Wednesday, September 18, 2013

“Mommy? You want to know something really weird?”

She is standing beside me contemplating a climb to the top of a rock climbing structure Parks & Recreation has carted in for a special event. The School of Rock has a band of middle school boys playing tunes from the 90s. Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis. The bass player is solid with a great groove. He’s carrying the band. I wish I could play that well.

Or does she call me mom? She is ten and a half years full of life now and mommy is rapidly receding. I watch her move across the park skittering from one point to the next, her balance always in question. A young untethered colt, one can never be quite sure where in one’s line of vision she will suddenly appear.

“Sure, I’d love to hear something really weird.” I say.

Or is she sitting behind me in our car? A car it would seem I purchase impulsively one night at a dealership.
Six gears. A racing car for the freeway.
No good for driving a family around town.

I cannot remember for sure. There is always doubt in my mind as to how certain events roll out.

Have you heard the story of Penny Beernsten? She is out running one day on the shore of Lake Michigan when she is viciously attacked and raped. The perpetrator leaves her for dead but she manages to crawl out towards the shoreline and is saved by her husband.

‘She identifies her assailant in a line up. Her eyewitness testimony helps to convict him. In a radio interview I hear her talk about how certain she is that it is he. She knows with all her being as soon as she lays her eyes upon him.  

Years later DNA evidence points to a completely different man for the crime.

I have an affliction. Rather, I think of it more as a coping mechanism developed during my childhood.

Exact sequences of memories tend to recede rapidly with little acknowledgement to the past.

Mostly all that is left behind are additions to my constellations of ideas and vague feelings surrounding a disordered flow of events.

I believe my forgetfulness develops as a measure of protection against the emotion of regret that follows each time my family moves. They are not moves within similar military bases but moves between states and across countries.

I learn Dutch. I learn to read in German. Neither language do I retain.

In 3rd grade I must learn to reread in English.

I count on my hand before I am in 7th grade Nashville, TN, Clarksdale, MS, somewhere in Holland, a long visit to Switzerland and England before settling somewhere in Germany, Clarksdale, MS, Decatur, GA, Cooksville, TN, and Gainesville, FL. Counting the moves within city limits would raise this number into double digits.

The only common thread running between these moves is that my father is involved with the university, our family is active within a church (denomination tbd) and we almost always live in an apartment complex.

I do vaguely recall certain highly charged emotional events but not with any sort of clarity. Photos help.

People think I am lying when I say I do not remember. Except for Amy McMullen. She gets it. She is plagued by the same sort of forgetfulness and tirelessly photographs the events around her. She tells me it is so she does not evaporate. I understand this.

For my dad the memory constellation looks something like this. My dad is an astronuclear physicist and has formed a laboratory that develops gamma ray detectors.

He is a prankster and loves to tease us. In one of our new homes he lists us in the phone book as Ray Gamma.

He somehow acquires a round wooden coin that is imprinted with the word Tuit and carries it around with him ready to pounce on us should he hear anyone utter the words “when I get around to it.” He gleefully announces to the offender that now has arrived, in the form of a wooden coin.

When I am sick he comes home early from work one day with two fairy tale books that I love so much I have carried them with me through all my moves.

I write a story that he tells me is very good. That someday I should become a writer. Later, I discover I have accidentally copied it from a story that someone else wrote. I am too ashamed to tell him.

I am crying at being teased so much at school and he promises me that everything will change once I go to college. He tells me this so earnestly that I believe him.

He has a belt in his hand and chases me through the house with it. He wants to knock the sass out of me. I lock myself in the laundry closet until my mom gets home.

He reads his bible daily, has a deep faith and strong sense of morality.

On the weekends he locks himself in the bathroom for hours to read.

My sister and I sit on his lap and listen to classical music.

On the weekends we go searching for fossils together. We find some stone tools and donate them to a museum. One of these tools sits on my desk today. I can feel the thumb groove someone wore into its black surface.

We watch Dr. Who and Star Trek together religiously.

