Sprinting now at full speed, my feet seemed to barely touch the surface of the road below as my legs were blasting through paces. My peers standing just one floor above of me were gleaming down at me in total confusion to what I was up to. I truly had no idea why I was running, but it was the only solution that came to mind. Where was I running to, I really had no destination in mind either. I just needed out, and a way to communicate to others that something just wasn’t right with me. As things turned out, me not being able to find the words to express myself became a common theme in my life for years to follow.
The skies continued to darken as I made lap after lap around the large apartment compound. The jungle, just a stone’s throw away from me on either side, almost seemed to come alive at the same time my own internal battle began to erupt within. The monkeys and birds were always loud this time of the day as the sun began to set. It was like the community came together to share their highs and lows of their day. Living almost directly on the equator, surrounded by the South China Sea, wildlife and natural beauty was unimaginable in its riches. That, too, would be something that would take decades to fully comprehend and appreciate. On that warm and humid late afternoon as dusk approached, I was introduced to a dark part of humanity, whose introduction I wish only came through gentler means. It was something I surely had never really felt before. It was a high. It was almost euphoric. Not only was I not used to the visceral response plaguing my body and mind, there was a sick part of me that seemed to thrive in its darkness.
The rest of the kids who hadn’t made it on to the balcony started to clue in that I had disappeared. They started echoing my name through the large apartment whose living room stretched the entire width of the building. The sound bellowed through the wide balcony doors and out into the tranquil skies. I was too captivated in my own mind to pay it any attention. Barefoot, I continued making round after around in the compound that housed four towering 12 story apartment buildings, a design that I have yet to ever encounter again in all of my worldly travels. Each floor only held two expansive units that would compare in size to a typical three-bedroom stand-alone home.
I had never been a good runner, but today I would somehow keep in stride with Olympians. Finally I was found out by the rest of my classmates as they made their way out onto a large front facing balcony. Looking aghast to what I was doing running alone outside, with no apparent threat or visible danger nearby. The news spread quickly to the late arrivals, looking down only a short distance from where they stood to a brokenhearted expressionless boy, crying for help through his bare feet bashing against the dirt covered brick road. The balcony clamoured more loudly as people began calling for my attention, in such a state of confusion to what could have possibly caused such a timid boy like myself to create such a scene.
Little did they know how big of a monster I was actually fighting within. I was blindsided by something fierce, but this timid boy wouldn’t be moved that day. My rebuttal to the initial unsuspecting blows were explosive and aggressive. I had never been so poised and ready for battle. Having no training, no experience, no guidance, and equipped only with a steadfast overflowing courage that I had never mustered up before, I was determined to win.
I hadn’t really planned for my subtle exit for the gathering to cause attention to myself, as I slowly snuck out the front door to the flat, and took the battle to the streets. Here I would be afforded the necessary space I would need to fight this fight. My blood pounded through my body, and my limbs became swollen with power. With this might now flowing through me, my legs would surely never give in; not to mention that this battle wouldn’t be over until I was crowned in victory. I would run down this foe, and make it pay dearly.
Lap after lap, round after round I went. My focused determination seemed robot-like, even if it was met by loud laughter and banter from my peers only few feet above me. A bomb going off nearby wouldn’t have been given taken even a fraction of my attention. The rest of the world seemed to have been put on pause as I ran.
After several longwinded attempts to get me to stop and re-join Laura’s party, a rescue team must have been formed and sent after me, because all of a sudden as I made my turn around her building again two people dashed out of the back exit of the building. They began to chase after me. I turned my back to them and took a few more strides, checking my footing at lightning speed before turning back to see their progress. While they may not have gathered much ground on me, the once pair had now turned into a foursome. They, too, were now sprinting towards me screaming with outreached arms for me to stop. I wasn’t going to have my battle cut short, and activated an another gear I unknowingly had within. My legs began to move at speeds I thought was reserved only four legged predators of the jungle. The once gaining search party was left choking in my dust as I easily escaped their capture. The thought then came to mind that this might be just the valiant effort I could use to win over Laura once and for all. She surely would be impressed by my athletic prowess. So instead of maintaining my course, I adjusted my scope and headed back towards the search party headquarters. The rescue party of four, consisting of fellow soccer teammates who were typically much faster than me, legged behind as I approached the party goers still perched above on the second floor unit. This time around, the crowd surely was anticipating to witness a capture hopeful resolution, but I had far better plans. I was going to show my love and my true colours, in a display of powerful manliness. As I drew nearer to the building, Laura wasn’t anywhere to be seen. The hero that I had just envisioned that I would be viewed upon as would to be no more, and instantly I knew that my final hoorah had come up short.
