In Defiance of Pain

A WARNING:
The following post is extremely graphic.  I really hope it achieves the goal I have in posting the story.  And that is what it is – a fictional story.  I originally completed it in Sept ’09, but I find the timing of publishing it now is good.

I am undertaking a process of cleansing.  If you have read any other posts of mine or my bio on the blog, you can see that I experiment with my life all the time and I am on an incredible journey right now (as I write).

There are several reasons why everything is done as it is, so …

Please forgive me if I offend you in any way at all.  As well, I hope that you understand on a deeper level of my writing this piece of creative writing.

I will let you know this though, it will become more apparent in this coming year as I commit myself to public speaking and publishing a book.

So, on with the show …

Image

Heard from the summer hot barn, the piercing wails mercilessly caroms off the dusty walls, and the sting of his own screams shoot right back to the heart of the little victim.

With his eyes held tightly closed, all he wants is the stabbing pain to stop; he wants the musty foreign smells to go away; he wants the gurgling heavy breath to tell him to run away and go home.  Yet it doesn’t … it just won’t … end.  Then a pause, and a bright flash and a quiet zeeeeeeee fill their little hideaway.

The boy, no more than eight years old, resigning himself to however worse it was going to get, begins to pray.  He can feel himself moving towards that godly place to seek refuge from the terror in the hope of hopes that maybe at least He could help – at least that’s what his parents always told him so.

“Our Father, who art in … am I going to Heaven?” whispers the boy to himself through his sniffling.

Suddenly, the boy feels warm and the hair on his arms stand up – a gentle wave of trust rushing through his trunk and extremities.  In calm wonder – he feels himself slowly drifting high above the terror.  He could see the large black mass, and it seems like he could almost reach down and touch … the … boy; and there is this sudden amazement to see it was he himself being inflicted with gross indecencies that he could not even possibly understand.  Now there is no longer pain … there is no longer feeling … there is nothing but a total relaxing numbness that convinces him to survive the ordeal.  … And again … another bright flash.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,” laughs the Voice. “If there’s anyone in Heaven right now kid, it’s me, not you.”  The Voice laughs, groans, then laughs again.

No longer with the urge to cry, that inner voice again. Always wondering.  “Then I am not dead?” The echo of the laugh in the barn bellows shamelessly as the Voice works furiously to finish his work.

The poor broken boy, lying on the table in a sea of sweat and blood, resembles nothing of the sweet and innocence that brought him to this hell-hole of terror in the first place.  His still trusting eyes, now circled with dark blue bruises, are unable to look behind him to see who could do such things – to make him feel such pain.  His tiny wrists, tied to restrain any bodily movement, are burned and bleeding as he struggled in vain to fight the onslaught of new pain.  A thousand knives jab him inside over … and over … and over again.  Even with his eyes closed, the boy sees another bright flash.

With the exception of heavy wheezing, there is an unusual silence – no crickets, birds, or passing cars blaring the latest pop hit.  The dusty and oily-smelling barn seems to be transported to another universe.

The boy peers his eyes open and shifts them stealthly from side to side.  If not for another time and place, all he sees is the warm afternoon sun slicing between the decrepit walls allowing the slices of dust to dance aimlessly free in the air; and it would get sticky inside his wet nose.

A few seconds of waiting for something to happen makes the boy’s heart race even faster.  He wonders and waits.  Another bright light makes his body jump like a paddled cardiac patient.  He begins to whimper again.

The cool edge of a large and shiny blade presses against his face and reflects the outside light into his eyes.  The Voice leans into him and all the boy smells is the overpowering odour of stale sweat, urine, and alcohol.

“What do you think I should do with you now, little boy?  Should I cut your throat or set you free?”

“Please let me go?  I won’t tell anybody.  I promise mister, I promise.”  The boy could no longer stop himself from crying.  His big chestnut eyes begin to spill forth tears like a broken dam.

“I know you won’t tell, little boy.  If I let you live, you’ll never tell.  I know your mother, your father, and your two sisters.  I know everything about you and your family.”  The Voice lets the boy digest his words.  “If you ever even think about telling, I can easily come back and kill your whole family.  But you know that, don’t you little boy?”

The Voice chuckles to himself.  “You know kid, maybe it will be better if I do kill you – you know, to save you the memories of today – because you will probably never forget this day.  Not next week, not next year, not even when you are a grandfather.  You will always remember this day because you will always wonder ‘what if …’.  Every time you are with your girlfriend, your wife, your kids – you will wonder.  So the question to you, little boy, is whether you want to live or not.  You tell me.”

“I want to live – please!” begs the boy without hesitation.

