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At 17, life presents itself hormonally. And later when it demands money, love is the first thing to go. But sex is big, sex is bigger, sex is the biggest!
The new family keeps the blinds closed. And I wonder why they do not care about opening the windows letting some sunshine illuminate the corners where furniture will eventually find its place.
Strangely, the lingering fumes of fresh paint don’t seem to bother them and the first sound that comes from the house is a cry of a baby. Not the low pitched, rhythmic, repetitive ones signalling hunger or the whiny nasal ones complaining of a dirty diaper.
Her’s are almost always intense wails, screams which make my heart jerk. I expect babies to sleep, babble, coo or let out a gurgle of laughter. There is none of it. At night when everything is peaceful, I pray for her.
Four months and I have seen the man once and the wife twice. The former during the day smoking, his eyes empty. And the latter during the night, smoking, her eyes dried up. Both look fairly young for two children.
I know the baby’s name though. Being this close to the neighbours, separated by a six inch popcorn wall, the apartments give away more than they should. And someone with no curiosity could know a lot more without ever exchanging a hello. The gorgeous Californian sun makes no difference. You cannot see a thing, the blinds remain closed.
Another sound that one can hear is a yell… loud, angry and demanding. The baby cries instantly, the daughter whines in ways that elicit more anger and ends in the big F. Weekends are more warlike with tongues slashing like swords slicing through hearts and feelings.
It depresses me to no extent, disturbs my painting, and my heart aches for the baby. I want to see her once, hold her close. And I fear the little girl’s brokenness. By her voice, she seems like a kindergartener… one without a school routine.
I fear the couple’s brokenness. While I understand arguing is part of living this is more than just that. I am unable to figure out if it annoys me, embarrasses me or concerns me, though the latter seems more like me.
You see the country I come from believes in eternal love, family bonding to last a lifetime and marital bliss of seven lives. For us ‘broken’ is alien, broken is scary, broken exists but is not spoken of.
We all are broken, somewhere, somehow. Some are walking around with mild scrapes, some deep gashes. And some have cracks held together by quick-fix while others are scattered in pieces.
I try to ignore and worry about a question that manages to reach my door more frequently than I would like to- “We are thinking to repatriate. They will be safe in India.”
What follows is more of prattle and less of understanding, nevertheless, I listen. Good friends listen. Hours later, that night I wonder for the millionth time, the nature of the global pandemic running parallel to COVID-19, SARS, and H1N1. Do borders still define good parenting vs. bad parenting? I fall on my pillow, wondering.
The question of reaching out and talking to them has knocked at my mind many times. However, being an immigrant, I am not sure how people take such gestures. I rationalise- she isn’t my baby. Also, one day I hear laughter.
Exchange of pleasantries and happy holiday greetings with the maintenance team, I hear her, the mom, laughing. I feel at peace. Then, I hear it again within a week. This time when the leasing office team visited them for some work. It stopped after that. Maybe she had more laughter coming from outside than inside.
Often I wonder about ‘the family’. Do they play? What do they eat? I never see them with grocery bags or laundry. Which is something normal people do at normal hours leading a normal life.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are devoid of any celebration or lights or the reindeer balloon and the blinds continue to shroud their existence. I wonder about Santa Claus visiting the little ones.
Through some gossip, I get to know they live on state financial assistance. That also explains why I never see anyone going for work as normal people do.
Then one rainy day the piney skunk smell of cannabis leaves coming from next door fills my senses and I feel agitated while sipping my evening tea. This time I am sure of complaining to the management, we live in a smoke-free community.
Then comes a slam, cry, bang followed by sobs. Between these and the pitter-patter I overhear the yell, “I was just 17, naive, unaware, stupid. And I gave up everything for you. There. Is. No. Love. No. Money. I. Am. Done.” Outside the thunderstorms rumble.
I slip inside my house, shivering. Hmmm, so they were boyfriend and girlfriend, in love. At 17, life presents itself hormonally. Later, it starts demanding money and love is the first thing to go out of the window, I try not to conclude with the last gulp of my now cold tea.
Later that night, a mortified mom’s frantic call keeps me awake- she found her daughter, a 6th grader, watching pornography. Browsing history leaves her feeling devastated and broken.
Another 5the grader is attending a counselling session. He is mentally ravaged. His 5th grader friend exposed him to porn on phone. He found it difficult to look at his 4-year-old sister the same way.
The grotesque Bois Locker Room story splashes the morning news. I have a child too and I cannot help but feel FEARFUL, ANGRY, BAFFLED.
SEX is big, SEX is Bigger, SEX is the biggest. Holding academics in one hand and Cupid( read Hormones) in another is a tough one. And many times Cupid (read, ‘Hormones’ again) takes the better of them.
The feelings look flimsy to us but not to them. They may call it a ‘casual talk.’ However, such talks are well within the realms of a vicious possibility or a scattered life.
Be it about the Bois Locker Room and its filth and vile exchange; or a 6th grader watching pornography with her gang of girls; or consensual teenage sex leading to teenage pregnancy, SEX rules this AGE and STAGE with the ferocity of a Leviathan. Haven’t we heard this before?
I could only be different in the jargons used. Such is the life I know as a mom- in India or the United States. Acknowledge, recognise, celebrate the intervening signposts of hope. Then move on until the next conflagration prompts calls for a new “national conversation on sex and related deviances amongst adolescents.”
And I have not even moved to punishment. I am still at upbringing. Is it truly in the hands of parents? Where are we going wrong? I had a reality check with my husband and his close friends- They had Mayapuri then, we have Snapchat now.
Then, there was one guy (8th graders gang) possessing enviable (pun intended) creativity and deftness. He would draw pictures of his classmates (girls, of course) enlightening everyone with the knowledge of female anatomy.
Another taught the gang how to masturbate. That was then. Now they morph. That was when the golden 1980s, now is the filthy 2020. However, I don’t see a change.
Then, it was difficult for the fantasy to find opportunity. Reasons could be various. Now it is much easier. Reasons could be various. With all the parental control in place screen wise and behaviour-wise, I still want to believe in my responsibility as a mom. Educate. Be aware. Educate. Repeat.
My son aspires to be an explorer, an astronaut, a police officer, a scientist and a cook. I am ensuring he gets all the levers to explore his dreams. Before this list, I have a utopian, cliched, conventional ‘good human being.’
With him in the laps of overexposure, I am only left with this- educate. Do you think this will help? And do we have a safety net- a full-proof one?
I don’t see how this hill that we are climbing together, might become the Govardhan Parvat, not just for him but his significant other too.
Picture credits: Pexels
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