My mother ushers me to stand behind an open closet door. I am in my Nutcracker nightgown with an unzipped coat over it, anticipating a journey into the Manhattan January night. “Stay here. He doesn’t want you to see him like this.” I nod and wait but am compelled to peek around the door. I watch, utterly helpless and bewildered at the seeming absurdity of my assigned task as the paramedic and the doorman with the gold epaulets wheel him out the front door of the apartment. Hadn’t I already seen his seizure? Hadn’t my mother’s screaming drawn me out of the warm cocoon of my bed? How could he think this sight, after all that I’d seen, was the one image to shield me from? After all, wasn’t it me who wiped his mouth clean when his thrashing and garbled speech had receded into zombie-like stillness?
Then I remember they had sent me away into the hallway while they tried to get him to speak, my mother and the doorman. That moment, I disobey their futile instructions to peek around the door at my father hunched over in his wheel chair, unable to say my mother’s name. My adult self bursts forth.
In a flash, I know he isn’t protecting me from the image of him seizing before my eyes, rather, just as my mother and the doorman before him, he hopes to hide me from the inescapable truth that shatters innocence and destroys the kingdom of childhood forever. I see them as they see themselves - adults incapacitated with fear, ineptitude and misdirection. There are no adults in the world. No longer a child with childish fears like monsters and the dark, I feel the first crush of darkness around my ribcage. It is loneliness, the root of all adult fear which I will spend a lifetime building transparent and brittle fortresses to keep out. I am seven.