Written by Erin Nust
Art by Oleg Magni
I never expected things would ever turn out this way. Definitely not in the beginning of everything, when I had to spend the nights locked up in the basement.
That my father was a hot-tempered, egotistical man, I knew it very well; that he would ever reach the point of such madness, never crossed my mind. Not consciously at least.
When I was eleven years old I did my first prank. The victim was a girl named Lucy and she was a classmate. Me and the boys from the “gang” stole her glasses and hid them in my locker. Lucy, blind as a bat, was a functionless being and we found it extremely entertaining to watch her walking around with her eyes half-closed and her arms extended in front of her like a zombie. My laugh drowned when Principal Lewis gave me a three-day detention. Me,but no other member of the gang. This was the first time that my dear mother, under the strict orders of father-tyrant, locked me in the basement all night.
Young boys get angry very easily and express it in an ugly way. That night, after my fists were red and burning from banging the door, I wanted to destroy things. I thought that if I made enough noise, they would notice me, they would let me tell my part of the story. I wasn’t alone doing the prank after all. I dropped the two, big tool cases; I also dropped the oil dispenser, leaving a big stain on the wooden floor. When my mother unlocked the basement floor and finally let me free, she screamed at me for destroying her house, for being an inconsiderable, little prick. Ever since, I could see my mother’s joy in her face whenever father ordered her to lock me.
Over the next year, the reasons they found to restrain me in the basement became more and more personal. Father was working as a builder and by the years he grew violent and upset. Whenever he was in need of shouting at someone, of hitting someone, of accusing someone, I was the best (and only) candidate. And then of course I spent the night at Basement Camp, where I had to be grateful for the relaxing company the mice’s squealing gave me and the chilling pierce of humidity in my bones. It was the basement or the streets.
I was getting used to it. The cold didn’t get me so easily and my nose grew accustomed to the faint smell of oil and mold. Father was supposed to fix the leaking tubes, but of course he never had the time and no one ever complained to him about anything. His eyes had a strange spark those days, I never dared to examine further. I tried to cause as little trouble as I could. I ended up being a ghost in my own house, a ghost that periodically lived and breathed in the basement.
Resentment was poisoning me slowly, though I can see that now, thirty-two years later and wise as an owl. I still felt the heavy axe of injustice on my chest and wished to release it somehow. The basement had more to offer than I thought in the beginning. It hid secrets and small treasures, it hid memories. All I could do those nights spent in the basement was to take my revenge slowly. So I stripped them from their precious memories.
I found old photographs of them as a couple that made me yack, pictures of old people who I supposed were my grandmas, great-grandmas and grandpas, letters, a pocket watch, old vinyls. With every visit in the basement, I took one thing from their memories and hid it in an old chest in my wardrobe. I locked them there and at times, when I was in need of some gratification, I opened it and touched them smirking with my evil genius.
I never imagined what would come next. I don’t know. I think I wish I had never taken that small jar from the back of the top right shelf. Yet, again, I should know by now that everything happens for a reason and all leads to where you are supposed to be; but, I don’t think I ever understood why I should have ended up an orphan at the age of twelve. What have I done to deserve such a hard life?
I didn’t know my father played the cards. I also didn’t know that he had holdings for some emergency. I never thought my father was such a money-considerate man, but once again I was wrong. There was a lot I didn’t know back then; maybe things would be easier for me if I was brighter back then. I can still recall the day he came from work and went straight to the basement to search for his savings. I was at the kitchen table doing homework, a piece of furniture that was breathing, when he stormed into the house with the same crazy spark in his eyes. My mother followed him with a towel in her hands asking him what was wrong.
I remember trying very hard to concentrate on what I was doing and not lend an ear on what was happening around me, but it was a total failure. I heard them shouting at each other; then I heard objects hitting the floor, some of them made of glass; I heard my mother screaming she didn’t take anything from the basement, she only went down there to clean; I heard my father’s fist landing on my mother’s body and her shouting in pain.
I realized it wasn’t time for being a ghost anymore. Deep down in the caves of my mind, the knowledge was rooted that I had caused my father’s rage by gradually taking pieces of their memories: my revenge was delivered but I didn’t expect an innocent would pay for it.
I grabbed my notebook and I got out of the house. I even left the front door open and I ran. I only stopped when I heard the gunshot. I paused and looked at my old house, bearing the thoughts that the revenge I wished to have and the revenge I took were nothing but close.
Now, I know that kids make mistakes and that they will do anything to let their resentment out of their system. I also know that my mother is dead and my father died in prison for I, a twelve-year-old boy, was ignorant enough to steal other people’s memories.
Everything happens for a reason. But what had I done to deserve such a burdened life?