He takes us to see Space Odyssey 2001 and it scares the bejesus out of me.

An emotionally charged memory might look something like this (there are not many.)

My dad’s partner in the lab has two girls. They are very popular at school. They ride horses. They are wealthy. Our families travel together to Orlando to watch a Space Shuttle take off. I can remember the intense feeling of fear, embarrassment and humiliation I feel upon waking up in the shared RV from a dream where I have masturbated myself to orgasm. I wake to find my hand between my legs. I do not remember anything else from that day.  Their father dies in a car crash a year later. Or was it my father’s other partner?

This confusion between waking and dream states still tends to bewilder me when I try and recall events. It is not that I am lying, it is simply that I am unsure as to the sequence of what happened and sometimes as to the actual events themselves.

I remember fighting for permanence when I was younger. Not wanting to leave my friends behind. Eventually I give up this fight. When I am 16 my parents divorce and what little stability I have evaporates in a 20 minute sit down talk. I leave behind what is left of my home and continue to repeat this pattern of movement over and over again. I travel more on a greyhound bus than any normal person should. Ever.

“We are having our breakup walk.” I observe.

“This is NOT a breakup walk.”

It is not even on our radar. Seven days before we go to see his friend’s play based on her accidental 7-hour recording of a breakup she had.

“I am a little disappointed. I wanted some meat.” I say.

He likes her play because the things they talk about are so remarkably mundane; laundry, dog toys, bank statements, toilet paper, coupons, bills. He finds it to be extraordinary in its rather ordinary dialogue. “It is taken from an actual transcript. How more real can you get?”

Safely wrapped in each other’s arms we tease each other with the one line from the play that has any emotion attached to it. “I will never find anyone who cuddles as good as you do.”

“You’re right. You won’t.” the other counters merrily.

The breakup point arrives for us a week later on the day of what would have been my 11th wedding anniversary.

Or was it the day before?

Without a recording I cannot be sure of what was said on our walk or over dinner. I remember him being upset as I had let the clams die by not soaking them in water. I remember taking them back to New Season to find out they were not dead, just very, very cold. I remember not having an appetite and then eating them anyway at his prodding. Eating clams that were no longer cold or sad.

“We are broken up, right?” I ask.

“No, no we are not broken up yet.”

But, I know that we can do nothing else except split apart. Although I love him, I cannot bear the thought of remaining with someone who watches and judges life as it unfolds in front of him, dissecting it apart until there are only little arms and legs and hearts and heads left strewn across an indifferent table.

We have no choice. The end has already shown us its face and it looks just like Frank Turner’s Anymore song.  “But now the little things you do that used to make me love you, Now just cramp my heart a little and let it slip.”

I know just what to say to send us over the ledge. He cannot give up his ideal dream. I do not want to be the one to try and break it.

“That was the fastest breakup I ever had.” He says.

I have been criticized for making decisions too quickly but for me, decisions are not something I make. They already are. The race car I buy in just under an hour is backed by a lifetime of experiences. My bottom is pleasurably heated during a winter in my friend’s Golf. My firm belief that the Germans know how to make better machines. My ex driving around in our new Prius while I am left with my decade old Subaru that needs new ball joints.

It is a Jetta. It is black. I like the illusion of control the manual offers over the automatic transmission. It is 2010, the final model before the cheap Jetta’s hit the US market. It is the TDI Cup version (only 588 with manual shift made) racing wheels and responsive handling. It turns me on when I drive it. It is a clean diesel engine and the gas mileage is excellent. It is the end of the year and the salesman wants it off his lot. The interest is 0%. I have no choice. I have to leave the lot with this car. It would be illogical not to.

“Do you know mom the weird thing about tomorrow?”

“No what dear?”

“You can never know tomorrow. It is never here because by the time tomorrow is here it is today.”

I hug my little girl. I feel her through her skin. Smell her blonde Ava hair. Touch my finger to her soft cheek. I see her.


“Yes, this is very true. Tomorrow will never exist. It will never be real. It is only now that is real. Only this right now here will ever be real.”

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