The First Time I Woke Up

I have no recollection of anything prior to being here. I do not recall how I got into this world, and I have only a few dim snapshots of places and things of my early life. I do, however, recall the exact moment that I became aware I was alive.

The Cocoon

I lived in a house in the middle of a block on a quiet street. The street went off in two directions away from our house, through two intersections, where it disappeared into the mist. There wasn't actually mist, but there was a separation between my world and the world beyond. It was as if we lived in a room a little over a block wide, and the town stretching out beyond that room was a painting on the walls. The cars moved across it, people came and went, but once they crossed the street to the other side they were part of the painting and not part of my world. The fact that we lived at 112 Estaugh, but then later moved to 115, directly across the street, didn't make it clearer for me; I thought the whole street was ours and everything beyond was some other world. I didn't understand the concept of me and everyone else, of my point of view and anyone else's.

The Little Plastic Girl

My brother and I shared a bedroom in the attic. I recall sloped ceilings, beds and toys strewn about the floor. In one of the side walls was a small, dark closet built under the eaves where we stored toys and into which I one day ventured, looking for something that I cannot recall. Looking down in the doorway there was a crack between the floorboards, and within that crack was something red which caught my eye. With some difficulty I managed to pry it out with my small fingers and hold it up in the light. It was the plastic figure of a girl, standing on a little circle of plastic, with one leg partly raised and her arms away from her sides, as if she were dancing or had just kicked a ball. Something about that little plastic girl felt both fascinating and out of place. It's presence in my world demanded some kind of explanation. I stared at it, but it was not part of my world and I could not make it fit. I held it up to my brother and asked what it was. He looked quickly and said it had probably belonged to someone that lived in the house before we did, not making much of it and going back to his toys.

This simple understanding broke the bubble of my childhood. I had been able to fit everything into my two-dimensional world, but little plastic girl did not fit.


If there were children here before us then they must have gone someplace. If we didn't know them then there must be some place beyond our place. If they had lost in 'in the past' then there had to be a past. If this toy could belong to someone, but they lost it, then I could lose what I had. If I could lose what I had then what did it mean that something was ‘mine’. If I could be here one day, but gone the next, then what was life? These questions did not echo as stated through my mind, but in that moment it was as if the wall around Estaugh Avenue evaporated, and the world of a two block radius expanded outward with a whoosh to the horizon and my mind reeled at the scope of the world in which I now found myself. The two dimensions through which I slid suddenly expanded into three, and the outer world seemed to pitch and heave into new formations as my neural pathways in my young brain felt the tentative flow of traffic for the first time. I felt out of balance as I learned how to move through time and space now that I was aware there was time and space.

I doubt anyone watching would have noticed a difference in me on that day, but nothing felt the same thereafter. It was as if I was not alive — merely existing and recording — up until that moment, but in that moment of realization that there existed at least one other person in the world that I did not know I had opened a door to the realization of all the people in the world that I did not know and the endlessness of it astounded me.

I didn't tell anyone what I felt — I didn't have the words to even try. But I remember playing but constantly looking around as if something had changed. I found the outside had changed as well, and now there was a three dimensional world as far as the eye could see. I was not living in a painted cave, but in a limitless world.