When I was about 11 years old, I kept an emergency backpack on standby, filled to the brim with my favourite things - little trinkets, odds and ends (which was difficult to have packed away because I’d always want to use them) - and important things, like a sweater, my journal, coloured pencils, band aids, and a Swiss Army Knife. It was when my parents started fighting a great deal, and my decade-old mind pieced together the potentials of my Mother’s personality with the precariousness of possibility, and felt that any moment could be the one we’d have to make a run for it.
That moment came around two years later after a long night of petrified watching of adults knife-wielding, chasing, outside, inside, around the house, bone chilling threats, slammed and lock doors, the horror of hearing keys that fit, “Eight three seven zero six four five”, I repeated to myself. The number of the guard house, though the phone cord had been ripped from the wall when one of the adults had come crashing into the room and tripped over it; me holding the other end, cowering in the deepest possible corner of the bed, covering my six year old little brother with my oversized t-shirt wearing body. They could have hurt him in the melee and not realised, their eyes weren’t working, they were wearing glazed hatred glasses and their voices were too loud for them to be able to see anyway. I can’t be sure my eyes were open either. I thought I was screaming but maybe I wasn’t. After all, that was the night my voice stopped coming out.
We left at three thirty-seven that morning, stealing away through the side gate, my heart in my throat, my insides wanting to keep covering my sibling - my backpack missing my journal. You can try to be prepared but life has a funny way of throwing all your fine tuned plans out the window.
They tried to use it against each other in court later on, my journal. Pages photocopied as evidence. I think I’ve told you the story before. It’s why years went by and I refused to write.
I bring this up for a few reasons today.
One, I somewhat heavy-heartedly relinquished a wonderful opportunity to blog on a popular website, after both the Editor and I realised I wasn’t cut out for the job. I needed to pound out something on my computer to see if my soul and my words still worked; to cross check my ability to be honest and imperfect, and not the “celebrity” people want me to be.
It’s also a good exercise to force myself to remember what I promised I would never make my daughter go through, and so I write with the intentions of defining purposefulness and deliberate living.
And finally, I was sitting in the middle of my bed, cross-legged, thinking about the unpredictability of life - how you think you’ve got it all sorted out, then your courage does things the rest of you isn’t ready for and you find yourself half way out the door in a night shirt. The fire alarm went off while I was in my underwear the other day, and I once had to walk to the school playground for a fire drill in nothing but a towel, post swimming lessons sometime back in Primary School in Hong Kong. The point is, I looked around at my things - so many things - and wondered what I’d take if I had to pack another backpack and run away.
And my answer was the same. A few little knick knacks, some odds and ends. A sweater, my journal, something to draw and write with, and my Swiss Army knife. A phone number in my head of someone I think might be able to save me someday.