Sunlight and Death

Triggers for child neglect/endangerment

The sun was so bright on the water it dazzled and hurt her eyes. She couldn’t actually look at the water or see its color, so bright and piercing was the light. She looked out over the white sand, too hot to stand on or look at; the cool green of the island’s coconut palms were the only soothing place to land her eyes. Surreal beauty; sharp and extreme.

Her 2 year old sister stayed bubbly and cute with their Mom and two Japanese expats who were passing through. She looked back at them as her Father led her and her other two sisters down the beach to explore; they relaxed on the beach blanket, near the gentle lapping waves. She could hear the safe and quiet murmur of their voices and casual laughter.

Further down the beach, the occasional, gentle wind was a relief as she, her sisters and Dad waded in the shallow, warm waters between islands. The water reached her 6 year old sister’s waist. It came to the thighs of her older sister, at 8 and herself, at 7.

Dad, posed against the stark, bright sky, towering over them, pointed out an old bomb in the water at their feet. From WW2, he said, unexploded. There were lots of remnants of the war on the islands, that was nothing new. But a bomb. She had a whole body experience of a deep, black hole of nothing. That was Death. That was the bomb. Her Dad, unconcerned, standing there with three of his children. She understood the danger; the what if?

The black, deep, dark hole of Death juxtaposed against all that bright Life. She felt it all in her body, her being.

3 years later, back in the States, she sat on a couch in their parents’ living room, reading. Her Dad came out of the bedroom, excited. He held a small vial out to her, and holding it under her nose, he instructed her to take a small, very small sniff. She did. Nothing happened. He encouraged her: take a bigger sniff. She did. Her nostrils filled with an intense, chemical smell and instantly her heart raced. She felt her eyes go wide and her mouth open as her heart pounded so fiercely and quickly she wondered if she was going to die. She thought she might. Her Dad crowed with laughter. “That’s amyl nitrate!” he said, as his eyes twinkled with glee. She realized in that moment that, not only would her Dad not keep her safe, he would actively put her in harm’s way, ‘just to see her reaction’. She understood with the fullness of gestalt that she would have to keep herself safe. 

She said nothing and quietly left the room.

Photo 59523244 | Shutterstock

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