, such a cute rejoinder for “What do you want to be?” I never have answers for questions like that, unprepared for everything, I am fit only for aunts and uncles.

Have it your way, everything's a joke! Staring at mom it's so perfectly clear. I didn’t think this, I just knew it: No life to make sense of, not even for you! Leave me alone! And I’ll be no wiser.

Grade two. Punched in the stomach, my pretties burst from me, cat's eye marbles she gives me. "There, feel better?" my teacher croons, "aren't you glad I helped you?" All my pretties, they're gone?

Grade six. The bushes are waiting, there’s no late school bus. A walk through the forest at gathering dusk. Winter, helping Mr. Murphy until five, he doesn’t notice. Finally, there's no taunting, the fists in the forest, they leave. My father calls to me, “This is your fight! Attack hard. Aim well, kick the leader, you can beat him!”

Grade seven. Time to go, you eyeball roller! A teenager, at last, a biological disorder. Military school. A uniformed toy soldier, marching nowhere for nothing. Shards of me escape, my words choking, father raving at the frozen toy child.

Grade eight. Time to go, this time for good. March break, I am broken. A barracks window snow wraith an omen. Classroom military horrors torment me. "Suck it up buttercup!"

She winks at my new principal. “The high school, you love it?” my mother, ecstatic.

Grade nine. A note I am given. Time to know what is known, a hundred who hate you, see their names? My sister is all peace and love patches, no sister to me, anti-war long hair and blue jeans. I carry on. Old habits die hard.

Life carries me onward, yet not stooping to caress the broken heart, more like chickens that peck till the jaundiced hen expires. I am awash, frozen fingers tap no SOS. Land-borne agents party while rescue teams stand down.

What storm batters a wayward angel? Nothing is good enough for me. No goals come from no choices, thus easy answers satisfy: “It’s just life, you’ll get over it,” they all say, the bromide, so apparently right. While my enemies split my atoms, my Yankee Doodlers see their own reflections and preen.

Every attack, every empty gesture, those birth pangs are now. My learned lessons, my best choices, like the vinyl record that skips the needle, the song of my life a narrow noise.

It's too late! Something else stirs. Something else takes shape. A part of me, born to rage, bent on revenge, splits free. Born neither alien nor known; it lives through me, my stealth assassin.

***

I won’t say it all went well with that high school thing, another creature inside me, so hopeful, we decide on university. Now I will be loved. Now my parents will see me! I am free, a goal set. No more excuses, no more tormentors, they are a part of me.

Things can’t get worse, we always think. My first nervous breakdown, that deadly freshman fall, what a surprise! The other in winter, my first sequel, another pop crackle snap! My feelings, crumpled and bare, the greatest relapse. Olympic monitors flash my high scores. Good finally at something.

My goals forgotten I am finally free. To rave and spout nonsense, kaleidoscopes of God, infinite power, the heaven of everything. But even for me, none of this makes sense. If I am God, then what is left? I scare children.

The fight for my soul begins! Anger burns and burns, the cold air sodden, with tears. I’m not living my life, a police report is needed! It's all a mistake. Then the silly testing, yet more testing, Rorschach tests, those bats! I was always a madman, such a madman, is that where it's at? Emergency crews clean up and say, “Here's your life back, enjoy your day!" They shut the door.

My goal to exist through the days far too long. Why me? What special sauce was my undoing? All my friends off and about, so successful, "poor you! Here's a card. Get well now, we miss you!"

My achy emotions, split from my splits, like veins that never connect, blood flowing backward, sideways, never any heart. Beating, beating, myself, trying to be human and never getting it right. It's too much. I’ve lost too much of myself, spilling through my grasping fingers. For shame! How could I have behaved so badly?

My first appointment, with Dr. John George. Two first names, what an introduction! What now, with the emergency past, is it the reckoning? I haven’t suffered enough, we’ve just begun? Are the bills of childhood coming due?

A therapist’s parade. Dancing therapists, all in a row. It’s this thing, it's that thing, oh no! Who will pay? I must pay, I’m not the debtor. It's mom. It's dad. No, it’s me, so sad. I’m beside myself; what I will never have, what will never be, locked up inside of me.

“Let it be,” Dr. George says, John Lennon his cue. “Here take these. One to process it, one to be sad. It won’t tickle; you want your life to be like a movie or a thriller?”

YES.

My bad. Let’s start again.

