9 Year Old Deaths

Heck, what a stupid child I was then — stupid because I was ungrateful and did not realize how great life was back then, as a nine year old child? NO!

Stupid because I didn’t kill myself. Hell yeah, life is harder, the winds are stronger, the tide is rougher as it splashes against my skin in the form of harried deadlines and people shouting for proposals. I mean, c’mom: I thought life was hard then because I had the honor of digging up a white mushroom-thing from our front yard. I wasn’t even mad at life for sending me this truly hard task because of public humiliation: digging up mushrooms in the front yard, or because there was soil all over my face and grit stuck in my nails — and probably my nostrils.

I was mad because I didn’t get why I had to dig the mushroom up. I didn’t get why it couldn’t stay in the front yard, among other slender strands of grass and interesting-looking weed stalks. Why couldn’t it stay?

Why couldn’t things stay the way they were?

I told mom that I wanted to kill myself because we were moving. We were moving from our cute, quaint house in suburban California, and we couldn’t even visit the blackened cherry tree in our front yard: No can do. Our parents told us — me and my younger brother who was remarkable apathetic about the whole moving-affair — that we were to move across the Pacific Ocean, to some foreign Asian country.

I now proudly call ‘that foreign Asian country’ my more or less, permanent home. I should, anyway, because I laid most of my teenage arms and sweat in this country right across the Pacific Ocean, miles away from where I first started off life as a foetus.

But the point is: I loved California, with every bit of my naive, nine year old heart. I loved it so much that I told mom I’d kill myself if we actually-actuallymoved.

I told her that every night during the summer before our move. I told her that as we gathered around the dining table to eat chow mien. I liked chow mien. I knew she liked it too; she kept ordering it when she didn’t want to cook. “You’ll miss the chow mien”, I stated calmly, thinking that this fact alone would compel her to cancel all the plans of Asia and its wonderfulness that lay in wait for the family.

My mom merely shrugged. “Chow mien is the fake version of Asian noodles. You’ll get the real, the best, over there.”

Okay, so operation chow mien had failed miserably. I pulled out the card I that I’d been using for the past month since my brother and I had been informed for the move. The card. “I’ll kill myself if we move.”

Mom slurped up a noodle strand, and jabbed her chopsticks at me, then at dad. It was dad’s first time hearing my declare suicide, at the dinner table, so he looked at mom with eyes round — I’d say ‘as round as the takeout containers’, but everyone knows that the sweaty, plastic things are rectangular — and then glared at me ferociously. “How can you say that? Treasure your life! Don’t throw it away — “

This was when I proclaimed, rather loudly, “YOU’RE RIPPING ME AWAY FROM MY HOME. I’m a gentle raccoon who needs California sun and you’re taking — it — away!” I howled. There were actual sobs rasping out of me, and mom put her food down and so did dad. They came over to hug me, but I shrugged them off, and pretended to be dead.

(I think I liked to play the dead card. I’d accidentally read Romeo and Juliet in my aunt’s house when I was eight; the abridged, made-for-kids version, and in all honesty, I felt that the deaths were rather effective in getting me, the reader, want to zoom back to Shakespeare’s time and age and wage a protest against both Capulet and Montague houses, and launch a coup against the house of Verona, telling that prince to back away from Juliet!)

Fun times, I tell you. Eight year old me was the most entertaining. Trueentertainment. Maybe my relatives should have been charged to see me babble about a children’s literature book over dinner during Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or better yet, my birthday (where they would honor fair maiden,me).

My parents revived me by putting on their taped episodes of American Idol, and America’s Got Talent, and because we were in the age of Susan Boyle, I got to watch Britain’s Got Talent, too.

They woke me up. Hoisted me right up from my grave.

But not for long.

Two weeks before the move, mom was packing away all twelve of my Barbie dolls and their associated accessories (I like to call Ken a female’s accessory. She’ll decide when to wear him, and she might get tired of him — and shove him back into the closet when she pleases) into labelled plastic boxes. They looked like plastic coffins.

My face looked like death. I crawled out of the TV room, a place which I had confined myself too ever since the chow mien incident. My brother and I had already finished our last year at our American public school (shout out to Alta Vista Elementary), a school I had loved dearly. I had no homework, and didn’t feel like reading anymore literary classics (to both my mother and my aunt’s surprise). I had subjected myself to around twelve-hours of sitting in front of the ‘Idiot Box’, per day, watching Sprout, watching Hi-5, watching Tom and Jerry, flicking mindlessly through Nickelodeon. I left the TV room during lunch time, and made my own butter-and-sugar sandwiches, then brought them back up to eat in front of the TV. The rest of the twelve-hours, I slept. I would sleep at 6pm despite it being too early for sleep, and rise at 6am to play with my Barbie dolls.

I didn’t want things to change. So when I fell into this new practice of wasting my existence away during my final weeks in California, I wanted it to lastforever.

My mom had packed up those Barbie dolls. I had come barreling out of the TV room with a face mom liked to call ‘wilted’, dribbling tears and broken English everywhere as I protested for all of them to be put back into their usual place so I could play with them the next morning before embarking on my usual zombie-in-front-of-TV regime.

She wouldn’t, because she is a typical Asian parent — she likes to be preparedand she likes to be ready. I mean ‘typical Asian parent’ with no insult; it is good to be organised and prepared at all times. Except nine year old me took that practice of hers with more than a pinch of salt, and began bawling.

“Why are you ripping life from me…stop taking me away… I don’t want to move…I promise I won’t want to, ever.”

Each day, I cried. Each day, I reminded myself of the plastic ‘coffins’my Barbie dolls had been shoved into, and reminded my parents of death. To my surprise, my parents didn’t snap — or at least, they didn’t snap it front of me. I didn’t get scolded or rapped on the knuckles the fifth time I mentioned death, the fifteenth time I announced that I wanted to kill myself, or the fiftieth time — the night we were meant to board an airplane and leave California forever — that I would kill myself.

I was bundled up, and put on a plane, and now I’m here. Writing on Medium, writing on a blog, writing on Tumblr, Tweeting nonsense like the nonsensical, literature-loving teenager that I am —

And boy, am I glad that I didn’t kill myself.

[Although my face sure looks funny], it’s not funny to say that, and it never will be funny to joke about ending my life. And I was stupid to say such a thing.

Thank you for reading, and listening in to my voice from a laptop screen as I narrate a part of my life 🙂 hopefully, I’m not too idiotic. Have a popsicle. It’ll fix the heat 😉

(Real mature, you!)

#MatureTalkwithPapergutz

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