Jeremy had just gotten home from school, thrown his backpack on the floor and run upstairs to his room. He closed the door and turned on his music, “aahhhh” he thought as he relaxed into his beanbag chair. Him and Hector had had a productive day at school: they’d gotten out of participating in English class by pretending to have lost their voices, they convinced a substitute teacher in Math class that they were “undercover school quality rater people” and they realized that Kraft Dinner made an excellent pizza topping. He sank into his chair and drifted into the music.
Jeremy heard a knock at the door, it woke him from his dream about playing lead guitar forward for the LA Lakers in the new NBGA (national basketball and guitar association), “come in” he mumbled, dreading the chore or awkward conversation he was about to be forced into.
His mom came into the room, was about to speak, and then made the face of someone who had just smelled gym socks that had been used wipe cottage cheese off of the floor – last week. She took a few steps out of the room and then said “could you come downstairs? Your father and I would like to speak with you.” Taking a moment to don the biggest frown he could muster he got up and followed his mom downstairs. His dad was watching the TV but shut it as he saw them coming, Jeremy caught a glimpse of what looked like a court room drawing.
He knew this seating arrangement, his parents sitting across from him like police investigators – inept police investigators – at the dinner table. He made sure to look up at them very slowly, letting his annoyance seep into his expression. But when his eyes met their’s he didn’t find the usual stern – about to say something that would take up his time – look in their eyes. They looked sad, gazing at him with something that almost looked liky pity; then they looked at eachother, as if unsure who should start . This went on for about a minute, with each of them opening their mouths and then closing them. If they didn’t look so worried Jeremy would find this funny, they looked like fish blowing bubbles in an aquarium.
“What do you remember about our old house?” his dad finally asked. Jeremy’s thoughts went back to the house they used to live in, bits and pieces came to him. He remembered it had a big yard that he used to explore with a wagon, he remembered what his room looked like, he remembered the front sidewalk he used to play on; then the memories stopped. He shook it off and returned to the present
“Not much”, he replied. His parents nodded as if they expected that answer yet were hoping for something else.
“Do you remember why we moved here?” asked his mom.
“Not really, I don’t remember much from before we got here” he replied, suddenly he felt very agitated. This was weird, maybe they want to show him some old boring pictures? No, it was something more serious, maybe they were moving?
His dad took a deep breath, then started speaking, as if he had to decided to close his eyes and run through a scary forest, not thinking about it, just determined to get to the end. “When you were six years old, you saw someone do something very bad, we…we all did, outside of our house.”
“Your father and I had to testify, against a very bad person. So we had to move away, and change…”, his mother choked, “…your name”. Her head fell onto his dad’s shoulder and he held her, both of them looking ashamed and drained, Jeremy realized that her mom was crying.
Jeremy looked from one to the other, and then burst out laughing. “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, yeah right, you and mom expert witnesses…on the lam!” “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you almost had me.” For a second he had almost believed them, then he happily fell into the realization that they were just pulling his leg. He’d thought they’d something important to tell him, but instead it was just another lame attempt of their’s to do something ‘cool’.
He looked up from his laughter, expecting to see them with grins on their faces; he decided to indulge them, and tell them it was a funny prank. But instead of seeing smiles on their faces he saw shock, and that look of pity once again. He was taken aback, if they weren’t joking what was going on? Had he misheard them? Had they been drinking? He searched for possible explanations, which got more and more outlandish, but after hearing what he’d just heard, no explanation would sound outlandish by comparison. In his Dad’s eyes he caught the same look of seriousness he had seen when his grandfather had died.
“I don’t remember any of that!” he said, pleading with them to explain what was going on.
“They said you sort of blocked it out, you didn’t want to remember any of it because it was too traumatic” his mother said from underneath his father’s arm.
Was this possible?? His whole world had just been thrown into a tailspin, the carpet had just been swept from under him. No, this can’t be possible. “Why tell me now?”
“That ***** was just released, it’s all over the news” said his dad. Jeremy had never heard his father swear, ever. He looked from one of them to the other, desperately wanting one of them to discredit everything they had just said, but they just looked back sympathetically, their eyes glazed with tears. “We didn’t know what seeing him might do to you, we had to tell you.”
What they had just told him was so extraordinary, so unbelievable that he was starting to believe it. It was difficult to think about counterarguments to something so completely out of left field; he felt like a bug plucked from his familiar surroundings and put into something completely alien. His world had been spun around, and this new world was suddenly becoming fact; even though a big part of him was still yelling “this is crazy, it can’t be true!” He felt a deep and dark sadness. Just a few hours ago he had come home happy, enjoying music, thinking about what he had done at school. None of that seemed to matter now, he felt removed from all of it, as if that had just been a video game he was now disconnected from. The next emotion was frustration. “Why… how did you…I don’t…”, he stumbled. He couldn’t find the words to express what he was feeling, angry about something part of him still didn’t believe. He didn’t know what to say that would make his parents take all of this away.
“They said that showing you some things from your childhood might, help you remember” said his dad. Help him remember?! Why were they talking to him like a child?! Like there was something wrong with him! His eyes showed his displeasure.
“Jeremy…don’t…” his mother tried. Then reconciling herself she said “come upstairs? To the attic?” After a few seconds Jeremy nodded and sheepishly followed them up into the attic. They pulled out a dusty box from the corner, it was labelled ‘Jeremy’s Stuff’, but ‘Jeremy’ had been written on top of another name that had been crossed out, Jeremy felt his heart plummet a few inches.
Delicately his mother opened it, as if she were a defusing a bomb, careful not to make a wrong move that might set it off. She pulled out a few drawings that he’d probably done as a kid, they were full of fighter planes attacking some kind of badly drawn orange monster. Jeremy was about to say something, but suddenly the words escaped him, he searched his mind for what he was about to say but couldn’t find it. He just stared down at the pictures, not wanting to meet his parents gaze.
His mother looked at him, guaging whether or not he could handle more, his father, standing behind her urged her on. She handed him item after item, none of it seemed out of the ordinary, some clothes, a kid’s superhero costume, some toys, but none of it was familiar to Jeremy. This terrified him, there was no way his parents were tricking him; if these were truly his old belongings and he didn’t recognize them…
He still avoided his parents gaze, instead just looking, in a daze, at the items his parents handed him. It was like being at a garage sale, going through someone else’s junk, none of it meant anything to him. What did this mean for the rest of his life, how could he feel confident about anything anymore, how could he know anything.
His mom whispered that she’d gotten to the last item in the box. She looked up, with apprehension in her eyes at Jeremy’s father, as if this was the one they’d been banking on. If this didn’t work… His father nodded.
“Do you remember your favourite toy growing up? You were always playing with it?” she asked. Jeremy had no idea what she was talking about; he shook his head.
She pulled it out of the box. It was like being plunged into a pool memories. The smell of hot chocolate and autumn leaves hit him, the sound of cartoons and a running creek filled his ears. Feelings of excitement, friendship and security rushed back to him and almost overwhelmed him.
He looked down at the old orange stuffed animal he held in his hands.
“Hobbes…” he whispered.