> a Man loves a Boy - book 1 <
- CHAPTER 2. Remembering my own burnt little brother.
Surprisingly, all five children remained silent, while only staring at me... Automatically, my too analytical mind started to doubt. Why didn't my young friends look happier now that I had given them such a well-meant promise? Perhaps, they hadn't expected me, a bearded 'ancient grandpa' they had never seen before, to offer them such a generous vow? Or, had I overdone it too much, by using their silly 'children's promise'? Why hadn't I kept my mouth shut and listened to what they had to say first, instead of trying to convince them by making the best impression on them...
After what felt like an awkward eternity, the youngest girl started to giggle, while she looked at me with almost adoration in her eyes. At the same time, all the other kids seemed to feel relieved, because they happily smiled at me. Involuntarily, they shuffled a bit closer, as if they had decided to trust me from now on. Obviously, I had used the right words, although my always-doubting analytical mind kept telling me I could have done better.
Again, my twelve-year-old 'former friend' stared into my eyes. This time, his deep brown orbs not only showed a lot more trust, but also a deep longing to be with me, or to belong to me. My heart was now sure that he recognized me too, he still loved me dearly, and he wanted me to be his new Big Friend! Only, how should I cope with that? As a single man and living all alone, paying too much attention to such a young child could easily be looked upon as being 'improper behavior' in our over-protective and mistrusting Big Brother society...
How would this boy's parents or wardens react, if they found out that their child had befriended 'some ancient grandpa'? Wouldn't they immediately think the worst of it, and call the police to investigate me? Suddenly feeling unsure, I asked my new friends:
"I don't have any sodas, but would you care for a cup of hot tea?"
All five children nodded enthusiastically. Crowding together, they sat down on the wooden floor of my porch, and waited for the things to come; while I rose from my folding chair and entered my house. Much to my surprise, the oldest boy just followed me inside, as if this was quite normal to him! From the hallway, he went straight to my new kitchen, as if he already knew the way and was used to be around. For a few seconds, he looked around with curious eyes. Then, he went to the sink, washed his tear-stained face by splashing some water onto it, and dried it using the only kitchen towel I had been able to find. Next, he started to rummage in my halfway filled cupboards without asking, and filled a tray with cups, milk, sugar, and a spoon.
Obviously, my new young friend already felt at home in Jack's former kitchen! Feeling surprised, but also pleased with my helpful company, I poured some water into a kettle and put it on my newly bought electric cook top. Patiently, we waited for the water to heat up, now and then smiling at each other. Unexpectedly, my new young friend stepped backwards and trustfully leaned into me.
For a second, I hesitated. Ultimately, this boy and I had met for the first time only a few minutes ago, and I didn't even know his name... Then, I decided to listen to my own heart, and folded my arms around his surprisingly firm frame. Obviously, this so affectionate young boy was craving for lots of tender loving care. Didn't he have his own Dad to love and cuddle him? I also wondered why this young boy and I already felt so totally at ease with each other. This was very strange, unless we really knew each other from our 'past lives' and had been close friends before. That would also explain why I already felt so much Pure Love for my new young friend. Still, my analytical mind refused to believe in the 'new age' things my old Indian Shaman had told me about. Everybody knows that dead is dead; and death is the definite end of everything! There had to be a more reasonable explanation, other than 'past lives' or 'reincarnation'...
Soon, the water started to boil, and my new friend reluctantly left my arms. Again, he helped me, by fetching some tea from one of the cupboards. Smilingly, I realized that the boy had found my tea effortlessly, while I couldn't even remember putting it there. Obviously, I was really becoming a forgetful 'ancient grandpa'! Walking together, we returned to the porch and the waiting children, while I carried the kettle of hot tea and my new friend proudly carried the filled tray. Everybody took a cup of tea and added some milk and sugar. Sitting together, we sipped our drinks, putting the emptied cups back onto the tray. Now and then, we smiled at each other, already feeling more and more at ease in each other's company.
