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Have you ever seen the movie The Matrix? Do you remember specifically the scene when Neo is at the Oracle's house, and the small, Shao-Lin Monk looking child bent a spoon with his mind? That scene disturbed me. Profoundly.
Please understand that I was a teenager when I first saw this scene. Far too old to be freaked out by a CGI spoon. But as I watched that spoon bend and twist, something awoke deep inside my being. It was a fear, a fear of something I forgot about a long time ago. Something that I couldn't even remember when I watched the scene. The one thing I knew, I was terrified.
I decided to keep it to myself for a few days, but the curiosity as to the origin of my fear had to be satisfied. My mother died of cancer when I was seven, so I asked the only person I could, my father, he was my only link to my past. As soon as I brought up 'fear of spoons' my father looked at me sternly, and asked me to sit down. I did. And this is what he told me...
A little over 20 years ago, we were in the Former Yugoslavia, both my parents were in the military and we had been posted there a few years before. We lived in a militarized zone, so my parents were able to keep me sheltered from the turmoil of a country on the brink of war. However, from time to time, as long as there had not been an air raid siren in a few days, my parents would take me to the local market. A market in a struggling European country is nothing like what Western society provides. Most animals are still alive, and everything and everyone is filthy. The smells are enough to turn away the weak of heart. Being a small child of 6, my parents had to protect me not only from thieves, but my own curiosity. It was a big bustling world, and I wanted to see it.
My parents lost track of me for a few minutes as they bartered for a basket of fresh vegetables from an old Hungarian woman with a large pack dog. When they found me I was only a few booths away, at the pork butchers. I was standing rigid as a board, watching as two gruff and hairy men screamed back and forth about the price that was to be paid for the sow that had its throat cut and was hanging inches from my face, evacuating all of its blood into a bucket below. Needless to say, the bucket was not holding up its end of the bargain.
The blood formed a simultaneously beautiful and nauseating corona of shifting crimson that grew in all directions as the last few ounces splashed heavily into the overflowing recepticle. The pool morphed and slid until it went underneath my small shoes. That's when my mother lifted me into the air for the dual purpose of stopping me from staring into the gaping wound of a pig's neck, but also to keep my shoes from soaking in blood. My mother quickly found a small water trough for use by people to wash, or at the very least rinse, their hands. It was a wooden trough with lots of Crates that used to contain fruit, the entire are stank of sweet, yet sour, rot. My mother removed my shoes and piled a few crates to allow me to rinse my feet as she scrubbed the soles of my shoes.
My father goes on to tell me that as he watched on, a small local boy who had spotted me ran towards me in the trough, at first sight it looked like he had two knives in his hands. My father just watched on, my mother however thrust her body between myself and the approaching child. Whether she did it to prevent him from approaching me or by mistake, it happened, she knocked the child over. The startled child stood up sharply and brought his hands to his face, on the verge of tears, which is when my father saw plainly that the boy was holding two long spoons.
Everything after that happened so fast, the other boy's parents came running and began to yell in a foreign language at both my parents. The confrontation went on for a few minutes, and in the commotion the young boy had made his way over to me. He held out one arm holding a spoon. The spoon was straight up, perpendicular from his arm, with the scoop of the spoon towards my face. My father jolted forward as he noticed this event at the last second, but couldn't stop it. The child put the spoon on my nose, and it stayed there. He then put the other spoon on his nose, and smiled. He turned to my father a his closed lipped smile grew to a grin, with only four teeth. Two at the top right and 2 on the lower middle. The child's smile wasn't a pleasant sight.
It seemed like too long a time to be caught in this paused commotion, too long to stand and stare into the face of dirty, poor, unhealthy child... Then my dad reacted again, in one smooth motion he lifted me off the trough by the waste with one arm while knocking the spoon off my nose with the other. Apparently a crowd of people had gathered all around, and this action brought forth a hushed reaction from the onlookers. An older woman then stepped forward from behind the filthy child's parents, with yet another spoon in hand. It was a wonder how she could see with her hand knit shawl acting as a hood and her dry coarse grey hair that curtained her face. She paced slowly towards my father and reached her hand with the spoon in it towards my face. In a very abrupt manner, my father slapped the spoon clean out of her hand and onto the ground. Another hushed reaction from the observers.
It was then the woman spoke, very clearly my father remembered it. This is what she said:
'Those who wish you harm need not arms or hands to touch you on the inside...'
That was it. Nothing more. she picked up the spoon and walked slowly away, and the crowd did the same. The scene was over. The people went on with their lives. My mother and father being rather shaken by the whole experience, they put shoes back on my feet, and headed home. We left the groceries behind and despite putting my shoes on didn't let me touch the ground until we got into our house.
When we got home is when we actually got scared. Our home was in a militarized zone. There was armed guards at the gates. Our door had a padlock, there was a neighborhood watch... There was also a large soup spoon on the dinning room table...
The military police had spared no time in tearing our house apart from top to bottom. The Embassy was notified, and the proceedings that lead to my parents being posted back to Canada came very swiftly. This was due to my father's role in Yugoslavia, which to this date, I still don't know what that role was. It seemed that the possibility of the compromised security of his household by locals was sufficient enough condition for him to be removed, as soon as possible. 5 weeks later, we were on the KLM swiss air flight home.
I don't remember much from my childhood, anything at all really. Not before we came back to Canada. I believe that's because as soon as we re-established our lives here in the West, my parents returned to their military jobs, or at least tried to.
My mother's physical didn't go well. She was found to have restricted breathing and was quickly taken to a hospital for examination. She continued to protest that she felt fine for 3 days, while she was being held for 'observation'. Finally, we were told the terrible news. She had a cancerous growth on her lungs, and it would soon destroy her ability to breathe. The estimated she had a month to live, she died 22 days later.
I remember all that. But I remember one thing more.
I was in the hospital when she died. I wasn't in her room, but I was in the hospital. It was early in the morning, but you'd never tell because hospitals are always so busy. I wasn't asleep, but I wasn't awake either. I just laid across 3 horribly uncomfortable hospital chairs and focused on the feeling inside of me. It was horrible. It was a sinking that started near my heart and felt like it was pulling me in, all the way to my extremities. I felt like guilt and anger after it was masticated by confusion. I didn't dare say it, or fully think it. But somewhere inside me, I felt responsible.
A nurse tapped my shoulder, and I looked at her. I knew my mother was dead. I knew where he room was, and hurried to her. The room smelled like nothing. I thought the room, a hospital room no less, with a dead person would smell more. Moreover it had no feel. It wasn't warm, it wasn't cold. It was the most stagnant room I've ever been inside. As if nothing had ever moved inside it, and nothing will again. Until I did. I moved to my mother's bedside and sat up on the bed. I don't even remember the bed making a squeak, or move under my weight. I was starting to cry, I couldn't actually see, because the tears that hadn't fallen distorted my vision terribly. I was about to let my weight fall and sob on my mothers shoulder when the lights flickered.... No, a truck passed outside and it wasn't the lights that flickered, it was the headlight reflecting off something in my mothers hands.
She was dead, but her hands looked alive. White at the knuckles but hot red everywhere else, I tried to moved them and was utterly shocked by how impossibly stiff her fingers were. I pried at her forearms to separate her hands and I saw it. A small metal custard spoon. She literally had a death grip on it.
She didn't ring for the nurse before she died, she didn't try to scream. She just reached for the spoon, held on, and prepared to die.
Written by Frenchy52