Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My First Real Cry

My First Real Cry.

“There it is,” said the dad. “Behind that stand of trees, in the shade.”

He and his daughter had finally found her husband’s truck parked near a mountainside lake, high enough to be semi-frozen in early November.

The husband had been missing for two days, and the discovery of his vehicle was filled with hope he was okay, and dread knowing he wasn’t. She started to cry. She knew.

Inside the truck was the ritualized scene of suicide. Tie and cuff links set neatly on the passenger seat; wallet, wedding band, and watch perfectly arranged on the console; a sparsely written note to no one and everyone. The serene ending of a tragically composed person’s life.

She sat, shaking and only staring forward through the windshield, as the dad held it all together for her sake, calmly dialing 911 when a signal found his cell phone in that grim November canyon. “Better bring divers,” he told them.

After the divers pulled the crumpled body from the bottom of the lake, one told the dad there were visible claw marks on the underside of the ice. Did he plunge through the ice, only to lose his resolve at the last second, or had it been an accident after all? The chilling detail of my sister’s husband clawing at the ice has haunted me ever since. I hope the two small children he chose to leave behind never hear this.

Sadness overwhelmed me that night when I got the phone call from my mother. Sis and her two kids deserved better; perhaps he did, too. I cried for their loss, and the needless loss of life, but only for a while, and not so deeply that I felt bruised inside.

Novembers were made by a cruel creator, just to let suicide mourners know their grief is understood, but nothing special, as everything around is also either dead or dying. November empathy lacks a certain measure of sympathy.

Half a year later the raw, jagged emotions had smoothed into a dull, lingering ache as her life, and the life of her half-orphaned children put one foot down and then the next, and pressed on.

I was with her on a gorgeous spring day, shopping for a baseball and glove for her 4-year-old son.

“Going home to throw the ball with your dad?” asked the cashier. She meant well.

“My dad’s in heaven with Jesus,” he told her.

The innocence of my fatherless nephew sliced me wide open, and fractured me. My heart broke in that moment, and by the look on the cashier’s face hers did, too.

My first real cry lasted three days, and left me so emotionally distraught my mother came to sit with me, perhaps to make sure I wouldn’t turn May into November.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Did You Tell Me?

I'm 23 years old now, and the last 20 years have been fairly traumatic. It seems odd that something a person does when they're 3-years-old can stick with them for their entire life (so far), but that's been the case with me.

Think hard, back to when you were 3. Can you remember much? Anything? Fragments of events? That's pretty much how it is with me too. Even that thing I did when I was three isn't a crystal clear memory, although I'm not entirely certain my life would be any better or worse if it was.

Mom and dad gave me a kid brother when I was 2. As best I can remember, he was a cute kid. I'll cut right to the chase because this is very hard for me to write, but my therapist said it could be beneficial to share this.

A little after I turned 3, which made him around 5 months old, I decided I would share my grapes with him. To hear it from my parents, I was just being nice, sharing my grapes, and was far too young to know he couldn't eat them.

The question I keep asking my my parents is, "Why did you tell me?" I really don't remember, and I could have lived out all my days without knowing I caused my little brother to choke to death, and now it's something I can't "un" know, you know? They could have just told me SIDS took him and no one knows why.

No one will ever be able to tell me they were just kidding, that I really didn't do such a horrible thing. Seriously mom and dad, why did you tell me?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shpeech Impediment

Like many kids I had a speech impediment. Mine caused me to put a "sh" sound in front of a lot of words. Like shpeech, and shishter, and shtomach. I was a very sad -- shad -- kid most of the time. The same imperfection also caused me to end a lot of words with the same "sh" sound. "Was" sounded like "wuzh"; "mess" came out "mesh".

Most little kids have a hard time with some words and sounds, but usually outgrow the impediment as their brain gains control over tongue and vocal cords. Most adults treat it as some kind of funny, adorable childhood "thing" and go to great lengths to preserve the memory of it for a lifetime. Thank god there were no video cameras when I was growing up. I never outgrew my speech problem.

Children can be very cruel to kids who are different, and handicapped children are their constant target; low-hanging fruit is the easiest to pick. Sadly, adults can be just as cruel.