While sipping my tea, I started to think. Why did my inside feel so strangely happy, as if it had reached an important goal? Stealthily, I looked at my twelve-year-old former friend who sat next to me. Why did my heart feel as if this boy and I already were best friends and loved each other dearly, although my mind was sure I had never seen him before? This was very strange, unless we really knew each other from our past lives and had been good friends before...
The boy seemed to feel the same happiness, because, every time, he looked back at me and smiled. My gut feeling told me his inside was sensing the same strange friendship and that, from now on, he wanted ME to be his new Big Friend. Could my new friend remember the same past life where we had been grownup trappers in a forest? And, had Harry really been my own little son, until a hungry grizzly bear killed all three of us and we went to 'heaven'? If so, I absolutely wanted to meet my 'former little son' too, as soon as possible! Would Harry and I recognize each other as well? However, I wanted to ask my young neighbors for their names first:
"Shall we first introduce ourselves? To start with this 'ancient grandpa', my first name is Harry."
Chuckling and also looking a little bit naughty, my twelve-year-old 'former friend' responded:
"Firstly, I disagree with Thomas, because you are NOT an 'ancient grandpa'! At least, not yet... Shall I introduce everybody to you? To start with me, my name is John, and I am thirteen years old. The boy over there is my brother Mark, and he is eleven. This is my sister Marrie, and she is ten. That yellow rascal over there is my friend Thomas, he is twelve; and the girl next to him is his sister Chrissy and she is nine. I don't know where Harry hides, but he is only eight years old and I hope you will meet him soon. He is my little Gypsy brother, and we always protect him from any pestering or name-calling kids in our neighborhood."
John looked a bit small for being thirteen years old, but he was firmly built, with a warm and open face, deep brown eyes, and dark brown hair with little curls at the edges. His brother, Mark, was a slender boy with hazel eyes and wavy light brown hair. I could hardly imagine that he and John were brothers! His sister, Marrie, was a firm looking girl, also having hazel eyes and wavy light brown hair like her brother Mark. John's friend Thomas seemed to be a real rascal, with greenish eyes and yellowish hair, wearing it a bit too long for my personal taste. Thomas' sister, Chrissy, was just a little lady, having greenish eyes and yellowish hair like her bigger brother. Although she acted a bit giggly, she too seemed to be a nice girl. I already liked all five children at first sight, and felt lucky to have them as my new neighbors. My inside was already sure we would become friends and that I would see them more often from now on.
Only, I still didn't understand why John's 'little Gypsy brother', Harry, wasn't joining his friends on my porch. Could their eight-year-old youngest friend feel a bit ashamed of being of Gypsy origin? That would be truly sad... Feeling more and more curious about their mysterious Harry, I asked my new friend:
"John? Thank you very much for introducing everybody to me, but there is still something I don't understand. Why doesn't your 'little Gypsy brother' join you and your friends on my porch?"
Suddenly looking sad, John started to tell me their amazing story, now and then filled in by the other children...
Two years ago, all five children were playing outside, when a car with a Gypsy caravan attached stopped in a clearing along the road. A little boy left the caravan and trotted towards the playing children, dragging an empty jerry can and asking them for 'watter', talking with a surprisingly deep baritone voice. Helpfully, the children took the little boy to their nearest neighbor, Jack, who just started to wash his car in his driveway. Jack provided the Gypsies with fresh water, some food, and a couple of used clothes, while the children assisted by carrying everything to the caravan. Both friendly Gypsy parents, who didn't speak our language and seemed to be very poor, thanked them abundantly. That evening, all six children happily played outside, until darkness set in and they had to go home.
Some people in our village seemed to dislike Gypsies; because, in the middle of the night, their caravan was set ablaze! The man and the woman both perished in the fire. Only their six-year-old son survived, but he was burnt all over very badly, especially his face. A howling ambulance hurried him to a hospital, accompanied by a furious Jack who told the boy to be brave and stay alive. Of course, there was no insurance, but Jack paid everything for the burnt little boy, including all his surgeries and medicines. Month after month, Jack visited his burnt little friend every day and helped him with everything that he needed. He comforted him with the loss of his parents, cheered him up, encouraged him, and taught him our language and our habits.
