Return to Innocence


I tried to trip my father once.

I was seven and we still lived in our suburban Faisalabad home.

We had a big garden with burnt grass (the summer temperatures were scorching), I was only allowed the last three sips of Baba’s daily coffee and we did not have cable television.

Instead my father – an avid movie collector – would let us watch one movie every Sunday, which me or my brother would pick out from his extensive collection of VCDs. (DVDs were not yet as big of a deal.) He and I would alternate turns; some weeks he would get to choose, and some weeks I would.

Life had a beautiful symmetry to it. It was like a children’s story-teller had fashioned our reality, because I see now that children’s stories require an intense attention to detail and logical patterns. It is so important for story-tellers to establish logical relationships and maintain their consistency in fairy-tales, so that a child truly believes in what they read.

And so, like in folklore or fairy-tales, like clockwork, we would watch a movie on Sundays.

The day I tried to trip my father, we were watching a 2002 Italian version of Pinocchio.

For once, Baba was also sitting and watching with us. It is important to mention that the bothersome part of watching a VCD was that every movie came divided up in two discs – Disc A and Disc B. And since Baba did not trust us with handling any electronic equipment, he would be called upon 45 minutes into the movie, so that he could change the disc.

And sure enough, 45 minutes into Pinocchio, as the screen went black, he stood up to change the disc. I was sitting on the floor, my back against the sofa’s foot. And I remember a strange curiosity overcome me as I shifted my leg just enough so that, if he did not pay attention as he walked over to the television, he would trip.

He did not, in fact, trip. He was a grown man with two children. He easily stepped over my small leg, adjusting his stride.

In my mind’s eye, it was the first “bad” thing I did. And the memory fascinates me to no end because I see this moment as the one in which I lost the colloquial, characteristic innocence associated with a child. It was the first time I remembered doing anything wrong for the sake of doing something wrong.

This begs the question: is there such a thing as losing one’s innocence in a moment? Do we all have that one instance in which we cross the line and from then on, it all becomes gray area? Or is it more like a steady erosion of innocence as we go through life?

But then the situation complicates itself, as all I felt immediately after he stepped over my leg, was creeping guilt. I was so sure he knew what I had been up to. Why else would he lengthen his stride? I wanted to apologize. But apologizing would mean admitting I had done something wrong. And I hated the idea of having done something wrong, of being a bad person.

Bear in mind this is a seven year-old overthinking.

I remember consoling myself, promising I would never do anything of the sort ever again and that promise made it okay not to tell on myself. In a twisted way, my first wrong strengthened my conviction to do right.

Perhaps you do lose your innocence. But you trade it in for something more valuable.

 

 

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