Night Sky: A Memoir

Tylyn K. Johnson

© Copyright 2018 byTylyn K. JohnsonE

This is the story of a scar on my face cutting through my eyebrow, from when I was but a small child. I had taken some time to reflect on the significance of that moment in my life and relationship with my younger brother, as if it were the scene of a narrative of another’s making. And while what “meaning” I have extracted from it may have been of little consequence, it does illuminate some bit of my existence for me, which I want to think is enough to merit sharing as more than a tale told to others at parties.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this, and maybe even get a bit more out of it than a few minutes of leisurely reading. Even a moment of contemplation would be good for this writer’s weathered soul. 

Before we begin, I must tell you that others told some of the details to me over the years following the event. I’d tell you to guess which ones, but I’m honestly not entirely sure which part of the memory came from whose eyes.

To start, I’d like to caution you to be careful with how you handle your memories, especially that first vivid one. It could drive you crazy with a single question.

“Was what happened a sign of what was to come, or a cause?”

My own memory has driven me crazy about my near-constant state of vigilance. I’ve almost always been entirely on edge, but not in the way that scares people off. I just happen to notice many things sensory, from the eye-floaters in my crappy vision to the very strong taste of grilling smoke emerging from my neighbors’ homes. Yes, the taste of smoke. But that’s not what you care about, is it? Let’s start with a few questions that are difficult for me to answer.

“Why didn't I die then? I should’ve been crushed to death, right?”

It was a light and crispy August night in the year 2005. My younger siblings and I were winding down for the evening. We had only just moved into the place I’d call my childhood home, beginning to establish a life in a house between gentrification and hoodification, “hood adjacent,” if you will.

My sister, who was three, was lying on my bed; probably trying to read some book my mother had bought her. My younger brother, who was five, was wandering our once-shared bedroom. Don’t ask me why. In my innocence at six years old, I laid on the brown wooden floor, smooth except for some occasionally-shifting crevices. My hands rested underneath my head, my dark brown, almost black, eyes gazing up at the TV. Something in Spanish was being played on the TV, with Latino cowboys gracing the screen. No idea why a young me would be watching that, but alas, I'm not sure if it was subtitled or not. My parents were probably doing parental things, like cooking, sleeping, or arguing, probably.

The TV seemed to move with a bit of a mind of its own, slowly crawling away from the wall its stand was next to. I didn’t react to it moving off the stand, maybe because I wasn’t really paying attention to it, or just because I didn’t really care. I must have subconsciously known what might happen next, I just stayed right there. Regardless, the TV slowly crawled off the stand. The bottom of it jutted out like a DVD would from its player when a CD went in or out of its mouth.

Then, the big boxy television—the kind kids growing up today would never know—jumped off the stand and bore down on me with the wrath of a god. Nope, those were my brother’s hands, pushing it.

My mother once told me that she had planned his birth so that I wouldn’t experience the loneliness she felt during her childhood, to have an eternal friend. Unfortunately, that's not the way things work between us. I’m still surprised that a five-year-old had the strength to push that big ass TV off the stand, being that it had to have been heavier than him.

So, the TV tipped forward, descending upon me. I had heard nothing, but a corner of the TV had embedded itself within my left eyebrow. I also apparently felt nothing. I didn’t scream for help or cry for mercy. I couldn’t even blink in surprise. Lame? Alright, I'll try to stop.

Was it because of shock? Fear? My mother and former stepfather were quickly drawn by the noise the crash had apparently made. My lack of reaction probably left them believing me dead. My former stepfather, a 250-pound, thirty year-old man at the time, had tears streaming down his face.

"My baby boy! Ty!" He picked the TV up and moved it off of me. My mother was extremely calm by comparison, tearless too. She lifted my prone body, and they all noticed something. There was blood … everywhere. The extremely ugly open wound was actually large enough for Mike to ball up a towel and stick into it. I obviously needed immediate help in an infirmary.

