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Death of my childhood

They say that your childhood ends the minute you realize you’re going to die. That you are just a mortal lump of flesh that will (albeit incomprehensibly far into a distant future since you’re only 10 and a half) expire and only leave a mere nothingness behind. That your childhood ends when you comprehend that just as outer space is infinite, you will only live once and when you die you will be be dead for infinities infinity, for ever and ever, all the way into oblivion.
My childhood ended a little earlier than that. It happened the first time someone I held in high regard let me down. I don’t mean my parents, even if to most children their parents are infallible gods, because mine had already failed me numerous times by having wills of their own and succumbing to emotional displays of affection that excluded me, so I already knew that they could be faulty and were, close to, but not omnipotent. I’m talking about my heroes, my muses, my celebrity gods who made rock that rolled and nudged my heart like a butterfly’s proboscis and who, even though I was too young to know even a word of English back then, spoke directly to me.

The Beatles.

One day I was casually eavesdropping on my fathers adult conversation with his adult friends, while watching the pickup run along the vinyl tracks of Yellow Submarine, and I overheard the words that would slay my poor innocent childhood and spit on its remains. My father laughed and said: “Yellow Submarine, huh… You’d have to be on some really mad drugs to come up with a song like that!”
My heart skipped a beat. The Beatles… had something to do with drugs? It couldn’t be. Drugs were bad, surely the great Paul Meckarty and John Lemon would know that! It couldn’t be true, it had to be a mistake, a cruel joke, a misunderstanding. My heroes were pure and knightly and would never dabble in those dangerous things that were either chemical and looked like flour or was like those star-shaped green things that grew among my parents tomato plants out behind the shed. I wouldn’t stand for talk like that about The Beatles.

“Daddy?” My jaw set but my lower lip trembling I approached him and his friends as they sat around the kitchen table drinking amber liquid that came in cans and smelled like stale bread.

“What, sweetie?” He patted me on the head and scratched me behind my ear. He always touched me as if I was a dog, not in a demeaning way, just out of the awkwardness he felt around this little being that wasn’t yet an actual real person and who had, somehow, come from him. I knew he would give it to me straight. He didn’t believe in patronizing children and had never lied to me about anything, even when I had requested information that a child’s mind isn’t yet developed enough to process.

“Did The Beatles really take drugs?” There was no going back now.

“Are you kidding? They were completely off their heads on that shit. It’s a wonder none of them died of it!”

The disappointment made it hard to breathe. I broke down crying and threw myself into his arms while his friends hid their faces behind their hands and tried in vain to stifle their laughter at my childlike despair. My father held me awkwardly to his chest and pounded me in the back with his palm (the way men always hug their dudes) until my ribs ached and my teeth rattled. Then he dislodged himself and held me by the shoulders at arm’s length.

“Listen. Don’t ever trust anyone, don’t ever put your faith in anyone. You are responsible for your own happiness and other people’s failure to live up to your expectations will only hurt you if you let it. No one is above you.”

I was 8.


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