“Má (Mom)!” I cried out to my mother that one afternoon. I remember skittering into the kitchen in angry tears, grabbing her pants and tugging on it with my tiny hands while she was washing the dishes. “Vinh không muốn chơi với con (Vinh doesn’t want to play with me),” I had said to her, looking expectantly at her to do something about my “problem”. I watched her glanced at me before looking up, yelling at the top of her lungs for my older brother, Vinh.
I was five years old at that time, my older brother being twelve. All I wanted to do was play with my brother and spend time with him, since he and my siblings were my only friends at this time. But because of the seven year age difference, it was difficult to have something in common with a brother who had a broader taste of pop culture. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop me from doing everything I could to get him to play with me.
The staircase had squeaked like a mouse in protest as my brother grudgingly stepped down on them upon hearing his name being called. Our mother simply yelled at him and demanded that he played with me and that he was older than me, stating that big brothers should look after their little siblings. Vinh simply said, “dạ (yes)” in a monotone like voice, clear that he wasn’t going to keep to the demands of our mother. But with our mother believing in his word, she returned to the kitchen and nudging me to him. I also believed in his word that he would play with me and not knowing any better, I wiped my angry tears away and ran after Vinh, who was going back up the stairs. As I followed after him, I demanded, “Vinh, play Pokemon với con(with me)!” Vinh promptly ignored me as he got to the top of the stairs and into the upstairs living room. The living room was large, having many stuffed animals in the left bottom corner on a pink bed sheet, the computer in the bottom right corner with the black rolling chair, a small table that was at the upper left corner with the plastic gundam mecha figurines (gunpla for short), and the television box against the wall in the middle of the room on the far wall with our black N64 lying on the floor, hooked up to the TV so we could play it.
My brother sat in the chair, leaning back in it as he turned on the computer. The machine hummed loudly, excited to be in use once again like so many times before. I pouted as I went up to him and tugged on his shirt, trying to drag him out of the chair. “Anh (brother) Vinh,” I whined at him and continued to whine until I got his attention. Annoyed, he pushed me away from him and yelled, “Go over there and play!” He pointed to the corner where all of the stuffed animals were. I let out a huff of breath and stomp my foot down, the floor going thump. “Chơi với con (Play with me)!” I demanded once more but was ignored again. Letting out another huff, I stormed off to the stuffed animal corner, sat on the bed sheet and sulked to my heart’s content. I looked back and glared at the back of the chair Vinh sat at, angry that he wouldn’t play with me. Our mother made it clear she didn’t want to be bothered so I didn’t go crying back to her as I did last time. My eyes wandered off on their own, soon locking onto one of the gunplas that stood on the table. Crawling towards the gunpla, my tiny hand reached out to a particular green one with a red circle on its head, whose armor shone beautifully in the light that was provided in the room and holding its fake, plastic gun in its hand. At that point, I decided if my brother wouldn’t play with me, then I would play with one of his toys that he built with his own two hands. Because it belonged to Vinh, it meant that it was equivalent to playing with my brother. At least that was how my mindset was back then.
Plucking the green gunpla off the table, I took it with me as I scrambled to get off the floor and made my way downstairs. I didn’t want to be in the same room in my brother, still angry at the fact he wouldn’t play Pokemon with me. I wasn’t sure if he noticed that I left the room, but he was probably ecstatic that I wasn’t bothering him anymore. Our mother was still in the kitchen, cleaning the dishes before going into the dining room to clean the table. I reached the bottom of the stairs and sat at the bottom step, fiddling with the toy. In my head, I imagined it was real, able to move its thick sturdy legs and arms, shooting lasers from the red circle and shooting its gun. I fiddled with the gunpla as much as I wanted by moving its arms and legs around, putting it into different positions and such. Eventually, I would find myself finding other small toys to go with the green gunpla and making it hold things in its hand besides the gun, such as small, colorful marbles, pens and pencils, tiny plastic cups, even making it hold hands with a Barbie doll. I was having fun without once bugging my brother, but little did I know, playing with this green gunpla had led me to a terrible, gruesome fate.
Attempting to twist the arm upwards in the air, making a victory sign with its tiny fingers, it wouldn’t want to go the way I desired it to be. Fueled with frustration, I threw a tantrum and pulled on the arm, believing stretching the limb would make it go upward. But it did the opposite of what I wanted it to do; the appendage tore off. I felt time froze around me and my body was slowly filling up with fear and panic-- my brother was going to kill me. I tried to desperately to put the arm back in, but it wouldn’t fit for some reason and I ended up making it worse; the chest piece of the gunpla came off. Unsure on what to do, I did the unthinkable and attempted to return to my brother, in hopes he could fix his beloved toy. I called out to him, grabbing his attention and held out the broken gunplay in my hands to show what I did. “Anh (brother) Vinh, it’s broken,” I said to him, innocently. I was not expecting the reaction I was about to receive from him. In the speed of light, he stood up from his chair, snatched the broken pieces in disbelief before his face went red with anger. He spouted incoherent words I couldn’t understand and before I knew it, in a violent fit of anger, he grabbed a pen, snatched my hand and stabbed the fine point into my palm.
It all happened so fast, I barely understood happened until pain spread throughout my hand; it felt like a surprise vaccination shot at the doctor’s, but ten times worse. Within the next moment, tears erupted from my eyes and I ran back downstairs, crying for our mother. Hearing my cries; she came to my aid and was aghast at what she saw. She witnessed a fruit juice like liquid gushing out from my hand. As our mother questioned who the culprit was, my brother screamed about what I did to his gunpla but she wouldn’t hear any of it. She began to yell at him as she brought me into her arms and carried me to the kitchen, rushing to give me first aid. I listened to what was being said to Vinh from our mother as I buried my face into her shoulder bawling into it as the pain was unbearable, I wanted it to go away.
It felt like an eternity but finally, my mother stopped the fruit juice from gushing from my hand and placed many Band-Aids over it. She proceeded to tell me not to touch it as it was delicate flesh. My brother sat in the living room on the couch, having been heavily admonished by her. “Suy nghĩ về những gì bạn đã làm (Think about what you did),” our mother yelled at him for the last time before leaving us be, my brother continuing to sit in the living room while I sat at the kitchen table. Silence filled the room between us, neither of us exchanging words or a glance at each other. Staring at the empty table, I contemplated over my actions, before finally glancing at my brother. As I watched him sulk on the couch, I couldn’t help but felt guilty, unable to absolve myself from what happened. I realized that this incident could have been avoided if I left him alone and not take his toy. I could have been with our mother and help her out with household chores, or played with my own toys, or even watch a couple of TV shows by myself. There were a lot of things that I could have done. But there was no used in crying over spilt milk, I realized. After taking one last look at the situation now, I learned a valuable lesson... Don’t take your big brother’s toys.