“Rejoice in all you’ve accomplished! Not everyone gets an eleventh chance.” JSM
Chapter Twenty One.
Trees of Knowledge
Have you ever consumed forbidden fruit?
Knowing you shouldn’t partake in it’s sweet temptations? Despite the nagging, overbearing whisper in the ear, “It’s alright, no one will ever know,” and you fight the urge, internally debate, battle with emotions and fear, then plunge your teeth in anyway?
Perhaps I should reinforce the question. I don’t speak about forbidden activities such as breaking into a neighbor’s home and stealing coveted forbidden items, or going out side a relationship and keeping a forbidden secret from loved ones.
I ask in regards to: Reading a sibling’s journal/diary. Listening to a heated argument through the vent connecting two rooms, or with an ear pressed against a locked door. Finding something that was never meant for your eyes to see and rummaging through it anyway out of sheer curiosity.
I get that people like their secrets. I’ve seen some secrets kept using the craziest of methods. However, the secrets I speak on are much more trivial. Little, dark, hiding in corners and closets–secrets.
Five key events have laid the groundwork for determining who I am as a person: The day I legally adopted my eldest daughter. The birth of my second daughter. The day my divorce was finally finalized. Finding something my eyes were forbidden to see.
The last of the five we’ll discuss later.
The first three events mentioned in the above list are kind of obvious, so I probably don’t need to go much further in detail for the moment. Today, however, I share my first taste of forbidden fruit. Something I wasn’t meant to see but my curiosity got the better of me and I ventured out of my comfort zone for the first time. I was either eleven or twelve.
That age of exploration.
Half way between my state’s capital and the coast, is a town which fits the description, “if you blink, you’ll miss it.”
A single two pump gas station, one church, a hardware store and a small cemetery. The fire department and police station were combined into one building, a coffee/pastry shop across the road and a deli/grocery store within walking distance.
Nestled off the side of the main road camouflaged by trees sat a saltbox style, two story home, painted onyx black.
Members of my large extended family resided here and when the family got together for a barbecue or a gathering, it was quite a crowd. Children inside and outside through the front and back door, running up and down stairs, sneaking into the surrounding woods to play. A congested kitchen and claustrophobic hallways. Wide open backyard with blazed trails, and at the outskirts of the property sat a junkyard.
The junkyard wasn’t guarded by a mean old man or a frothing menacing dog tied to a stake. The doors were wide open and we could explore and wander freely, as long as we were careful.
“Don’t you kids get into anything! Be careful down there! Don’t go where you’re not supposed to!”
“OK! No problem! Sure!” Was our usual reply.
Having already explored the junkyard in it’s entirety throughout my youth, I made the decision one afternoon to go back to the reunion and find something else to do for fun.
Off the side of the trail leading to the scrapyard sat two out-buildings, painted the same color as the home. One was the size of a large smelt shack and the other was a small, open concept one room house. While we were able to see though it’s windows, a padlock hung from the outside of the larger building and only adults were permitted to enter.
The smaller building slowly approaching to my left had the door slightly ajar. It was always locked up tight as well. Something isn’t right about this.
Growing up in a religious household I wasn’t exposed to much in the realm of the secular. Certain books weren’t allowed. Specific music wasn’t allowed or encouraged. Some games were frowned upon. Halloween was restricted to just nearby family visits. Dungeons and Dragons was out of the question and as a result I played it elsewhere.
As a child of the church, I didn’t know who certain celebrities were, or who was popular in today’s music scene. I was only shown what I was shown. I read what was provided to read. The TV shows I watched, were determined at an early age. I was raised on 1980’s PBS programming.
Hanging out with the neighborhood kids I was asked, “Did you know so-and-so is coming to the Civic Center next month?”
“No. Never heard of em.”
“WHAT? Never heard… do you live under a rock?”
With that kind of response, I suppose I can say I do.
I don’t want to say I was sheltered from the outside world. I believe my parents did what they thought was right by me. The knowledge received in their upbringing, was in turn then passed on to me. A protective veil was created to cover my mind.
When I reached a certain age, however, I was asking questions that couldn’t be answered. Contradictory statements that morphed into debates. “What if” comments were spouting left and right from me.
I wanted to know things. My curiosity was bursting at the seams. I spent considerable time at the library looking for answers to my questions and ultimately when I reached that age, I fell into what I call, limbo.
Limbo is a difficult place. Never knowing. Always guessing. Fearing the worst but hoping for the best. Partially empty.
I knew something was beyond that protective veil created around me, but I couldn’t guess what it was. I felt I was missing out on something. Why can’t my questions be answered?
My wheelhouse is “what if” and I struggled to understand.
Regardless of where I spent my time, rules were always in place. At one family’s home, the attic was forbidden. At an uncle’s home, the upstairs closet was a no-no.
At the home where the junkyard was located, the out-buildings were violations of family privacy.
“Go anywhere you want. Stay out of the shacks.”
“It’s not yours… that’s why. Everyone needs their own personal space.”
Having the doors locked during each visit made it easy to stay away. I knew my extended second or third cousins, twice removed, or older family members spent time in the shacks, but I didn’t know why.
Seeing the door slightly open and no one in sight, I crept into the bushes and made my way unseen, to the back of the small cabin to get a better look.
The protective veil ripped in half when I worked up the courage to go inside the dimly lit room and see for myself what all the secrecy was about.
I can’t recall how long I stared, but it seemed like time stood still and I was rooted to the floor, eyes wide, mouth agape, and shaking with nervous shivers. Everything within me told me to leave.
The other side of the veil was something I never expected.
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