Illustration by Victor Camba
You don’t need to read about my childhood. Go on Netflix, watch Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. I’m Sapphire, the writer of Push. Money, please.
I didn’t really know my youth contained abnormalities until I talked about it when I was older. My existence was psychologically strange, in that I was practically raised in a moral cage, but was pushed out into the world. And by the world, I mean my backyard. Or sideyard. Or other sideyard. Yeah, we had those in Massachusetts. Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to be exact. It’s a faded, dilapidated, inner Detroit-esque city roughly an hour from Boston. I won’t tell you I’m actually from Boston, like every other prick who moves from Somewhere, Massachusetts to Somewhere, California.
Growing up in Fitchburg was like growing up under an unfortunate rock. Having crackheads, meth addicts, and ex-cons as your neighbors, bus boys, bus drivers, and best friends was the norm. Angry kids skating and fighting in the streets were a regularity. My parents didn’t want me to know that’s what life was, so they corralled me within their parental realm. But they also wanted me to experience a childhood with community. I was like a caged rabbit, and my parents were dangling a tasty carrot of freedom above my head. As I jumped for it, they would quickly snatch it away behind their back and childishly snicker, “No, no, no, Steve,” and ruffle my mullet. This led to my early teen years of silent angst as I would sneak Marlboros and Martin Scorsese movies into my room, then feel bad about my bent morals and flip out on them for trying to be the good parents they were.
Early on, my young brain was filled with Sesame Street, Veggie Tales, and Dr. Seuss. I wasn’t an entertainment buff by the age of 15 like my peers, so I had to play catch up. My parents’ aim to keep me innocent as long as possible was definitely a curse for a future film major, but at the same time a major advantage. At a very young age I was already schooled in Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, and film noir. I loved those, but I wasn’t permitted to expand my taste. I wasn’t given the opportunity to have my parents trust my choices when I was a kid, so I rebelled behind their back when I was older.
That was the worst thing about leaving the childhood I thought was devoid of fun behind. I would rebel because I wanted to have “fun,” but I didn’t even feel like a badass. I would feel shitty. Eventually, my parents did start trusting me, but I was already doing things I knew would immediately break their trust. And I couldn’t stop the cycle of rebellion, guilt, self-loathing, parental-loathing, rebellion, for a long time. I couldn’t admit I had great parents. My mom and dad were trying to turn me away from the path of being just like their emotionally rugged teenage selves. They totally failed, but it wasn’t their fault one bit. It was all mine. Despite the craziness of Fitchburg and my early teen years being ridiculous, my childhood was great. It was really because I was able to be a relatively care-free kid, and Mom and Dad made sure of that. Sapphire, out.