I’ve written about a few Life Moments now, and so far they’ve been of the beautiful, happy, or insightful kind. But there’s another kind of Life Moment, the kind that wounds, and leaves a scar on your psyche. We all have them, perhaps I have more than my fair share. This is one of them.
I’m sitting on a toilet seat in a hotel room in Norway, crying my eleven year old heart out. I’ve been in here at least an hour, maybe two, and I’m scared to come out. You see my mother, whom I’m accompanying on her three month backpacking trip around Europe, is very, very angry with me.
The reason why will be forgotten by my adult self in the years to come. Maybe I was stupid enough to talk back to her, she hates any challenge to her authority. Maybe I did something else she doesn’t like: like lose something (I’m such a careless, forgetful child) or complain about the constant travelling or my heavy backpack. Maybe there isn’t any reason other than she’s having a bad day and wants someone to take it out on. Whatever the reason, my mother is more angry than I’ve ever seen her, and I’ve seen her angry a lot.
My mother has been shouting at me all evening. I am selfish, lazy, and thoughtless. I’m rude, inconsiderate, and I don’t think of her at all. My mother’s face gets redder and redder as she shouts louder and louder. Her whole upper body seems to puff up, until it’s a wonder her legs can support her. She’s going to put me on the first plane home. She’s going to send me back to Australia to my stepfather’s house and finish the trip by herself.
I’m eleven. I don’t know then that my mother has found out my stepfather has been cheating on her, and is in the process of breaking up with him long distance. I don’t know that my mother has a history of mental illness, that she has been incarcerated in mental hospitals, and her mental issues have not gone away but continue untreated. I don’t know that I’ll eventually make my way out of the bathroom and continue to travel around Europe with my mother, seeing and experiencing many wondrous things along the way. And I don’t know that one day, I’ll come out the other side of the long dark night that is my childhood. I’ll have crazy, funny, artistic friends, I’ll study film-making at university, I’ll travel through Thailand and India, and I’ll find my Dad again after twenty four years.
For now, I’m sitting on a toilet seat in Norway. I’m alone. And there’s nowhere else to go.