Having no real plan of action, I rounded past her building again, but this time funny things started to happen. The heroic energy that was blasting through my legs started to shift in my body. I could feel the energy now moving north to my torso, through my neck and to my eyes. My body seemed to finally clue in to the fact that this fight would never be won through my legs, and the victorious release would come in the form of tears. In a fraction of a second, the floodgates to my tear ducts were opened, and the tears fell uncontrollably down my face. The more I cried the, the less I felt that god-like force empowering my legs.
My teammates were nearly behind me now, but I still wouldn’t stop or give in. I knew I had to do something, because I was now only running on fumes. In a last ditch effort to escape, I leaped over a massive storm drain to a small garden filled park adjacent to the building. I managed to clear the three-foot deep drain, landing on my feet, only to then have my body finally shut down mid-stride as my legs gave way and I finally tumbled to my knees. I laid there in the fetal position, weeping profusely as the search party now standing over top of me questioned my senses. Their anger diffused quickly and the questions of motive were replaced with questions about my well-being as they saw the puddles still forming in my eyes. “Would I be alright?”, they questioned. Still not willing to wave a white flag, I forced a smile in an attempt to hide them from what was really going on inside of me. They somehow took the bait and lifted me to my feet. They were glad that I had finally surrendered, or so they thought. I knew within that these feelings wouldn’t just leave me as I returned to the rest of my peers and carried on with the rest of nights’ festivities as if all were well.
The excitement of that day came and went, as more commotion came and went in our young lives. I doubt that that recollection would have ever crossed through their minds again, but for me, it was a troubled memory that would continue to stir up my soul for a long time.
This was the first time in my life that I felt the jarring pain of rejection. I had been head over heels in love with this beautiful girl named Laura. It was her ninth birthday party, if I recall correctly, and I was smitten for her. Unfortunately, her heart wasn’t fluttering for mine. Her attention was given to a fellow classmate, a friend and now my newly formed enemy for life – Lachlan. How this American girl could possibly fall for an Australian blew my mind. She surely should should have been captivated more by the relatable friend from the North. I thought it was destiny that we should have been together. “This was what all the stories about love must have been talking about”, I thought to myself, but it wasn’t. Up to that point in life, I had never heard of the word rejection, let alone felt its deep scolding power. My heart was officially broken for the first time.
Maybe a part of my innocence left me that day. Some consider that moment to be a normal part of growing up, but I have always viewed the experience as an unforgettable trauma that I wish I could re-write. Why this memory hasn’t buried itself quietly into my psyche like so many other events in my life, I’ll never fully understand.
Two and a half decades, and what feels to be a lifetime, has passed since that day, but the memory of it can bring me back to that moment so sharply. To this day, I can still almost feel the dirt beneath my toes, as I ran barefoot through our compound that night desperately trying to escape my emotions.
The inevitable activation of Alcoholism in my life may be traceable back to a genetic predisposition, the way I was raised, or maybe even a traumatic event – I may never truly know. But one thing is for sure; that I certainly can trace a long chain of failed attempts to escape my emotions all the way back to that day.
This expressive treaty between me and the world may not have served you at all. For others, a deep emotion upheaval may have been felt while reading. But for me it was a necessary catharsis. I hope in sharing my own unapologetic truth that you, too, feel encouraged to step forward and release your own deeply held within scarring. The point is for us to be able to share and heal together.