a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
“Ow, why would you do that?!” I exclaimed angrily, tenderly rubbing my stinging red cheek after getting hit.
Gio loomed over me, his shadow towering over mine as I stumbled to the ground, my hands behind me pressing against the cold oakwood floors of the house. My eyes widened as I saw his right arm raise once again, and I immediately squeezed my eyes shut while shielding my face with my hands and arms, bracing myself for the impact.
I felt every bone in my body tense as I mentally prepared myself for the crushing blow. Suddenly, my eyes opened again in an immediate realization: Gio was a seven-year-old. Yes, a very short-tempered, nasty, demon-like seven-year-old that would blow up over the smallest things--but regardless, a seven-year-old. I felt my fear quickly dissipating into vexation as I grabbed his arm before he could inflict further damage onto me.
“Don’t hit your babysitter like that!” I scolded him through clenched teeth. There was no way I was letting a mere child get the better of me. “That’s not nice--in fact, that’s a terrible thing to do! Where’d you learn to do anything like that, Gio?”
I didn’t expect him to actually answer. My anger felt like earplugs, blocking out all the noise around me. I saw his lips forming words, only to emit no sound--rather, I couldn’t hear him over my frustration. He was muttering something: something about his father? But as soon as I shook myself out of my emotional trance, his answer to my rhetorical question was finished. I figured it was nothing important, just some immature comeback. I rolled my eyes; I had heard plenty of those from him, and I didn’t need to hear another one. If I had, I figured that I might have ended up snapping at him--more than I already did.
I dragged him downstairs to finish the rest of his homework that was due the following day. His attitude was apparent throughout the homework session: yelling and bickering with me over the tiniest things, trying to make an argument over nothing. I wouldn’t have taken up this tutoring job if I knew just how horrible and ungrateful of a child Gio was, all of which I could tell despite it being the first time I met him.
Outside, a car honked, and Gio visibly jumped in his seat. I stared at him as he scrambled to get his things, which were sprawled all over the living room floor. There was something hard to read about his eyes: Was he excited? Happy? Relieved? No… he looked scared. I had a puzzled look on my face as I walked over to the door, figuring that I should greet his father, who texted me that he would be picking Gio up. I never met his father, as Gio knocked on my door by himself when I met him earlier this afternoon. Gio quickly followed suit to my actions, sprinting to the door stomping his feet into his shoes, not caring about his heels crushing down the backs of his shoes. What on earth could he be so in a rush for?
I followed Gio as he briskly walked over to his father’s beat-up gray car, giving his dad a meek wave as he disappeared behind the car door. The windows and doors of the car were adorn with scratches, the paint of the car conspicuously peeling off at certain spots. The front of the car looked terrible: the bumper’s dislocation from its original position--attached to the car by a sole thin metal bar--revealed an apparent collision. One of its headlights was smashed, the protective barrier diminished to misshapen triangles of glass.
I stepped closer to the car, right outside the open window of the passenger seat. The overwhelming scent of beer and cigarettes invaded my nose, and I made a valiant effort to hold my breath. My eyes scanned the inside of the car: broken glass bottles, empty beer cans, smoked cigarettes, scattered papers, and more junk. I turned my gaze to the father who appeared to be 70--even though I knew well that he was in his mid forties. His wrinkles around his eyes creased as he offered me a helpful--but fake--smile, which hid a frustrated and hateful demeanor. He looked worn out and unbelievably tired, the dark circles under his eyes seeming to be never-ending, as if no amount of sleep in the world could stop him from looking this way.
I offered a quick wave as their car skidded past the black pavement of my driveway, and out of sight. I stood there, my vision suddenly turning blurry as tears formed at the brims of my eyes, the terrible things I said replaying in my head clear as day. I could hear myself calling Gio terrible, and scolding and reprimanding him all the while he was dealing with something unimaginable. I felt sick to the bone, not because of the wrecked mess of the car, not because of the scattered mess that laid inside of it, not because of the foul smell of tobacco and booze--because of myself. Because I was horrible enough to judge a seven-year-old by their actions during the span of only three hours and internally declared him not only bad--but demon-like. The only demon-like thing was his situation--and me: for spewing all these hateful comments towards him, for scolding him, for treating him terribly--all of which I imagine he had already experienced himself.
I came to a life-changing epiphany, one that I would remember throughout my entire life. I would never know what someone is going through: the hardships they’re facing, the emotions they’re feeling, the environment they’re in--these are all factors that undeniably influence the way someone acts. Everybody is battling their own demons, so I took it upon myself to think before I spoke--to think before I judged. From thereon I decided that I needed to be better, not just for myself, but for others--for Gio; I didn’t want to be another demon in his world.
* = Editors' Choice work
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