The black plastic case was cracked along one side. The rectangular container had about twenty photos in it. A chubby baby resting soundly. The same chubby baby staring into the camera. A bright-eyed toddler, smiling at the camera with two front teeth missing. A young child, wearing a green camouflage shirt, hugged a yellow labrador puppy tightly with a giant grin. Another photo of the same boy, this time smiling widely while holding onto playing cards of every late 90’s early 00’s child’s obsession, Pokemon.
The little black rectangle housed memories of a time the person in the photos had chosen to mostly repress. A time before feelings of prolonged sadness would mix with periods of intense anger. These were a small collection of reminders of when the boy in the photo felt like he mattered to someone. Before a budding distrust in women would permeate his value system.
The pictures were from when he didn’t feel abandoned by those he loved.
They were reminders of what family, love, and innocence were.
A seventeen year old boy looked at those photos daily, tracing a finger over the figures in the photo while secretly hoping he could go back. Entertaining ideas of maybe, just maybe, he could fix the child in those photos just enough so people would want him and neither mothers nor mother-like figures would turn their back on him. If only he could go back, he could repair the bonds before they were forever severed.
Nine years he spent dreaming of going back.
Nine years he spent crying himself to sleep before screaming into a pillow angrily asking WHY.
What did an eight year old child do to cause so many people not to love him?
Nine years of feeling not deserving, not good enough for a family.
Maybe he had always been broken. The fault, maybe it lay in the fact that he was always broken and was just too naive to see it.
The black rectangular case, for as long as he remembered, carried the stress fracture along the small strip of plastic running across the bottom.
Was he always fractured too? Nobody wants damaged goods, was that what he had always been?
When the photos inside the case were destroyed, a casualty of being in a box in the care of someone instead of on his persons, it became clear there was no going back. Water washed away the smiles, the child, the toddler, the baby; the past. Not only was the little box that stored the last remaining remnants of a time he couldn’t go back to destroyed, now were its contents.
And he remembered.
He remembered the cord that stretched from apartment to neighbor for electricity. He remembered the man holding a door and threatening to knock his mother out with it, while he stood there ready to fight someone three times his size. He remembered the door closing behind his babysitter, someone who had no business watching him, turning to him with wicked smile across face. He remembered trying to tell someone what had happened but fearing that he would upset them.
He remembered the in between the photos, when he waited outside, knocking constantly on the locked door, as his mother hung inside with friends. He remembered holding onto a stick that had ribbon and a small figure on it, their “talking stick” and wanting to hide it in hopes that the fighting would stop.
The photos were gone. In their wake was the reality that you don’t repress happy times, but bad ones.
The answer to his happiness wasn’t in those photos, nor was it in his past.
Tears burned down his cheeks, as blood spilled into his mouth from where he bit his lip so hard the skin broke.
The past, and most of the people from it, were gone.
Looking down on cracked white glossy paper, he knew they weren’t coming back either.
I have had a few little boxes in my life that have held meaning to me in some form or another. The Metallic Box is another one, one I actually still hold onto and have written about. Some day I hope to write about my mother’s cube of photos that included Weno’s obituary on it.