The same day the burnt Gypsy boy was ready to leave the hospital, Children's Protection Services took over and put him in an orphanage. That morning, Jack entered an empty hospital room, and nobody could tell him where his burnt little friend was. After searching for him in vain, Jack returned home empty-handed and feeling desperate. An hour later, John found Jack in his driveway, curled up next to his car and crying his heart out. Helpfully, John took Jack home, where Jack told John's mother his story of loving the burnt little Gypsy boy from the first moment he saw him. He had nurtured him in the hospital, helped him with everything that he needed, comforted him after the loss of his parents, and taught him the new language.
Jack had built a very strong relationship with the six-year-old little orphan, and even promised to take him into his house and let him have his own room, upstairs, second door to the left. Now, all of a sudden, the hospital room was empty and nobody seemed to know where his burnt little friend was. The 'authorities' had taken the boy to an unknown orphanage without saying a word...
John's mother immediately contacted CPS, and she tried to convince them to trust Jack with guardianship over the little orphan. Only, as a single male and living on his own, there was no chance they would ever allow to raise an unrelated child, being befriended or not. After several more phone calls and many heated discussions, John's mother and CPS finally reached a workable agreement: John's parents took the boy into their custody, and they would raise him until he was at least eighteen years old and could decide for himself.
That is how the burnt little Gypsy boy became John's 'little Gypsy brother' and the special friend of all the neighborhood children. They protected their burnt friend from too prying eyes, and they defended him from any pestering or name-calling kids in our village. Above all, they kept their secret a secret: little Harry lived with his 'Big Friend', Jack, in what was now my house. Jack provided him with everything he needed, and little Harry had his own room in Jack's house, upstairs, second door to the left. That is, until two months ago, when Jack suddenly died. Jack's house was up for sale, and the now eight-year-old Gypsy boy was passed on to John's parents. Since then, he and John had to share John's bedroom, while all his belongings were stowed away in their garage...
At hearing such an extremely sad story, I nearly started to cry, while my inside felt overwhelmed by an intense feeling of compassion for the eight-year-old Gypsy boy who had to endure such an enormous burden. Why had life been so cruel to such a young kid? Would I ever be able to help the poor orphan, after he first lost both parents and now his 'Big Friend'? Of course, the little Gypsy boy would always be welcome in my house! If he wanted his 'own' room back, I would give it to him and even furnish it for him! I also thought of the little 'garden' full of abundantly flowering weeds I had seen in my backyard, surrounded by several white cobblestones. Could the late Jack and his little friend have set it up together? Could Harry still be maintaining it, not wanting to give up his 'own property'? I looked at John, planning to ask him my questions...
Only, all the children still stared intently at me. What were they waiting for? Hadn't they told me everything that I needed to know? To reassure them and let them know I really wanted to be a friend, I again started to promise:
"Of course, Harry will always be welcome in his 'old home'. If he wants his 'own' room back, I will give it to him and even help him furnish it. All of you are always welcome in my house too. From now on, you can count on me, always and everywhere, and I promise again I will try to help you with everything that I can..."
Still, something was not right. Although all five children were listening intently, they also kept stealing glances at me and at each other. Were they not satisfied with my generous promises? What were they still waiting for? Or, had I overlooked something important? Only, what could I have missed, while listening to their sad story? What should I do now, to reassure my new friends and convince them even more I really wanted to help 'Harry'?
After a moment of awkward silence, John suddenly continued:
"I think that my little brother is afraid to show himself to you because he is burnt very badly all over, especially his face. Nearly every stranger who sees him for the first time, feels shocked, laughs at him, shoos him away, or calls him a 'freak' or an 'alien'."
Again, all five children looked at me; this time with expectant faces, as if they hoped and prayed that I would keep my generous promises and accept their so badly burnt little Gypsy friend...
