I am in the bathroom. I am crouched between the toilet and the wood-paneled side of the sink.
I am eight.
There’s a heat vent here to keep me settled. The vent throws up hot air between my pajama bottoms and flips the jagged ends of the toilet paper roll, and for a minute my mind floats right along with it, picturing white kites, a magic carpet, a ticker-tape parade for somebody’s special hero.
But me, I am no one’s hero. I’m not brave at all. I am eight.
There are people here who should be somewhere else. The safest place in the building is this bathroom that no one uses because it is cramped and smells like sulfur, waterlogged trees and wet fur. We once found a dead opossum in the bathtub two feet away from where I am huddled, which is why I keep the ratty shower curtain pulled, which is why I breathe through my mouth. I’ve seen enough frightening things.
I have a book; “Gulliver’s Travels.” The story is so preposterous. I am eight and know that Lilliputian people don’t exist. But I want to think that maybe they do, that perhaps there’s a chance I can shrink myself, make myself small enough to slide down the sink drain or through the seam of the bolted front door, escape from here and be somewhere else, a place where boys have a fair chance to grow up and become real men.
Read Len’s story Christmas in July here