Essay №9: “Down here, you’ll float too”
On Male Violence
“Hi Georgie,” it said.
George blinked and looked again. He could barely credit what he saw; it was like something from a made-up story, or a movie where you know the animals will talk and dance. If he had been ten years older, he would have not believed what he was seeing, but he ws not sixteen. He was six.
There was a clown in the stormdrain. — Stephen King, “It”
The wind whistled through the trees of your average suburban neighborhood. Every house looked and had the structure of a preschooler’s drawing of your average triangle and box house. The only diversity of color in the entire neighborhood was the color of the houses; and even then the houses were either white, red, grey and sometimes brick if they were feeling like taking a risk. Little boxes with larger obtuse triangles as roofs. Even though the crayon drawings of their children’s houses would be hung up on the fridge, parents always would chuckle at the “unsoundness” of the roof — equilateral triangles didn’t exist in ‘your average suburban neighborhood.’
Georgie’s mother was a stay at home-mom. “My job is being your Mom” she would say to Georgie when he would innocently ask, “why don’t you have a job like Daddy?” Her day was as routine as the rising and setting of the sun—
7:00am: Wake up;
7:15am: Let the Golden Retriever Spencer out;
7:30am: Wake Georgie up for school;
7:35am: Feed Georgie Cheerios with Whole Milk;
8:00am: Drive Georgie to school;
8:15am: Fill the day with ‘keep busy tasks;’
3:oopm: Pick up Georgie;
5:30pm: Feed Spencer and let him out to play in the gated backyard;
6:00pm: Cook dinner for the family;
7:00pm: Clean up dinner, while Dad watched the “game;”
8:00pm: Put Georgie to bed;
9:00pm: Let Spencer out one last time;
9:15pm: Go to bed.
This schedule would be repeated consistently, every day, long after this short tale. Georgie’s Dad, who was always talking about THE “Game” — as if it was extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series, bases loaded, full count and 2 outs — , was the type of man who would come home with a new wrinkle in his brow and immediately crack a cold one open. Budweiser was always the first item on the top of every shopping list every week, followed by red meat and avocados.
Days were as vanilla as the envelopes every household in ‘your average suburban neighborhood’ kept in their junk drawer — you know, the junk drawer in the corner, where you find your old charger to your flip phone and the home of the written address book. Except for today. Once a year the town would gather at the elementary school to celebrate town pride. The same town pride that was built on over-development and the nascent of a life less bland. Outside the dome of their average suburban town, the world took a back seat. Outside his bedroom window, Georgie could see all the other kids racing out the doors of their home — they moved liked the white lights that pass you on the other side of the road, quick and without grace. Georgie was just about six and he could hear his Dad downstairs giddy with excitement as his Mom finished signing the papers that would sign Georgie up for baseball. A team that Georgie’s Dad would volunteer to coach in the future — Georgie’s Dad played baseball in high school and never forgot about “the good ole’ days.”
Nevertheless, Georgie pulled up his white socks with the red stripes at the brim of them and through on his tie-die shirt that he made in school that week. He raced down the hard wood stairs, almost falling down them in excitement, ready to go to the carnival. His excitement matched his father’s, until he came into sight through the awning of the hallway. Almost immediately, Georgie was summoned back up to his bedroom by forces he was too young to understand.
“Go change your shirt. You’re not wearing that out.” his father decreed.
“But Mom please!” Georgie pleaded.
“You heard your father” his mother issued.
The same structure of conversation would plague the rest of Georgie’s life. “You heard your father,” would become so familiar, that as an adult, when Georgie would hear that same phrase from his neighbors, it would illicit a distinct smell and taste of the vanilla candle that was always burning on the counter near the sink in his childhood home. A proverbial phrase that would echo loud in the back of his mind; Georgie would live out his days thinking someone was following him whispering It in his ear… It was just a condition of nature though. It was just a voice in his head.
So Georgie, by the decree of his father, ran back upstairs and through on his Captain America shirt that his grandpa had bought him for his fifth birthday. His excitment was slightly deterred but he wasn’t going to let a shirt ruin his first town carnival. The family piled into their small white Ford Explorer and drove 4.5 minutes to the elementary school. In your ‘average suburban neighborhood’ nothing was ever more than a 10 minute ride. Everything you ever needed was withing a 5 mile radius of your home — it’s probably why most people born in the town never found a reason to leave.