Only, my brain had already tumbled into severe shock, while my stupefied inside felt like dumbstruck! My throat choked up from my suddenly welling emotions, while my cramping body started to tremble all over and felt like paralyzed. An emotional lightning bolt struck my wildly beating heart and almost killed me. A hidden emotional time bomb woke up and exploded in my inside, making my body shudder with distress and agony. Unexpectedly, all my so carefully suppressed remembrances from my own horrible youth slammed back into my consciousness, feeling like tumbling over each other! My straining body crumpled together in sheer agony, while I fell back onto my folding chair and gasped for air.
All at once, at hearing these two loathed words, 'freak' and 'alien', all my long forgotten sufferings of my own horrible youth slammed back into my mind. Like a sudden thunderclap, all my so carefully repressed emotions showed up in my inside, cruelly crushing all my built-up defenses. I felt my mind collapse into a frightening darkness, and had to struggle with all of my might to remain conscious. Those two little words, 'freak' and 'alien', irresistibly brought back all my horrible experiences from my own youth, as if it had been yesterday! Now, I understood the hesitancy of the children; and why they asked me to be nice to that poor boy. Their little Gypsy friend was burnt all over, especially his face... Nearly every stranger who saw him for the first time, called him a 'freak' or an 'alien'...
Whilst I felt like throwing up, my body continued to cramp and shudder, while my world started to turn around and around. With trembling legs, I forced myself to leave my chair and flee into the relative safety of my house. Stumbling over my own feet, I wavered inside, on my way avoiding five pairs of frightened eyes...
This was too much for me! I couldn't deal with such a terrible fate for the second time! I came here for my retirement, and not to be saddled up with another burnt little boy. What should I do now?
Inside my house, I kicked one of my chairs out of the way before I slumped down on my couch and buried my head in my hands. Still trembling all over, I didn't know how to cope with my suddenly returning emotions from my own horrible past. All my so carefully suppressed and long forgotten memories from my own youth continued to flash back into my mind, tumbling over each other and making me shudder with horror...
"Dammit!" I shouted into my living room, "Why me again? What have I done wrong this time?"
I was fourteen years old; and my little brother, Joshie, was eight. My parents were socializing somewhere in our neighborhood, as they used to do nearly every evening. I was lying on my bed in my own bedroom, reading some comic book. My little brother was silently playing in his own room, and everything in our house felt calm and peaceful, as usual...
Suddenly, my little brother started to scream, while he bolted out of his room and rushed into my bedroom in panic, urging me to help him. He had set his clothes and his hair on fire, and he didn't know what to do! In vain, his small hands slapped at the already blazing flames, while he screeched with agony. He had tried to light an unwilling candle; but, somehow, something had gone awfully wrong...
At first, I panicked, because I didn't know how to help my screeching little brother. Desperately, I tried to put out the already blazing flames, by slapping at them with my comic book. However, every time, they flared up again. What should I do now? Where were my parents? Hoping for the best, I pulled my screeching little brother into our bathroom and put him under the shower, to try to extinguish the more and more blazing fire. Thankfully, that helped.
Next, I raced to Joshie's bedroom, to look for anything else that might be burning. Fortunately, the only burnt things I saw were a couple of broken matches and a dropped candle. Feeling relieved, I returned to the shower, where Joshie still squirmed around under the splashing water, crying and obviously in a lot of pain. I tried to help him by peeling off his burnt clothes, but some skin came off too, and he screamed louder and louder!
Desperately, I tried to remember where my parents were, but I didn't know their address and couldn't leave Joshie alone. Finally, I thought of the emergency-number and rushed to our phone in the hallway. Ten very long minutes later, a howling ambulance arrived with screeching tires, and they took my little brother to a hospital.
The next couple of months felt like a horrible nightmare that didn't want to come to an end. Day after day, I visited the hospital, to see my burnt little brother and ask the attending nurses for any news. Then, I stared at a white little mummy that was connected to a couple of blinking and beeping machines. The nurses told me that my little brother was very lucky to be alive; and, so far, everything went relatively well. Most of the time, his surgeons had sedated him, to suppress the pain and immobilize him after his umpteenth surgery.