***

When your bed is your best friend, all beginnings are the same. The life I never thought of, the one I never dreamed of:

I could not suffer enough; I would not suffer long. It increases, it decreases it's there all along. You think you can’t endure; you think it unfair; it isn’t, it can’t be, the life I can’t bear.

A life that comes after ten thousand tears water the single flower. That grows. I stop living through what is dead, what has died when I wasn’t looking.

My suffering creating the life I never lived. I am born anew. Struggling free, that soft warm egg, my prison, my incubator. It's all good. My choices are my own.

***

They do selfies that I decline, those therapists. I’ve had enough of myself. Those bats, those furry creatures are no friends of mine. I’ve lived two lifetimes, one my own. The other the stranger, my interloper, my stealth assassin. Setbacks, I’m unsure of. I walk into darkness on spindly legs, a groping heart, no therapist to guide me. The darkness calls, the uncertainty. It knows my name. It sees me.

Wait, he’s coming! “You were never good enough!” he growls. “You were always worthless, it will never work!” he tracks all black, my Zorro who pounces.

Now I have you!” he breathes in my ear, his knife at my neck. A trickle of blood and tears greet him, his stale breath enveloping. With one quick stroke, he makes to bring down the curtain. The audience will cheer, a standing ovation. Then the bows and flowers, the hollering and emotion. I am gone, what a relief! It is over. Cue the exits, the audience leaves my maudlin theatre.

But something is different, a change in the script. I'm not what I was. He puzzles a moment, then cries, “You’ve changed? Suffer more than I do, and I won’t return.” He releases me. Ah, more compassion than I give myself! I will not die! I carry on, ignoring what I expect, what should be. I get out of bed.

It's all good. Such heartless pride, crashing down to earth from lofty heights, a meteorite, smashing my parent’s dreams like old family china. I blast through the mansions, the supple curves of beautiful women, and endless comfort. I pulverize the reckless achievements, the bragging to neighbors, the degrees and distinguishments. I, all-powerful, heedless of woe.

Down to earth. Torn, real, and bleeding. All mine, every heartbeat, every mistake, every wasted opportunity. The broken apartment, the shattered pipes, and graffiti, they greet me. I am home at last.



April 17, 2023 13:37

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7 comments

Mary Bendickson
15:41 Apr 26, 2023

Whoa, Joe! This is intense. Don't know what to say that will make sense. I wish your MC well.

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Joe Smallwood
20:29 Apr 26, 2023

Gotta read something you wrote Mary. Chatgpt just had a hate on for what I wrote today! So I read three of yours. Yay! I wish I knew what MC is. And now you probably know what Chatgpt is. I hate it when Chatgpt does not like my stories. It is a real downer. By the way, did you like "My Stealth Assassin?" Chatgpt likes it the best of anything I have written.

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Susan Catucci
03:07 Jun 09, 2023

I can’t see this piece as anything less than a manifesto of a life derailed , desperate to believe they can get back on track and yet powerless against forces that want their pound of flesh, it’s s powerhouse- sometimes subtle but ultimately a slow inevitable demise. From the POV of a writer, I see golden lines of expression and so much merit and beauty in a dark place, something survivors excel at, called deflection. If I wax poetic maybe you’ll listen.

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Joe Smallwood
19:51 Jun 09, 2023

"If I wax poetic maybe you’ll listen." I'm listening! "sometimes subtle but ultimately a slow inevitable demise." Not sure I follow you here. The assassin says "Suffer more than I do, and I won’t return." Now it isn't made explicit, but here is my take on a central mystery of this life. Whatever we go through is never final or the last word if we have faith. The acceptance of the MC of his suffering coupled with a determination to go on living no matter what is the note of victory here, not the MC's demise. I don't judge anything that hap...

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Susan Catucci
20:11 Jun 09, 2023

I see. Demise is certainly the wrong word. I appreciate your clarification and I get it (much better now). I plan to read it again: there's a lot there. :)

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Susan Catucci
20:26 Jun 09, 2023

Did I say a lot? Yes, but I got more out of it this second go-round. It is certainly not about derailment and demise; it's a battleground of sorts; it's a good fight. I will keep my sentence about "golden lines of expression and much merit and beauty in a dark place. I'll underline the word "powerhouse." That is my revised feedback, Joe. A lot of gold.

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Joe Smallwood
01:46 Jun 10, 2023

Thanks Susan.

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