My mother took me to the car and laid me across the backseat as she drove us to the nearby hospital. She called her mother to join us in transit. Looking through the car window, the night sky looked pretty chill. There was a full moon and what seemed like millions of stars. Those white celestial bodies were the lights of innocence against the alluring midnight blue sky. The stars seemed like eyes, just staring down at me as I gazed at them, blank-minded. I miss those days, when you could see the stars so easily.

My mother parked right in front of the street entrance to the ER and carried me into the hospital, wearing a tired and worried expression. She moved swiftly while telling me to keep my eyes open and not go to sleep. My former stepfather stayed with my siblings. She demanded immediate care for me. When my grandmother got there, she was on the brink of becoming a bawling mess.

"My baby! My precious grandbaby!" My mother had to calm her down. The doctors already had me on the way to get stitches.

The rest was a bit of a blur. I know that it took at least six people, including my mother and grandmother, to restrain me for those stitches. That was the only time, during that entire ordeal, that tears fell from my eyes, and the screams. Simply put, pure terror. Think along the lines of the screams from an arduous exorcism and cruel torture combined. Disturbing enough? I just wish they had used some anesthesia. If they did, they should’ve gotten stronger stuff or something, I felt the pricks, and it looked like the needle was coming straight for my eye. I was not ready to go blind by a doctor’s hands, now my glasses prescription gets stronger with each year.

After the wound was cleaned and stitched, after the agonized and petrified screams ended, after I happily received an orange popsicle with two of the flat sticks in it, I returned home for a bear hug from Mike. His arms crushed me like I was a gift that’d been too tightly wrapped. Whether if it was for me or for him, I don't know. The ensuing happiness allowed for me to almost forget the earlier events. If only such innocence was possible now. Good times, good times. But I never received an apology from my brother, not even now, years later. After so much else has happened. And I’m okay with that, but for some reason it still sticks with me.

This specific memory seems to foreshadow a pattern-of-sorts in my life. When there’s a new beginning, when my prospects in life are looking rather promising, something happens. And I grow ever more wary and weary, expecting something to happen, but also ever-tired of things happening.

Now that I think about it, we had something of a repeat of that event, eleven years after the fact. That amounts to one shy of a full East Asian zodiac cycle, from my understanding. I guess it’s the years of jackassery. During some trying family arguments about what to do with my then-extremely violent younger brother, then-sixteen, he came out of the bathroom he sequestered himself in and suckerpunched me. I didn’t even have a moment of shock this time, and I’m no fighter, but I swung back. The first time, I sustained a physical scar, the second time an emotional one. Hopefully there’s no more repeats, they say “a third time’s a charm,” and I’m not interested in finding out what a third time with him will mean for me. So for all intents and purposes, it might just be a thing with me and my brother.

I used to look back on this lovely memory and wonder, “What makes this memory so vivid compared to even my latest memories?” I mean, it happened when I was barely in grade school, and I can barely remember the occurrences spanning my day-to-day life. Now I understand why, it’s because it’s the first vivid memory I have, the beginning of the persona regaling this tale to you, per se. This unforgettable event, caused by a five-year-old, created a distinct sense of caution within me, which I may have masked as sibling-hatred, or even academic intelligence.

And just as much as that event from August 2006 was mirrored in August 2017, mirrors have become something I avoid ever since I began examining this memory. I think it’s because the scar I bear upon my face is a reminder of what I’ve become. That scar is probably what makes the memory so real, since it sits on my face, and I know what my face looks like. Oh well.

Maybe it’s all really just a placebo effect. Now I'm a bit annoyed with myself.

Memories, the traces to the roots of my being that seem right, and then seem off.

The past may be the future's key. Or am I just overthinking some childhood memory?

I consider myself an emerging, socially-conscious writer. From Indianapolis, I currently attend the University of Indianapolis on a Dean's Scholarship. I have published a short story in Severance Publications' “Depravity” anthology, and an article in the Urban Media Project's "Speak Your Truth" magazine. I have also had a winning essay published by the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, and other essays published by the NUHA Foundation. Through my writing, I hope to share a perspective of identity, reflection, and research on my journey to positively affect the communities around me.

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