As fast as a magician’s hand, a ‘sing’ of the blade set the boy’s wrists free from its bonds.  The Voice looks down at the boy on the bench and smiles a long, satisfied grin.  He brings an instant camera to his face and takes a photo.  Without moving from his position, the boy watches the Voice adjust himself.  The Voice throws a soiled rag on the boy’s bleeding body and takes one last photo.

“Sure, little boy” replies the Voice.  “I’ll let you go because you were my best in a long time.  You were wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  Maybe we can do it again sometime.”

And without another word or sound, the Voice disappears.  It is so sudden, the boy isn’t even sure whether he has actually left.  He waits for a moment and then decides to look around.  When he’s sure he’s alone, the boy slowly lifts his painful body from his fetal position.

On seeing the large knife, he reaches over and inspects the razor-sharp edge closely.  He realizes how this powerful and intimidating knife held his life in the balance – and just a kid, too.  In this case, it set him free.

He is free.

The boy takes a deep breath and pauses; and then slowly and gently, he lies down on his back.  First from his left arm and then from his right; rich, dark blood rhythmically spurts in an arc above him.  He closes his eyes and waits for freedom to slowly take him to Heaven.

Benni’s Dirty Secret

From his darkened bedroom window in the attic, Benni poked his head out into the snowy and shadowy night of winter and wondered if he would survive falling three stories to the cold ground below.

His worst-case scenario would be to have him end up living through the sudden impact of hitting the concrete below rendering him helpless and crippled. The last thing Benni wanted was to possibly survive become further dependent upon the very person he had come to despise.

Not cognizant of the significance of yet another beating at the hands of his father, Benni felt a wave of desperation overtaking his thoughts. He could not understand why his father would beat him again; after all, he did nothing wrong – again. How could it possibly be wrong to just be a kid?

He would prefer to cry and get it out and over with; but he couldn’t – not any more.  It seemed like a hundred years ago when he last shed a tear. It seemed like there wasn’t a good enough reason to cry anymore.

Too young at thirteen years old to understand, little did he know that the life path he was unknowingly thrust upon would take him on a bipolar journey of constant crises that would take forty years from which to recover.  Worse still, while he continued to beat himself up, Benni didn’t know it was not he who was broken – it was the dysfunctional culture of his family; and it gave rise to a defining moment in Benni’s life that began his subconscious decision to break free and move towards a life reflecting the many he witnessed outside of his family.

***

Having moved to Toronto to raise a family and seek the promise of prosperity, the Smith’s were escaping a cycle of misery and disappointment that haunted generations before them.  Their hope was to free themselves from the memories of a village where ‘less’ was the accepted norm and a humiliating handout was the grudging practice.  Dad lived with anger, and Mom with fear.  Socially under-developed, they arrived in the big city with lowered eyes and all the expected baggage: poor, uneducated, authoritarian, and waging the constant battle for power and status.

Christian leanings were strongly held and literally enforced, so it was only natural to soon begin a family with the belief that “He” will provide.  With steady jobs and a promising future, their salvation and rewards of happiness was only around the corner – or so they thought.  They didn’t realize their cultural patterns of thinking about life and living (behaviour, knowledge, and coping techniques) passed on from their parents were not left far behind in the past.

Before long, the Smith’s had babies popping up almost every second year.  They didn’t count on the incessant struggles increasing with each newborn; so by the time the final and eighth child was born, life was a living hell of diapers, debt, and desperation.

***

Benni was the firstborn son and much was expected from him.  Naturally bright and talented, he was seen as the great hope and source of pride for his parents early in life.  He was rewarded with choices not afforded his siblings as early as possible.  While somewhat lonely and isolated at times from being away from home so often, Benni was thankful for the opportunity to experience life away from the constant circus of sibling battles waged within the household.  Unfortunately, he did have to return to the home every day and he could not escape the toxic environment brewing of anger, frustration, and resentment.

Because of the poverty in the family, only basic needs were met.  Both parents had to work with he holding down two full-time union jobs and she working in factories not conducive to her chronic asthma.  Expected by everyone except themselves, family relationships snapped without repair, and the constant need of the children for attention always going unfulfilled.  Without the time or energy to cope, parental responses to the demands of the children became increasingly abusive psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

Fearful of his father’s wrath, Benni quickly accepted this way of life as the normal way of coping with life’s stressors.  It wasn’t long before the parental teachings of frustration management became the family norm and it profoundly affected how Benni perceived life and his behaviour towards it.

Given his extensive exposure to life at a private Christian school, Benni knew something was not right, but he chose to avoid thinking about it because it caused him much anxiety when doing so.  The only bright spot in his life was the love, inspiration, and nurturing he received at the choir school far from the asylum he called home.  This allowed him to detach himself from the stress of the family and focus on his own individual training and education goals with, of course, the demanding approval of his father.