Finally, after several worrisome months, little Joshie was released from the hospital and returned home. However, from now on, my burnt little brother looked more like some 'freaky alien'. His small hands were reduced to little stumps, he breathed through a tube in his throat, and he couldn't speak any more. His so terribly burnt face looked like a scary mask with only a couple of dark holes in it. His little pug nose and both ears were totally gone, and he had lost all of his hair and was completely bald.
The next day, my own nightmare began. My parents started to blame ME for everything that had happened, because I hadn't looked after my little brother while they were away. Therefore, they decided to help me 'develop some more responsibility', by teaching me a lesson I would never forget. From now on, I had to take my burnt little brother with me, every time I wanted to leave our house.
The first time I took my little brother outside was a real nightmare. Nearly every stranger stared at me and laughed at Joshie's burnt face, and others stopped dead in their tracks, looked shocked, or called my little brother a 'freak' or an 'alien'... For many weeks, I had a terrible time, until I taught myself how to shut off my disturbing emotions. From then on, I just dragged my burnt little brother along, without ever looking around. Little Joshie never protested and always obediently walked at my side, with his burnt little stump in my hand.
Soon, all my 'friends' left me alone, probably to avoid looking at the 'freaky alien' that always accompanied me. Whenever little Joshie and I happened to meet them, they disappeared as fast as they could, or they laughed sheepishly while telling each other silly jokes about 'landed aliens' and 'freaky nightmares'. Slowly, I started to feel more and more depressed and even thought about leaving my hell by committing suicide. However, I didn't want to cause Joshie any more problems in addition to the many difficulties he already had. Ultimately, all this was MY fault, at least according to my parents...
Fortunately, both for him and for me, Joshie suddenly died and went to 'heaven'. From now on, I was 'free' again, and allowed to go outside without dragging my burnt little brother along. Only, I didn't know how to cope with my newly gained freedom, and cried and cried. Suddenly, I missed the little imp, trustfully walking next to me, with his burnt little stump in my hand.
My worried looking parents tried to comfort me by telling me they weren't angry any more and still loved me, despite what I had done. However, I didn't believe them any more and just went on crying and crying. Unfortunately, I turned out to be right. Soon, my parents turned against me and started to blame me again.
The day after I became eighteen years old, early in the morning, I left 'home'. Before I left the house and never looked back, I first raided my dad's wallet and emptied my mom's emergency strongbox, to be able to buy the most needed necessities. Finally feeling FREE, I went to some far-away town and effortlessly rented a room.
Only, how would I be able to survive in this unknown town, as a newly liberated bachelor? Hesitantly, I went to a local store and applied for a job. Fortunately, the nice storeowner could use some help and offered me a good wage. Then, I read in a local newspaper about a new foundation. A couple of wealthy people wanted to help poor but gifted students, by offering them a scholarship. Of course, I immediately applied! I was tested, and they told me I was extremely bright and could easily achieve anything I wanted. They would be very happy to have me as their first fully supported student.
Many years later, I graduated cum laude as a psychotherapist. Of course, all my friends and acquaintances congratulated me with my wonderful achievement, except for my always-absent parents. I rented an apartment and started to work as a freelancer, advertising to help troubled children and their desperate parents. Soon, I had plenty of work; and both my little clients and their grateful parents told me I was an excellent therapist, having an astonishing insight into what troubled children needed... duh!
After I met an old Indian Shaman and listened to his truly amazing stories, I became interested in 'alternative therapies' that I could use to help my little clients even better, like 'reading their body language', sending them 'Universal Love' to calm them down, and many other useful therapies like 'aura reading and healing'. After working hard and saving enough money, I bought a nice house, married a befriended colleague, and we had two lovable daughters.
