There are many incidents that leave their harsh events burned into our memories. The first time your heart was broken, whether it was a boy, a friend or a family member. The loss of a beloved pet. The way your stomach turns into knots upon the realization that a good friend is gone forever.
For me, my childhood ended at the tender age of 12. It could have been a bit before that, time has clouded parts. My mom and dad were not doing well. In fact, the drinking was a nightly habit on my dads part. We would laugh as he smoked a fake cigarette, even going so far as stubbing it out. Not aware of how drunk he truly was until one night he mistakenly stumbled into the closet, rather than the bathroom.
And one night, the phone rang. My dad answered in the living room, my mom in the bedroom. In his drunken stupor, he told the person on the phone that he was going to kill my mom. Why my mom felt the need to share this information with me at such a young age is beyond me.
But she did none the less.
That night, I slept between my parents. Their argument goes unspoken, but my presence must have made it painfully obvious my mom was aware of his phone conversation. That was the only time I ever slept in my parents bed. We weren't 'group sleepers' when I was a child. I had my own bed. I was not invited into theirs. Even when I was 3.
The next day, when I returned from school, my mom pulled me into my bedroom. With the door shut behind her, she sat me down. "I'm worried about your dad. I need you to keep these in here."
With that, she pulled back the sheets on my bed. A stark contrast to the happy little hearts on my sheets sat a shotgun and a revolver.
She hid the shotgun under my bed, behind a few of my toys. The revolver was placed under the dress of a doll propped on a decorative pillow; a gift from my great-grandmother.
Later that night, after the lights had all been turned off, my parents went to sleep –without me between them. I crept out of my bed and reached under the doll. I pulled out the revolver. It was heavier than my adolescent hand had expected. The weight, I remember thinking, was what death must feel like.
I turned it over, looking at it from all angles. The dark metal glistened in the moonlight. I put it back into it's place and slipped into bed. Heavy with the knowledge that another, larger gun lay on the floor below me.
My eyelids became heavy and I drifted off to sleep. And though no bullets were ever fired. That gun marked the death of my childhood.