Denial - Vanessa Hsu

The kid, as I called him, always had a smile when we met, he would be affectionate to me and kind to the rest around us. He would make sure his text messages were full of smiley faces and always offered to do what I wanted. It was a sweet disposition, and yet, there were always pauses when we spent time together, lapses of quiet. His long lashes would point down as his eyes half-closed. He would turn quiet, turn inward. And I always wondered what happened inside.

If I asked, he would quickly brush it off, say it was nothing or that he didn’t want to share problems and go back to the general air. But he would also drop hints, about a stepfather’s wedding he wanted to attend abroad, about not wanting to live with his mother and half-brother, about his mother being beautiful and having had a hard life, about being twenty-two but feeling thirty-two. These came accidentally over the course of six months, but they also seemed to be invitations, to be asked. Although each time I took it, it seemed I was wrong. He’d smile and change the topic.

The first thing I knew of him was that he was a boxer as a child. A child boxer, isn’t that something –to a much smaller degree—like being a child soldier? Or at least a child worker? That he stopped boxing because “that stuff messes with your head, it permeates the rest of what you do, it’s not good”. Eventually I learned his stepfather had been his trainer. And then, that his stepfather and mother had gotten a divorce, a messy one, where he testified at age eleven and that he had to lie about his mother, he said.