What I remember most about that moment was that the walls were green.
You know the green. You might call it ‘hospital green’, or possibly ‘landlord green’. It’s the kind of faded olive colour that’s cheap to buy, so is found mainly in older rental properties or government buildings. It’s dull and uninspiring, a little too dark for walls, and doesn’t match anything nice. It might match some Sixties upholstery or something, but nothing nicer than that.
I’ve thought back and worked it out, and I must have been ten or eleven. I think I was probably ten, but the older end of ten. It was late Winter, I think, merging into Spring: I was cold, but not frozen, so it was probably August or September. I was sitting in the lounge room at my friend’s house, staring blankly at the walls across the other side of the room. The television was in that corner, and it was on, but I had no idea what was playing. I wasn’t watching it, I was just staring disconnectedly. There was some other furniture around the TV – books on shelves, I think, and a knick-knack or two. My gaze sat a couple of feet higher than that, though; above the television, above the books, to the flat grey-green painted walls.
I didn’t know what I was doing then. I remember feeling sick to my stomach, and a bit confused. I had an overwhelming sense of not really being there: not really present in my body. There were arms and legs there, I could sense them, but they weren’t really mine.
My adult mind recognises this picture clearly. I was dissociating. It was my brain’s way of trying to get a little bit of breathing space to process something which didn’t make sense and could never really make sense. I was frightened and ashamed.
I don’t remember anything after that moment until I arrived at school the next morning. That moment happened at a friend’s place, on a property somewhere west of the town where we lived. I do remember what led to that moment; and I don’t think anything else happened to me between that moment and the next one I remember, which was talking to my mother at assembly the following morning. I suspect that the reason that I don’t remember anything is probably because my mind retreated even further into itself, protecting me as far as it could until I was safely home.
I remember that moment, though. Oddly the memory feels strong and clear, although it’s very indistinct. I think perhaps it’s cloudy not because my memory is incomplete, but because my perception at the time was hazy. I remembered this moment long before I remembered any of the rest.
There are other people in that moment, blurry and muffled like a television with the sound down, one that’s not quite tuned in to the station. They move around a lot in that moment, and talk to each other like extras in a crowd scene, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t a moment at all but more like an hour.
In my memory, I’m silent and still on the chair, trapped inside an alien body. And the walls are stretch high above me and all around me. They are green, and I am numb.