By the time Georgie and his family arrived at the carnival, everyone in town was already on their second corn dog. The air was so thick, you could taste the butter and salt on the inside of your cheeks without ever having to actually eat a pretzel or popcorn. The car wasn’t even in the organized parking spot at the pristine elementary school, and the sea of red tapestry and white compliment stretched wide in the open field. Georgie took a deep breath in taking in all the moving parts. Georgie didn’t fully care that the carnival was in response to town pride, and was more or less excited for the games, the clowns, the food and prizes. Georgie was about to run towards the entrance when he was immediately pulled back by his mother. Although his mother and father’s lips moved, no sound waves travelled from their mouths to Georgie’s ears. Competing for what sounds Georgie would hear, all Georgie heard was a kernal in the distance preparing to pop, the rubber between balloons as they were tied into some indistinguishable animal that would be chuckled as a giraffe. As wave of laughs kept winning over his parent’s sound waves, his mother would conclude, “And listen to your father” and Georgie immediately began to smell a faint sense of vanilla — which was an odd scent to small at a carnival. Georgie, obediently, agreed to the terms and conditions he didn’t even hear.
Georgie and his family walked excitedly into the carnival, where Georgie ran around getting his hands on every prize he could conceivably win. He kept returning to the game where you shoot water at a target and watch your clown rise to the top of the pole. Georgie was abnormally good at hitting the target with the water gun. But now that I think of it, it must have been a genetic of the town because all the other little boys who were competing with Georgie, were equally as good. If you were watching the game from the side you would see every little boy’s father standing over their son as they shot the target, rooting them on as if it were Game 7 of the World Series. Every son looked just like their father, short haircut with similar facial features — even further, everyone in the town looked eerily related to one another.
After the game, Georgie moved to his final destination of the carnival. His final destination, in which would chart the course of Georgie’s future for the rest of his life, would be with the clown. The clown was nothing special. Big blue shoes, white pants that were frayed at the bottom, with a white shirt with big puffy cuffs and blue bottoms. The clown wore a blue nose with white face paint and big blue circles painted on its cheeks. The gender of the clown is unknown, for a clown is just a clown. Orange hair stuck out from every part of its skull and it had fake butterflies and twigs stuck in its hair. It was your average carnival clown, that your ‘average suburban neighborhood’ could afford.
Georgie, followed by his parents, ran up to the clown wanting to leave with his face painted and an indistinguishable balloon animal.
“Whatcha want painted on your face Georgie?” the clown asked.
Pondering long and hard, putting his finger to his chin and looking to the sky, Georgie choose what he saw flutter across the clear blue sky.
“I want a butterfly on my cheek!” said Georgie innocently.
Before the clown could even turn, laugh and grab its paintbrushes, Georgie’s mother spoke up more defiantly than her son, “No, my son doesn’t want a butterfly.”
“But Mom, please!” Georgie begged.
“Butterflies are pretty. Butterflies are funny. Butterflies are beautiful!” chuckled the clown.
“No. He wants something more boyish.” decreed his mother. “You don’t want your son walking around with a butterfly on his cheek, do ya hun’?”
“No.” decreed Georgie’s father.
“How about we let Georgie decide what he wants? It’s his cheek, it’s his butterfly!” chuckled the clown nervously.
“No.” decreed the parents simultaneously.
“How about a ‘skull’ Georgie?” his father asked.
“But…” Georgie began.
“How about a ‘skull’ Georgie.” his father decreed.
“You heard your father.” Georgie’s mother demanded.
Georgie looked backed at the clown, and as children do, quickly got over it and joyously asked for a ‘skull’ on his cheek. The clown looked at both parents and then back at Georgie and reluctantly painted a ‘skull’ on Georgie’s cheek. Georgie never saw butterflies the same after that day. Butterflies would never again touch Georgie’s cheek. As Georgie turned to leave the clown, he asked if he could have one of the indistinguishable balloon animals that it had already made.
“Which would ya like Georgie? Take any you’d like!” it chuckled.
Georgie looked at his Mom and Dad and then back at the clown and then at the indistinguishable balloon animals. He tilted his head sideways and up and down, trying to figure which indistinguishable animal he wanted most.
“That one!” Georgie decreed.
The clown turned around and grabbed the balloon animal floating in the air. Georgie picked the most distinguishable looking balloon animal he could find. The clown handed Georgie the distinguishable looking balloon animal. Georgie, standing between his Mom and Dad thanked the clown and turned and walked away. As the sun set, the clown watched as the triumvirate walked away. The clown squinted its’ eyes as the sun hit Georgie’s balloon animal. It watched Georgie skip away, with a white elephant hanging from a string. And just before the triumvirate were out of ear shot, the clown turned away, only to hear “you heard your father” in the distance.
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. — Nelson Mandela
*This is written in response to The Charlottesville Riot*