I spent as little time talking as I could get away with. Some of my teachers were sympathetic and patient, and would scold the kids who tormented me. This soothed none of the pain, I only remember them now because they weren't part of the problem. As I got older, the adorable nature of my speech impediment morphed into something repellent; adults became very impatient with me. Many did little to hide their disgust, some turned to intentional cruelty.

When I turned 16 I somehow landed a job at a fast food restaurant. The drive-thru speaker systems back then were crappy and made understanding what was being said quite difficult at times. Any of you my age remember this well.

As my bad luck would have it, some mean-spirited manager thought it would be a laugh-riot to have me man the drive-thru. I don't need to tell you how difficult it was for drive-thru customers to understand me saying things like "sheezeburgersh" or "pepshi" or "shmall friezh" through a garbled speaker. I only lasted half the shift; tears, humiliation, and my first thoughts of suicide followed me home.

I visited many doctors and speech therapists. I even went to a shrink for a while to deal with my increasing emotional trauma; none of it helped enough to matter. After years of being ridiculed, talked about behind my back, losing jobs or not even getting jobs, and debilitating loneliness, I took control of my life.

Inventions and modern conveniences like text messaging, instant messenger, email, and blogs helped solidify my decision.

At age 40 I got good and drunk, took a bunch of pills on top of the booze, got my pliers and a really sharp knife, and cut out my tongue. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of this years ago. I nearly bled to death, but it was worth it. My silent voice doesn't have a speech impediment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Novosibirsk Crematorium

I grew up in Novosibirsk, Russia, which is in south part of Siberia. My grandfather was Comrade Ivan Kuplan, who was chairman of the Committee for Building the First State Crematorium and Morgue. That was way back in 1920, and the first one built in St. Petersburg was use of wood, not gas like today.

Sons in Russia do what their fathers do, so my papa was also crematorium operator like his papa. Grandfather Ivan was part of the Revolution and was friend of Stalin, who wanted crematorium in Siberia. My grandfather built the crematorium for my papa, Ivanovich, to run like his own business, and Stalin didn't care because they were friends. My momma and papa were in St. Petersburg at the time, but had to move to Novosibirsk to run the crematorium. This is where me and younger brother Aleksander were born.

We pretty much grew up in the crematorium at my papa's side, and played our hiding games and other things that kids do at that place. It was what we knew. Novosibirsk Crematorium was newer, modern one with gas instead of wood. This was much easier for my papa, as he only had to turn some valves and light the flame with ignitor button. It was a big steel and iron oven. Everything in Russia was made out of steel and iron. Again, this was what we know.

As me and Aleksander got older we learned how to operate the oven. It was easy for anyone to operate. We could slide out the body pan, turn the valves, empty the ash bin, even ignite the flame if papa was watching over us. When we were smaller, papa would have us crawl inside oven to clean it out with brushes and rags, kind of how you might clean a chimney smoke and soot.

One day me and Aleksander were playing our hiding game, and I was looking for him. I couldn't find him for long time, and I was look everywhere for him. Finally, I try to scare him by telling him I was going to turn the fire on in the oven and cook him alive. Still, I hear nothing from him.

I went to the oven and was making really loud sounds and telling him that I was going to start the fire. I was just trying to scare him to make him come out of hiding place. I don't know why I didn't look in oven first, maybe because I didn't think he was in there because he don't answer me when I try scare him, but I didn't look inside. I just turn on gas.

You can hear the gas hissing like snake, so I figure Aleksander would come out when he hear and smell the gas. Still, he don't come out, so I think he maybe fell asleep somewhere in the building, or is just being stubborn, or maybe even went home and forgot we were playing hiding game. He was little kid and had short attention sometimes.

After the gas was running for a while I pressed the ignitor button that spark the gas and make it flame up. It makes a very loud roar and instantly the oven gets very hot, which is why they changed from wood to gas. When I spark that gas I hear Aleksander screaming, screaming so loud and painful. I know I make really bad mistake and am killing my little brother.