During all those years, I had thoroughly trained myself to forget everything about my burnt little brother and my own difficult youth. I had also taught myself to repress immediately any disturbing thoughts about my parents and my own troublesome past. After many years of denial and pushing my unwanted emotions into the background, finally, my feelings of guilt seemed to have disappeared. Finally, I was able to help troubled eight-year-old boys without immediately thinking of my own burnt little brother and my own horrible youth. I even started to feel relatively happy with my life as it was...
That is, until I divorced, retired, bought this new house, and met five young neighborhood children who called me an 'old man' and an 'ancient grandpa'. They tumbled into my driveway, and we became friends. Then, the oldest boy told me that nearly every stranger called his eight-year-old burnt little Gypsy brother a 'freak' or an 'alien'...
Instantly, all emotional hell broke loose in my inside! As nuclear time bombs, all my so carefully repressed feelings of guilt and shame exploded, while forcefully breaking through my built-up emotional defenses. My extreme reaction told me that I had only pushed away all my anger and sorrows, without ever dealing with the still underlying and repressed traumas. Little Joshie was burnt on his face and his hands, but I am still burnt in my soul! I can still feel all the pain, all the shame, and all the humiliations from my own horrible youth. I can NOT stand another burnt little boy like Joshie around! Or, can I?
As an experienced psychotherapist, I knew that an unexpected confrontation with a similar incident sometimes brings forth all the old and repressed traumas, and often even cures them. Perhaps, that burnt little Gypsy boy would be able to release my old pain and comfort my still crying soul? Only, I dreaded the undoubtedly very painful confrontation. Plus, I absolutely didn't want to misuse another boy's misery for my own profit...
Still feeling numb, I left my couch and dragged myself to my kitchen, to drink some water. That helped a little bit, and my trembling body recovered somewhat and slowly started to feel less shaky. Then, I decided to do something more drastic about my emotional misery. After taking a couple of deep breaths, I forced myself to regain my composure and re-gather my strength immediately. Fortunately, in my own youth, I had thoroughly trained myself in doing this, during all those horrible years of repression and denial. Within a few minutes, I had fought down my troubling emotions and started to become my 'joyful' normal self again.
Now, I thought of the still waiting children on my porch. How would they feel, after the 'ancient grandpa' suddenly started to cry and left them alone, without giving them a reasonable explanation? Would they still be waiting for me? I hurried back to my porch, planning to offer them my excuses and perhaps another cup of tea... Only, my porch was empty and all five children were gone, probably tired of waiting for the so weirdly behaving 'old man'.
Feeling guilty, I slumped down on my folding chair, hoping that my young friends would show up and accept my humble excuses. Only, the street in front of my house was empty and it remained empty. After looking around and waiting in vain for a long time, at last, I gave up. I closed my eyes and started to look back upon my own difficult youth, to try to obtain some more insight and find some more peace in myself.
I was sure I had loved my little brother. Little Joshie was the younger brother every kid in the world would wish for. He was like my little shadow, because, wherever I went, he followed me. Always when I was at home, he was there too, now and then staring at me with a knowing expression in his deep brown eyes, as if the little imp knew something that I didn't need to know yet...
My little brother never bothered me. He just always was there, quietly playing in his room or sitting at our table in the living room. Of course, we didn't have any 'television' or 'internet'. Sometimes, we listened to our old radio or we played a game, until it was time to go to bed. My parents were always 'busy' or 'socializing'. They always told me they trusted me enough to leave us alone, from the time when I was twelve years old and Joshie was six.
Indeed, my little brother and I never had any problems. We were always in perfect harmony with each other, even after the little duffer did something stupid with a burning candle and I had to help him with everything, even with his showering and going to the bathroom...
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- A few excerpts from your wonderful 'fanmail' emails:
> I think I remember your story from before. Only, please, just go on with it, because I again LOVE it!
> I have only today been introduced, accidentally I might add, to your writing. I have downloaded your free e-book, #1 in a series entitled: “A Man Loves A Boy”. From the first word to the last, I have read it all night! As a writer and author myself, I was completely entranced. As a reader, I was enveloped into a world from which I do not wish to depart.
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