From all his outside activities, Benni received guidance to become a healthy boy who flourished.  He grew into an academic scholar, as well as reaching a small level of virtuosity in music.  In spite of the evening crises at home, he was able to achieve a level of psychological competence and success in all of his endeavours by pretending he was just a visitor to the family home  – with the priests and church actually being his real parents and home.

In spite of the conflicting environments to which he was exposed, Benni was able to keep the daily troubles (and secrets) in the back of his mind even though he was constantly exposed to (and perceived) the ‘odd’ behaviours of love and affection he witnessed from his classmates and their families during social and school functions.  Sadly, when Benni reached thirteen years old, he was withdrawn from the school, and everything changed.  His private, secret world disappeared forever.

Living again at home “full-time”, Benni was beginning to experience the full force of his father’s brutality.  Having disappointed his father by wanting to pursue interests other than music and religion (Benni wanted to become a priest), the privileges of being ‘the one’ quickly vanished.  He was now subject to the same methods of disciplinary ‘correction’ as his siblings.  Daily beatings were expected to the point where any contact with his father automatically brought him to tears and wet pants even before he stood before that powerful force of authority.  Long-lived physical and mental scars were beginning to rupture.

Why, he wondered, does his dad never tell him he was proud of his achievements, or hug him, or smile when something was done to his strict level of satisfaction?

Benni was beginning to understand now why his siblings often lied; after all, when truthfulness was punished, “what was the point?”  Flurries of questions were soon to follow.  Was all the piety and goodness he modeled from the priests and other leaders nonsense?  “Was there really goodness, or were the priests lying to me all along?”  “Why was I being punished for laughing too loud?”  “Why, all of a sudden, was I beginning to wet my bed at night and chew my fingernails?”

Benni quickly re-learned the brutal social norms and values of the house (not home).  Along the way, stress, higher competitiveness, lower perception of control, and fewer feelings of ability to make choices were beginning to take hold of his consciousness.  It was no longer safe to invest his time or interest with his own family – and this concerned him greatly.  The only option available was to find some kind of escape from the madness because everything he knew was no longer valid, and the assimilation of new information was slowly changing his beliefs in ways in which he didn’t like.

Gone was the joy of life.  His vitality was being sucked out of him and feelings of depression were beginning to creep into his mind.  The house was a constant war zone and Benni never won a battle.  There was never enough of anything from basic needs and security to affection and trust.  A culture of various abuses was accepted and internalized in this family of ten; and as a result, dysfunctional secrecy became the norm that was successfully thrust onto his generation.

One day, after spending the weekend at a friend’s house without his father’s knowledge or approval, Benni was banished to the attic – after a severe beating and a broken collarbone, of course.  His father said he didn’t want to look at him any more.  Benni was labeled a disgrace for asking his friend to have him over, and “that kind of behaviour (begging) was simply not tolerated”.

Benni knew this was just another reason for his father to beat him up.  His father was always angry now, and everyone disappeared like roaches in the light when even a hint of his presence was felt.  The mother was always sick and she was fearful herself, so any assistance from her was non-existent.

As for moving his bedroom to the attic, Benni actually felt relieved as he finally found his tiny respite from the pain.  He was already emotionally detached from his family and he had nothing in common with any of them.  All that interested him now was listening to hockey games on the radio under a small spotlight in the darkened room and exploring his newfound talent for painting.

Emotionally and psychologically, the attic was taking its toll.  Solitary living, although a choice at the time, was sucking the life out of Benni.  Loneliness was a constant companion and the isolation drove him to a world where his only joy was reading and re-reading motivational books by Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and Norman Vincent Peale he stole from the local library.

***

Soon, Benni’s search for meaningful friendships outside of his bedroom walls was completely gone.  Endless days and nights brought lots of time to think and ponder about the meaning of life – his life; and somehow he felt this wasn’t something he should be concerned with at that stage in his life.  Not knowing it, but Benni was not developing normally as a young adolescent was supposed to become.

Everything was confusing and nothing seemed real as it appeared as if there were two alternative worlds in his same existence.  A part of him felt stuck and lost, yet the other felt as if he was going to become someone great and important.  A part of him wanted to meet new friends (but he didn’t even know how any more), and the other part didn’t want the emotional hassle with relationships.  Benni wanted to be a part of his family, but couldn’t bring himself to have anything to do with them.

He didn’t even know who he was anymore.  He wanted to believe in something positive again.  Breaching his teen years, he couldn’t quite articulate the feeling of a deep personal crisis forming in the base of his chest.

Benni went to the attic windows overlooking the street far below, opened them wide and invited the cold wind to choke back his first deep breath, and then fell to his knees.  Unable to cry, he looked to the sky and asked for help.  He then leaned over and exposed his head and shoulders to the frigid beast of fear.  With a long deep breath inhaled through his nose, he closed his eyes and wondered …