A Fight Against Innocence

Davis, following Luke and Evan.

Davis glanced outside the window with resentment in his eyes. The neighbors’ kids were carelessly playing on their new swingset in golden hour’s glow: joyful cries were voiced up and down as they took turns on the slides, climbed up the poles, and jumped off the monkey bars. Sarah, the youngest child, moved in tow with Luke, the middle child, or ‘instigator’, rather. Evan, the babysitter (being the oldest of the three) didn’t move with as much glee or enthusiasm as he always ended up caring for them if they were to get injured or recklessly hurt each other. It was forty degrees in the summer, but not a bead of sweat could be found on their unblemished, flawless faces. The constant yelling of imperatives from Evan “Sarah, stop swinging too high! Luke, don’t run barefoot!” ran through the entire neighborhood like the piercing, lullaby-like sounds of an ice cream truck driving by.

Davis moved from the window and sat on the floor near his bed. He continued to read another book from his collection of fiction novels his Dad got him as a birthday present, upon their visit to Düsseldorf last summer. He was sent there not exactly on a visit, but to an all-boys preparatory camp for the summer. There, he learned both German and supposedly how to be a ‘real man’. This experience involved brutal labor, unproductive fights between guys during bonding activities, and being constantly bullied throughout from his ‘sensitive’ features down to his abundant amount of skincare toiletries. It was no wonder how he looked more beautiful than the other guys there. His father — hoping to see a more rugged, manly figure out of him — was disappointed to receive back the same skinny, freshly-shaved lad with scars scattered across his arms. back and neck. No mind was paid to his accidents, just a hiss and a look of dissatisfaction as they drove to the airport back home.

It was Sunday. In most households here, this consisted of either going to church, doing chores or just resting like God after creating the world. In Davis’s house, however, the opposite existed. This was the one day where everything was dedicated to reviving his innocence. For as long as he could remember, he had always been the laudable son. Straight A’s, Head Boy, Assistant Church Youth Group Leader, and a fervent donor (through his parents of course) to the top charities in South-East Hampshire. Today — exactly a year ago from today — however, he discovered something that snatched and seized his innocence. Direct trauma.

Eleanor, Davis’s mom, was unsurprised yet befuddled as to how a 15-year old boy could already be dealing with severe trauma, up to the point where he became diagnosed with pediatric epididymitis at age 14. The screams and sharp interjections of the neighbors’ kids grew louder and louder. She strived to forget the dumbfounded expression on the doctors' faces that day when the news came to fruition; Davis was laying flat on the gurney, Matthew (Davis’s dad) stood by Eleanor’s side, yet avoided her eyes and Davis’s. 2 hours later, the scruffy, middle-aged doctor with wide sea-blue eyes enlarged behind tinted glasses, said slowly: “I’m so sorry, but your son has been diagnosed with…” All sounds began to fade out as she met the floor in one fell swoop. A year later, the memories and sentiments remain the same. Eleanor still feels like she’s falling, only to somewhere beyond the floor.

Davis walked out of his neatly organized room, filled with a collection of novels — fiction and non-fiction — and health guidelines on his desk, anime drawings, and a large Lana Del Rey poster near the window. It was both spacious and filled, with his bed occupying most of the floor space. His whole life became a game of trial and error; Eleanor and Davis kept implementing new parenting techniques and designating scheduled times to spend with him to absolve him of loneliness, the absence of love that was everpresent at home. They tried to repair their relationship but there was nothing — except Davis — that was really holding them together. He was an alcoholic and a cheater, while Eleanor was holding her career in accounting back to support her husband at home as a housewife. Davis was always the source of contention between them; he was also the receiving end of their bitter quarrels, with burns and bruises around his body to show for it.

Walking down the wooden, carpeted stairs, he could already hear the raging arguments spewing between his parents again in the kitchen. Both their faces were reddened with rage, and the discontent they had for one another, noticeably visible. He wanted to ask if he could play, just for a few minutes, with the neighbors’ kids, being cooped up in the house all day. It didn’t take long for him to be seen across the stair railing, called into the kitchen by a voice laced with anger. His father, taking deep breaths to calm down, asked him quickly, “What do you need, Son?” He replied “I.. I.. Um, I wanted to play with Luke and Sarah, just for a few minutes though… If it’s not a problem — ” Eleanor’s response was fast and succinct, “Yes, of course, my darling. Go, get some air. You’ve been up there for too long today”, and he scurried out the door as fast as he could to the playground where the kids were.

It wasn’t easy to see how their marriage was falling apart. Davis’s achievements (and trauma) were a result of constant mistreatment, disregard, and neglect from his parents. Growing up, the only way he could appeal to one of his parents, talkless of both, was through achieving something. He never got any sort of remark or support when he fell short. In fact, it would usually end up with his dad grabbing his life by an arm, shoving him into the shower, and pouring hot water spiced with pepper flakes all over his body. Or his father threatening to beat his mother into the intensive care unit of a hospital if he didn’t make himself a child of ‘value’ in school or church. Or his mother condemning his so-called feminine traits, begging him to wear baggy trousers and forbidding him to wear clothes that accentuated his rather slim, curvy figure. His parents, being Christian, inspired him to denounce his religion at an early age. This he kept secret, however, feigning innocent and devoted to Christ around them and whenever he has to go to church, but they stopped so they can have Sundays off to look after him.

The sky was a crisp blue-purple with a blur of clouds floating by. Luke’s maniacal cries could be heard whilst he was still inside his house, even more-so annoying as he got closer. All heads turned to the sound of trudging footsteps, they shouted “Davis!” with an iota of delight at his presence. Evan, Davis’s agemate, sauntered over to him and put an arm over his shoulder, tousling his hair while chuckling. Davis, although touched by this affection, always told him to “knock it off, man. I just brushed and gelled it”, only for Luke to step back and say “Geez, sorry princess”. He hissed as he walked over, taking a seat on the slide next to Luke as he nudged his rib. Sarah came by with her mouth wide open, laughing, the scarcity of teeth apparent as she began to smile and say “Davis, carry me carry me!”. He pinched her cheek, carried Sarah up to give her a kiss on the cheek, lightly swinging her from side to side. Evan ran back inside and came back at the speed of lightning, holding a speaker and iPod in his left hand. “Got any song requests, or should I just shuffle?” Davis responded without any pause “Shuffle, please”.

The entire yard suddenly became filled with Metro Boomin’s ‘I Don’t Care’ while Evan’s mom came outside to fetch Sarah for her evening bath. “It’s getting pretty late out, do you want to join us for dinner or will you be leaving soon, Davis?” There was a rising awkward silence. Everyone stared at Davis with sympathetic eyes, used to the loud yelling during dinnertime from his parents' next door. If they didn’t know who lived there, they’d have assumed it was a madhouse. David, unshaken by their stares, delightfully agreed and they all went inside. It was still strange to comprehend everything Davis had been through and had yet, not run away from home, as most kids did here.

He was, sort of, a superhero in the sense that he was always in a fight against innocence that he never actually lost, but found in the comfort of others.

j’écris. nigerian, and other associations.

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