For my little brother/A Talk with God
|For my little brother by Enoch Leung
A Talk with God
Friend In Me
A Talk with God
"Hey you!" a voice called out.
They must be referring to me, I thought.
"Yeah you! I'm talkin' to you!"
No... No, I don't want to talk to anyone.
"Get me some water, will ya?"
How hard is it for you to go and get it yourself? You're closer to the water jug than I am.
"I know you're ignoring me," the voice insisted. There was a brief pause, occupied with the sound of a fork scraping against a plate and food being shovelled into a mouth. "Don't make me come over there; I will if I have to, though!"
Just leave me alone... My mother has left me, and maybe my brother has too. I'm all alone in this world. I'm better off dead right now. Just let me die up here... please just let me die...
"I wasn't kidding, kid. Get me some damn water or I'll remind you who runs this place!"
At this point, I had no response. I covered my eyes with my arm, hoping to shut everything out, retreating to my inner depths where nobody could reach me. My body felt like a castle, a bunker, for my soul to hide in. I felt like burying myself in my own body, becoming my own coffin, my own grave, my own resting place. Despite my best efforts, though, I couldn't block out the sound of a chair being pushed back as its occupant rose.
"You've got five seconds to get your ass movin' before I get there."
One. Two. Three. His footsteps grew louder and more menacing as I counted the seconds, perhaps the seconds towards my doom. Or at least, what he thought was a suitable punishment.
He was almost on to me now. I could almost smell his bodily odours as he neared, which reeked of a teenaged male that hadn't seen a shower in months, maybe years. I could also feel the heat, the glowing flames of his disgust towards me for snubbing him. It was the "boss" who had so arrogantly defied the guards earlier this morning, the one all the older boys paid homage to, the one who governed over all the younger boys in the cell. He was no stranger to pain and punishment, and nothing could stop him from getting what he wanted. In my right mind, I would've scrambled and gotten the hell away from there. I had no motivation to live, however; no desire for life. I simply lay there, waiting for him to come to me, like an executioner to his victim.
Two hands slammed down against the shelves, causing them to rattle and shake violently. "You deaf, dumb, and blind?" he said in a dangerously low tone. "I asked for water, not you havin' a doze."
The room grew silent. All the other boys had turned their heads to look. They all knew who the king of the cell was, and they became uneasy whenever he was fuming. Now, I had angered him, provoked him, almost begging him to unleash his whip, which the other boys were petrified of.
The boy snorted. "Must be mute as well. What, did your mother pull your tongue off? Is that why you can't speak?"
The shelves quivered slightly as the other boys on it shifted to add distance between themselves and the scene, which was building up with every passing second. I couldn't be bothered to care. I wanted nothing, I asked for nothing. I already lost everything except my physical life; maybe I should lose that too.
The two hands shot out and grabbed my shirt, lifting me up into the air. I was startled, but did little, if anything at all, to fight back.
"How bloody hard is it for you to pour me a fucking glass of water?" he barked into my face. "Five seconds of your life that you instead wasted for a catnap!"
I tried to speak, say something to defend myself, but my throat and my mind were empty, lacking any eligible words to speak. My body was also hollow, not even bothering to try and wriggle out of his grasp or to lash out and kick him in the chest, to try and stand up for itself.
"You are one sick, son of a whore," he said through his teeth. His right fist clenched, and with a powerful swing of his arm, sent it charging into my stomach. The pain was registered immediately, as was the air being knocked out of my lungs. A sharp cry of pain escaped my lips, which echoed through the entire cell, the prison, my head, my mind. I crumpled forward, taking the pain like a tree taking the blow of an axe to its trunk. I tried to breathe, but I had no strength to draw any air in, only managing a few choking coughs. I tasted blood, creeping up from behind my mouth, thought I would cough it out, cough out blood.
His left hand, which still had my shirt, released me, dropping me to the cold, concrete floor. I curled up into the fetal position, trying to hold myself together, keep myself from falling apart. I coughed violently, several times, as liquid migrated to the opening of my mouth. I spat, trying to clear the passageways, and small amounts of blood came out, settling onto the floor beside my head. My breaths were nothing more than loud, fruitless wheezes as every breath took monstrous amounts of strength that I did not have. It would've been easier for me to just stop trying, stop trying to breathe, stop trying to live.
The boy came over and towered over my helpless body. "Shithole," he muttered as he put one foot on my head and rolled it over, hitting it against the shelves. He turned around and pointed to another boy. "You!" he barked, snapping his fingers. "Get me some water, will ya?"
After seeing what had happened to me, there was no argument or resistance. I heard him running as he fetched the jug of water and quickly filled his master's glass.
Several minutes passed. The atmosphere in the cell began to wind down. Conversation stirred up again; the boy who assaulted me resumed eating as if nothing had happened. No guards came rapping on the bars to see what was going on; as fights were such a common occurrence in the prison, none of them could be bothered.
I lay there, alone. Alone as I was despite the fact that there were many other boys around me. I placed my hands and arms up over my head to shield them from the abhorrent nature of the outside world. Being careful not to let the other boys — especially my attacker — see me cry, I bit down on my tongue and let the tears fall.
