i recently found my first passport, which i hadn't seen in many years. it was issued when our family was preparing to go overseas for the step-dad's work transfer. even though it has long ago lapsed, as passports are intended to do, it once again granted me entrance to another place - but one within my memories - whose borders i at one time thought had been sealed forever, instead of a location in the physical world.
the identification photo was what did it. it was taken when i was barely 13, was 5 ft, 6 in tall and close to the end of my 7th grade. that was the worst year of my life up til then. at the time it was taken, i was feeling suicidal. the bullying at school had become unbearable. the abuse at home had not let up. i needed a way out. this move seemed like my last chance - if it didn't work, i could always create my own exit plan - wherever i was living at the time.
once i started over in a new country, there was no more bullying, the step-dad never touched me again, and i re-invented myself. i stuffed all the bad old memories and emotions deep down inside and denied them to the point of total repression. that part of my past was inaccessible. yet i still hated to see that photo. for some reason, even without the conscious memories and emotions, i still recoiled from looking at him. it made me feel creepy - without knowing why. every time i saw it, i was swept by a wave of self-loathing. and i now realize that it distorted my perception of what he really looked like. i saw him as much more unattractive than he really was.
looking at the photo now, i can see and feel the pain. i had been crying. step-dad had been yelling at me - and was continuing to do so through the photo session. he had decided to take the family's photos himself to save money - and i was not appearing the way he wanted me to. he kept yelling instructions and getting more and more angy - and expecting me to smile for the camera. i could not even look at him. finaly he hastily snapped several shots and said that would have to do - that they were terrible photos but i would just have to live with it.
it is an unususal passport photo in that i am not facing full forward, but down and to the side. this was a beaten kid - in both meanings of the word. it is so easy for me to see it in the photo. why couldn't anyone else see it in real life?
looking at this photo now, i am surprised - i don't look ugly and freakish and weird - the way i felt at the time. i don't look like an awkward, hulking monster - the way i felt. i don't look repulsive and abnormal - the way i felt. i look like a boy who is deeply hurt and about to give up.
i cried when i found this photo - for that boy - and for me. i have been keeping that passport close to me the past few days and looking at it often. at the time the passport was issued, i hated and despised that boy - as everyone else in his life seemed to do. we have so much in common - but i rejected him, too, for so many years - just as everyone else did back then. i tried to leave him behind when i left my home country to attempt a fresh start in life somewhere different. in some ways i was successful. but he has always haunted me like a dark shadow. he was my deepest secret - for many years, a secret i kept even from myself.
now i can see him with compassion and empathy. now i accept him and am trying to make peace with him and embrace him. i can't be whole without reuniting with him. we are trying to forgive each other. we can help each other heal - and neither of us can do it alone.
here is the photo: