Brittle Facade I Called Home
Every day for 14 years, I opened my eyes to the crack on the ceiling, and the tattered smears on the once firm, white walls of my two-bedroom home. Sometimes, the thought of its collapse kept me awake at night. During ferocious storms and thunders, I thought those were the last times I would live. I thought this building could no longer stand.
The gray cracked facade was the reflection of the maturity and fragility of the decades-old White Building. The dark and withering appearance magnified the shameful qualities engraved within the fractures of the edifice. Once an apartment complex for civil servants, the White Building had over time become a slum, nestled in the center of the city. The dark indoor staircases and crumbling rooftop apt to be the hangouts of drug dealers and gangsters, and the northern section of the building was considered the hotspot of prostitution in the city.
There is a common saying “birds of a feather flock together.” To me, this phrase implies that people of resembling backgrounds, and from the same origin have the same stories and the same destinations. Yet, I don’t believe in a “single story.”
Where I called home was where outsiders deemed the home of the deviants. A single story had embedded in their mind: every single child in the White Building would grow up to be gangsters or prostitutes; their fathers are drug dealers and their mothers are gamblers. Because everyone has a particular story we know of a culture, a race, a community, it’s human nature to focus on the one and only story to generalize a group of population. I’ve been guilty of doing so until I’ve realized people have done the same to me and until I’ve realized a single story can annihilate one’s dignity.
And I don’t share a single story with anyone.
The White Building was where my family celebrated my first birthday. It was where I get my first school uniform and first picked up a book and a pencil at a very young age. It was where my aunt and uncle often asked me to read aloud magazine articles since I was six.
I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. But, I got parents with unconditional love for their three children. They’ve fought through thick and thin to afford our education because they believe it is the most valuable fortune they can offer. They often say it will get me anywhere I want. To where they can’t bring me to. Seeing the white strands of hair on their resilient crown only pushes me to work hard so I can pay back their wrinkled hands and aching spines.
Since I was young, there were times when I stood behind the closed door, hearing the shouts from the quarrels between my mom and my neighbors. I wanted to pull her inside, but I couldn’t. Those were the times I saw my mom’s strong will and noticed the difference between her and my dad. He doesn’t often fight back with his opponents; instead, he works to prove them wrong subtly, and kills them with kindness. I’ve learned to do a little of both: speak up for myself when I need to, and hold back when it’s not necessary to argue.
My dynamic childhood in the White Building would always outlive the demolished building itself. Because the warmth I feel within my family and the lessons I learned from them is so significant, my fear of the building had eventually subsided. I might have been agitated when my neighbors and my family had disputes, but that did not take away the friendliness I sensed in the community and the memories I had there. Through these, I’ve learned to view authenticity as beauty.
I might be birds of a feather with the so-called delinquents by growing up in the same community. But I clearly understand that every single resident of the White Building, no matter who they were, has their own unique and complex history that an outsider can’t fathom. We don’t flock together because they each have their stories, and I have mine.