Another sleepless night. The sweltering heat and humidity did little to soothe the pain. My stomach was still throbbing, now also accompanied by the strong sensation of hunger. It hurt so much I couldn't even eat the subpar food they served us. Heat, pain, hunger. Combined, they made sleep an absolute impossibility, an insomnia that made nights feel endless and infinite; a neverending misery.
I rolled over, or at least tried to, given the cramped conditions of the cell. The sleeping bodies of the two boys next to me were very close, so close that the tiniest movement could probably arouse them. A little more effort, and the boys would become dominoes, with the unlucky one on the end being rewarded with a drop to the ground, right onto the body of the boy under him. I moved very slowly, using no more energy than it takes to wiggle a toe or finger. After about half-an-hour, I was able to get from one side of my body to the other, facing the bars to the cell. I strained my eyes to get a good look, for I was afraid of moving my head. Bodies — sleeping bodies — all tightly smushed into each other like a crowded subway train during rush hour. Even those who were supposedly "privileged" enough to get the cool of the floor had to deal with limbs, hands, and feet intertwining over their bodies and faces like a human knot. A few of them, whom I presumed were siblings, had their arms around each other in a hug, sparing their neighbours a tiny bit of room. As a whole, it was a garbage dump, a dumping ground for children to be tossed in and forgotten.
I was tossed in. And I was forgotten...
No, you're not.
I looked around. Was the voice real? It certainly felt like it was. I scanned the cell, looking for the origin of the voice, but found no suitable candidates. Everyone was sleeping...
I have not forgotten about you. I have not forgotten about anybody in this prison. I have not forgotten about your family.
Who is this? My mind came across a number of possibilities as to whose voice this could be.
I tilted my head upwards ever so slightly, up towards the ceiling. Except there was no ceiling. In its place was the night sky, the vastness of the universe stretched out before me. The moon shone brightly, almost like the sun of the night, drawing my eyes towards its rough yet elegant beauty, its seas, ridges, and craters reminiscent of a grandmother's face. Surrounding the moon were stars — countless stars — dotting and populating the night sky, with more of them appearing the longer I stood watching them. A band of white stretched across my field of view, looking like a lengthy river of spilled milk. Every white dot indicated the presence of a faraway star, its light having departed from its parent long before I was even born, going through empty regions of space before finally reaching earth and entering my eyes, telling me of its existence, an echo from the distant past.
I blinked. Is this real? I must've been delirious, the hunger and pain and sleeplessness catching up to me, my brain beginning to play tricks with me to see how gullible I was. I wanted to laugh, wave this all off, but at the same time a hidden force within me locked me in and kept my eyes drawn towards the scene before me.
I brought you a sample of my creation, my beauty, my glory, the voice said. I am the one who created the moon, the stars, the universe that you see. I created the earth you are standing on right now. I created all the life in the world, all the plants and animals that have ever existed, from the smallest bacterium to the largest whale.
I was speechless. The view of the night sky still had my attention, which now contained more stars than ever. In the corner of my eyes, I could see a streak of bright light as it fell downward towards the earth.
A shooting star!
Above all, I made humans. We molded them after our own image. I made your ancestors, your successors, your parents, your siblings, and everyone else you know. I made everyone that is living in this world today, and everyone that once lived, and those who will live. I made you, and I made you with your perfections and imperfections, your strengths and your weaknesses, your curves and your angles. I made you with a purpose, a role, a goal in life, a life that I personally breathed into you. I made humanity to be the pinnacle of creation, to be the stewards of everything I made. I made humanity to care for the universe I created, and I made humanity to care for each other, to look out for one another. I did this all with love, a love for the universe I created, a love that still burns today.
I put a hand up to my eye, rubbing away a tear that had escaped. "But why?" I asked. "If you made me, and if you love me, why would you let me get locked up in this prison? If you love everyone, why do you tolerate seeing your children rot with me in here?"
I do not tolerate it. I cannot tolerate it. I am against sin. The voice was firm and unwavering. Humans let sin into the world by rebelling against me. They cursed my name. They disregarded me. They tried to reject me. But I made humans to specifically require me, to need me, to crave me. I am their missing puzzle piece. I made it that way. Nothing completes the jigsaw better than me. And I have a plan, a plan to save my creation. All of it. Every one of my children matters to me, and that includes you. If I had to choose between saving the entire universe except you, and saving you only, I would save you. You are, after all, the pinnacle of my creation. You are more precious to me than all of the galaxies in the universe combined.
"But if I really am more valuable than everything else out there, how come I suffer?"
Suffering is how I make you stronger. You may feel weak now, but I promise you: the trials I put you through will help you grow. I will show you your talents, the treasures I gave you the moment you were born. I gave you these as a gift, with the intention that you will use them to serve me. It sounds like a bad deal, but I am the one who made you, after all. I know what's best for you, and I won't refuse you what truly makes you happy. You will find it if you follow my plans, the way to me that I had in mind for you long before you were born. I cannot promise that it will not hurt, and I will tell you that it is difficult. But the most important thing you must remember is that I will not abandon you. I will always be there: if you open your eyes and watch carefully, you will see me; if you open your ears and listen carefully, you will hear me."
