Jul 16, 2020 • 10M

1986 (12)

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Cyan Banister
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My teacher in the 4th grade, Mrs. Curran-Perkins, loved to have us write in our journals at the end of every school day. I found this incredibly tedious, but later in life, that darn journal became precious to me. Somehow, I managed to hold on to it until I was 19, and then I gave it to a boyfriend who I thought would prize it as much as I did. (He didn’t)

The journal had a bright yellow cover with a basket pattern on it, and my name was carefully scrawled across the front.

Cyan Callihan.

At this age, I was obsessed with the cycle of life, so every story she had us write, I’d recycle the same theme over and over. What was the life of a snowflake? A leaf? Dirt? Every story I’d tell was about endings and new beginnings. Snowflakes would form into snowballs; they would then melt and evaporate, form into clouds, come down as rain, evaporate once again, form into more clouds, come down as snow, and back into snowballs the following year. I was fascinated with the beauty of it all, and its distinct lack of purpose. I tried my hardest to understand why these things happened on a seemingly never-ending loop, but I couldn’t make any sense of it. This question around life persisted as I grew older but compounded with time. The problem went from why does nature do what it does to why I, Cyan, existed at all in the first place.

When I was smaller, being a planned life had its psychological advantages, but as I grew older, that wasn't enough to satiate me. 

I also couldn’t make sense of the turn of events with my friends at school. I formed a core group of girls that I hung out with and didn’t venture much outside of that circle, because if I did, that’s when the shoving and name-calling would resume. The girls and I sat by ourselves on the playground and skirted the edges of the basketball courts. Most breaks, I would play jump rope or chase my friends Erica or Helen around the perimeter of the yard.

Sometimes I would injure myself just so that I would be sent home by the school nurse. My teacher was kind, and I liked Mrs. Haney’s class, but every passing week things became tenser with other kids. It became more fun to veg out on the couch and watch soap operas than deal with whatever was in store for me at school.

On Halloween, my brother Afshin came into this world. That night, I went out trick-or-treating with my sister, as she was tasked with looking after me while my grandparents and step-father went to the hospital. A few days later, he came home. In the beginning, my baby brother was kept in the room with my parents, but one morning I went to get my sister up for school, and I knocked on the door, and she didn’t respond. Eventually, I gave up and opened the door, and well, she wasn’t there. Not only was she not there, but none of her things were there either. Where there was once a bed, there was now a crib, complete with a mobile that played “Go to sleep little baby” when you wound it up. Her dresser was even converted to a changing table, and there were paint swatches on the walls for the new colors the room was about to be painted.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to figure out what happened, and I had to get to school. I’ll never forget this day for as long as I live because when I got to school, I couldn’t concentrate, and I wrote about it in that journal. When I got home, I asked my mother where Heather was, and she told me.

“Well, she ran away.”

She delivered it as a matter of fact statement. She didn’t seem phased that her daughter ran off in the middle of the night and had not returned. I knew my sister wouldn’t leave me by choice, so I definitely didn’t buy the story that she just up and left, but I couldn’t figure out where she was and if she was ever coming back. In her place was a crying needy baby. I went to bed that night and held on to Asia, my Cabbage Patch Kid, and cried. Asia was with me through thick and thin. She was my only constant.

It wasn’t until a year later that I figured out where my sister was. The whole time she was “missing” she was living with my grandparents in Chinle. My Grandpa gave up his private room and started sleeping in Grandma’s bed. My mom took us for a visit, and I was sitting in the living room when my sister came out.

Imagine my surprise and deep disappointment. I was incredibly hurt, and this was proof once again to me that my grandparents loved her more than me. The evidence kept building up, proving my narrative I was building about myself and my father.

I decided that Heather didn’t care about me either.

Later on, when I was much older, I talked to my sister about what happened. Well, our mother kicked my sister out of the house out of fear that she’d hurt the new baby, and she also accused her of trying to sleep with our step-father. My sister was only 15 years old.

My brother was really adorable, so even though I wanted to hate him, I could not. Instead, he and I formed a close bond. I taught him how to crawl by having him want to grab a phone book on the floor, and I sang him songs to get him to sleep.

My love for my brother grew even though I had the disgusting task of washing out his reusable cloth diapers every day.

My journal entries started becoming more and more about Afshin, questions about the racism I personally experienced, and my obsession with maintaining perfect attendance at school. I had a flawless streak until I was taken out the last month of school with tonsilitis, and I had to have my tonsils removed. In 1986, I learned more about "adult lies." Lies like Santa Claus. Lies like where my sister went. A picture was painted for me of endless ice cream that I'd get to eat once my tonsils were removed, but instead, I couldn't eat anything. I woke up screaming like Hellen Keller after my surgery. I wanted water badly but couldn't get the words out. After surgery, I went in and out of hospitalization due to complications and didn't get that bowl of ice cream for at least two whole weeks. So far, at this point, the adults were all far from credible in my life. They couldn't really be trusted. I started to view my parents as food providers instead of anything more profound than that. I dreamed about my adult future in which I wouldn't have to go to school or come home to them anymore. I didn't trust them at all, but I remained optimistic that my situation was only temporary.