It was my ninth or tenth birthday. I don’t remember. My parents decided to bring me to see a movie. I don’t remember which movie. I didn’t care.
What I do remember are my Heelys. They were all the rage back then. I remember how they looked, colorful: black, red, white, hot pink shoelaces. I remember putting them on and feeling excited about going to the cinema, not because of the movie, but because it meant I’d be able to scoot around in my Heelys. (I wasn’t allowed to wear them at home.)
The cinema was packed with people and I was weaving in and out of the crowd like an insane kid while my parents stood in line for tickets.
I was good on those Heelys. I could speed up, turn at top speed, and do little tricks that, in retrospect, were really quite impressive. Whenever I scooted past my parents, my father would ask me what movie I wanted to see. I didn’t know. I didn’t care, just shrugged and whizzed on past.
Nearing the front of the line, he understandably got irritated with the situation. Clearly no one was cooperating.
Then it happened. In one big traumatic flash of horror, I fell – full impact, flat on my face. I got up immediately out of shame for falling in public. I stood there frozen, overwhelmed by shock, and I could taste hair and dirt in my mouth.
That’s when the pain hit me. My knees were scraped, my lips were bleeding, my entire face hurt like hell. And I cried. Everyone was staring, like “oh, skatergirl fell down.” My mother rushed over to check on me.
I don’t remember seeing my father approach; I was too busy spitting dirt out of my mouth. But I could definitely feel him and his raging hot presence nearing.
“We’re leaving, not watching anymore,” he said with a deadly stare, and then turned and stomped off.
I soon learned that I had chipped about half the length of my two front teeth. Apparently, the “dirt” I was eagerly spitting out, were pieces of my teeth.
What has stayed in my memory was the car ride home. I was in so much pain and wanted to wail, but my father hates it when I cry. I’d been trained since I was young not to cry. Probably why I repress feelings, even today.
Even so, I couldn’t help but audibly sob in the back of the car. I remember every bump in the road and every bitter nuance of silence, broken only by father’s words that shattered my heart: “This is god’s birthday present to you.”
My mother tended to my injuries when we got home. My father didn’t speak to me for the rest of the evening. I sobbed until my head hit the pillow.
Just before drifting off to sleep, my father entered my room and I pretended to be sleeping. He bent down by my bedside. “Sorry,” he said, and kissed me on the forehead. Too tired to react, I kept my eyes closed, but the moment he closed the door, my tears returned.
Was it grief or relief? I still don’t know.
But I know I never wore my Heelys again.
Written by: Nch Ky, Singapore