My head felt heavy on my neck. I let my gaze fall from the night sky and back down towards the crowded floor. "What do you want me to do? Was imprisoning me part of your plan?"
Yes. However, I did not put you into prison for you to rot. I put you here for two reasons: one, to see the corruptness of the judicial system here, to see how my wandering sheep are, instead of being brought back to the herd, considered to be hopeless delinquents and are ignored by the people who should have been helping. And two, so I could show you what your family really needs.
"What do they need?" I wondered. "I did all this because I believed my brother needed a future, an education, and my family needed money, a sense of hope and security. I left home to bring them that."
They do need that, the voice responded, in a gentler tone this time. However, when you ran from home, you left them poorer than ever. Your mother believes she has lost her middle-born child to sin, like she lost your older brother and your father. She is completely devastated, believing that you had been possessed and lured away from her. But your brother...
"Yes! My brother! How is he doing?" I wanted to know, badly.
Every night is very, very painful, both for him and for me. He cries every night, finding it impossible to rest in an empty room, knowing that you're no longer there for him. He misses you terribly; he wails for you whenever he gets the chance. It grieves me to have to watch him go through that, knowing how much he really loved you. I know you love him too, that you miss him as well.
My brother, Evan. I thought of him, thought about his face, his sweet smile, his laughter, his joyful and jovial nature. It was a powerful wave of emotions, so powerful that I succumbed to it immediately. I bit my tongue as I buried my head into the hard, wooden shelf, unable to stop crying. The wood offered me no comfort and no shelter for my emotions, and it could not absorb the bouts of tears as it fell, allowing the water to pool up back onto my face. I slipped a hand underneath my head to try and clean up the mess, clean up my misery.
I understand why you left home. You wanted to go out and work hard to help your brother and your family. You were willing to go to the extremes to ensure that they could be happy, so that they would be well fed and have a prosperous future. That is why your mother named you "Garrett"; it means "brave, hard, strong". You were brave, incredibly brave, for going this far, and your strong-willed determination to make life better for your mother and your brother has kept you from turning back. But money and education, as valuable as they are, are nowhere near as rich as the love I gave them. Even though your family was poor, I still blessed them and loved them, so that they would know how to love each other, and how to love you so that you could love them. Your mother loved you so much that she took care of you even when your father left. She may not have been able to provide for your schooling, but she refused to simply abandon you, for you were her child, and she loved you in much the same way I love you. Your brother loved you as well; he loved you because you loved him and accepted him into the family, just like I accepted you into my family. You took care of your brother like any good sibling would, and you stayed together even when you were sick and hungry, or even when you argued and fought with each other. When your older brother ran away from home, he turned to you because you were the only male influence he had left. If he lost you forever, no amount of money or knowledge would ever make him as rich as he was when he had you.
I couldn't respond, not even in my mind. Every bit of me had surrendered, like a picked rose that was losing its petals as the sun set and darkness arose, its beauty and strength waning as it died. "I'm not brave," I thought. "I'm not hard. I'm not strong. I've been drained, defeated. I'm finished."
Anything but. I know this because I made you, and I know you better than anybody else, including yourself. I know that you still have the bravery, the courage, the strength, the resilience in you to carry on. You are only ten years old. You have a long life ahead of you, I know it. I know because I planned it out for you. Whenever you feel like the life in you is about to give out, talk to me. I will hear you. Know full well that I love you more than anyone else can, and that I loved you so much I made a sacrifice of my own: I sent my one and only son down to take away the punishment that humans so rightfully deserved. Your mother brought you to me when you were four, and while you may not have understood everything back then, I hope you see why Jesus had to do what He did. He loved you so much that He was willing to die on the cross in order for you to get the opportunity to love me again. When humans turned from me, their punishment was to be eternally separated from me, to die forever and to lose contact with me, their missing puzzle piece. Yet I loved them so much, I took the punishment onto myself, so that Jesus would die instead. It is true that I have paid the cost and you are free, but I ask of you one thing: to follow me.
I turned my head to look at the sky again. The moon and the stars were still there, shining brightly like an ocean of diamonds. Come home, the voice continued. Come home, for your family's sake. Families were designed to be together. Love is only meaningful if shared. You must choose now, Garrett — the choice is yours. You can continue doing what you've been doing, or you can go back. I appeared before your father and your older brother in this very fashion as well, and they both chose to keep moving away from me, away from the plans I had for them. I will not stop you if you choose to leave me, but know that I will not be the only one saddened by your decision. If you trust me and follow me, I will provide for you; do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Even if you are poor, hungry, tired, and desperate, turn to me and do not worry.
The moonlight illuminated my tears, which glistened like wet paint on my face. The sight of the night sky again took my breath away, its beauty unrivaled, forever out there as a symbol, a token, of its creator. "I will," I said. "I will follow you. For my little brother."
|For my little brother by Enoch Leung
A Talk with God
Friend In Me