I am panick attack and cannot even move a muscle. Still I hear Aleksander screaming and yelling over the roaring fire, and then I hear nothing. My tears are running down my face but my hand is like welded to iron valve and I can't get myself to break free. I start to scream as loud as I can, and that's when my mama and papa come running into the crematorium. They told me and Aleksander too many times to no playing in the oven. They could see that the worst thing possible had happened to their son Aleksander.

My papa knock me out of the way and kind of bring me to my senses. He hurries to turn off gas so he can open the oven. When the gas was on the door could not be open. When he finally got the door open it was very hot and some of the metal was still glowing red hot. There was small pile of ashes that had fell through the screen to the bottom of the oven. My mother was crying very hard and collapse to the floor. My papa looked at me like he would kill me in that instant, and I was just crying and no words would come out of my mouth. I was only 10 and Aleksander was only 7.

Just then, when everything was really falling apart for the whole Kuplan family, Aleksander came out from behind the oven and he was laughing like a damn fool. Laughing so hard he almost got killed by my hands, and then by papa's hands. This was not a funny joke, but when you are only 7 years old some things are funny when they should not be.

My mother picked him up and hugged him until he almost passed out from no breath. I just fell to the floor because I was so happy I didn't cook my brother to ashes. This was very scary day for me, and for long time could not go back there.

When I die please only bury me. I cannot stand the thought of being cremated to ashes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grease Paint Hand Print

No kid should ever grow up thinking that a drunken clown hanging around the house is normal. I mean an actual clown with a big red nose and buckets of outlandish face paint, bright, billowing clothing, and dangerous floppy clown shoes. He called himself Slammo, which was truth in advertising, especially when he was all liquored up. Out of the silly clown costume he was my Uncle Danny, and a totally different person.

His two personalities are separate and distinct. Inside the clown costume, Slammo (which was the only name to which he'd respond) was a violent drunk who terrorized and hurt me because "that's what Slammo does to kids who are adopted". He never let up on me over being adopted. When he'd get drunk on cheap vodka he would frequently beat me in the head with his big floppy clown shoes, which really, really hurt. His verbal abuse about me being an unwanted bastard whose real mother was a back alley whore eventually came as welcome relief.

I went to the hospital plenty for injuries ranging from busted lips, knocked out teeth, a detached left eyeball and torn eyelid, a severed (but not separated) left ear, and a broken nose. Once, he even bent me over backwards so far that something popped. Thankfully, it wasn't my back breaking. It was only my hip dislocating, which in hindsight was a true blessing because I spent a year in traction in the hospital, and he couldn't get to me there.

When he wasn't Slammo the Violent Clown, that's when my Uncle Danny actually became a real monster. Physical violence heals, and scars repair themselves. The emotional trauma of being repeatedly groped and fondled, however, cuts deep on an entirely different level, and all these many years later I'm still dealing with the fallout. The drugs pretty much numb the pain.

Uncle Danny wasn't violent with me, and Slammo wasn't sexual with me. This is what I mean about two separate and distinct personalities. One day, however, the Slammo/Danny machine got some wires crossed and everything came unraveled in an instant.

It was lunchtime, and Uncle Danny was babysitting me. My dad had passed away, and mom worked as a secretary for a trucking company. Anyway, Uncle Danny had fixed something for lunch that had chunks of chicken in it. He had been drinking, which meant Slammo wasn't too far away, but I didn't care because I was hungry. He never fed me until I begged my throat raw.

I was wolfing down my food and began choking on a chunk of chicken. I fell out because of lack of oxygen. When I regained consciousness, it was a very surreal scene. All around my mouth and nose was covered with greasy red and white clown paint. Slammo had performed mouth-to-mouth on me, although I'm not convinced he wasn't just making out with me.

He had also groped me, which explained two things when I came to.

The cops were there and had my Uncle Danny/Slammo in handcuffs, and I had a white, greasy, clown-paint hand print on the crotch of my jeans. That son of a bitch had groped my while performing mouth-to-mouth on me!

My Uncle Danny went to jail for a long time after that, where he later took his life. I'm glad I never saw him again. My fear of clowns is too pronounced.