When we were young we would wear happiness on our sleeves like we wear pain now. Youth has never been defined by age but by experience. The moment we experience something traumatizing, gruesome, sad, or even sexual we lose our innocence like some sort of evasive monarch. It stays for only a moment and then it’s gone.
Young. Before pain. Before the first time I fell off the monkey bars.
Young. Long before I was scared of the dark. Before I knew there was something in the dark that I was supposed to be scared of. Before the dark became my best friend because, suddenly, it was all I knew.
Young. When innocence was the only option. When we played outside without fear of assumption. No fear of people wanting to play games that we didn’t. When the games were just as simple as the innocence that we were fighting to preserve. When we though preservation was something simple.
Young. Before I learned that the glowing blue light on top of the stove hurts when you touch it. Before I learned that the video tape I got from my neighbor was actually not The Muppets. Come to think of it, I never knew what it was to be innocent, if this is the way I choose to describe it.
Young. Before he touched me. Before he made me an object. Before he acted like he was spoiling me so that I didn’t tell Mom. How young must I have been to not remember what it feels like to be innocent? Before the closet was a decent hiding place. Before blankets were no longer safe. Before feeling like my own skin was still filthy after my shower.
Young. The shower no longer safe because, “we don’t lock doors in this house”. He always wanted to play a game that I didn’t and the only reason I knew it was wrong was because we were alone… and I had to keep quite.
Young. When I didn’t know how to preserve something like innocence because I didn’t even know the word. When there was nowhere to hide but in plain sight. When I didn’t want people to leave the house without me and they thought it was because I was being rotten.
Young. Before he told me that I was nothing but a good fuck. Before my depression held me captive in my own mind.
Young. When I wore pain the way most children wore their snap bracelets.
Young. When everyone expected a girl to be “seen and not heard”. I could only stay quiet so long. I had stayed quiet too long.
Young. When I spoke but no one heard me. When I was tired.
“Tired? You’re too young to be tired”.
“What do you have to be stressed about”?
“Why don’t you talk to us? We are all here for you”.
Young. When all of the voices fell silent. I was so young and no one wanted to see why or they attributed it to teen angst, or whatever you choose to call the darkness that I wore draped over my shoulders at the age of sixteen.
I was young, so they called me inexperienced. They called me naive. I was the definition of naive. I was so young when I believed that I had seen so much and really hadn’t seen much at all.
Young. When he told me to close my eyes because it would only last a second. When I wore the darkness like a pelt around my throat so that it didn’t wear me. The cloak thick, shielding me from outside forces but holding me hostage within myself.
Young. Before the dark made me old and the experiences made me…. new.