Itís all I have
April 29, 1982
My parents took me home after my giving my mother nine months of living hell.
She said I kicked a lot, but I refused to believe it. Other kids kicked to get out. I liked it there.
Maybe I didnít want to come out to see them fighting all the time, even when they said the right things about me being their ďbundle of joy.Ē
Even a kid at my tender age could handle only so much of the sap.
Perhaps I only kicked now and then to remind them I was still there.
I donít know if it was that first day that I remember or one of the days just after, but itís the only memory I have of my father holding me.
I remember going from a bright place to a dark place and getting scared.
I might have been as old as six months, but I remember my fatherís strong arms around me Ė because he split about that time and I never saw him again Ė swoosh like a scared rabbit, sending ten bucks a week to my mother from some place in Passaic before vanishing entirely along with his money.
I remember them taking me home from some place, along a dark alley I much later picked out on 21st Avenue in Paterson, a dark alley along side a white building which would later get covered over with aluminum siding. But in those days it was wood. I remember how stiff he felt, as if he was wood, or I was, carrying me like the carbine he must have carried when in navy boot camp.
As I said, he didnít stick around long enough for me to get to know him. So I treasure this memory and that long walk down the short alley, because itís all I have, and I remember that dark alley like I remember my first two front teeth. I remember the door to our apartment was about half way down that alley on the left. I remember my nervous mother scrambling ahead and how the keys jangled as she tried to unlock the door. I started to cry again which only made her more nervous. I could hear my fatherís hushed voice trying to soothe me. I just wouldnít be hushed.
There was something dark in that whole business, bad feelings that filled me with fear and wouldnít be flushed out even when my mother flicked on the lights inside the apartment. That only seemed to scare me more and made me cry even louder.
My father and mother were angry, but not at me.
Yet when my father put me down in the crib, I screamed even more. The animals painted on the sides of the crib scared me, pink and blue creatures floating on a background of varnished wood.
The crib was the gift from some neighbor who said she wouldnít need it any more.
My mother and father left me then. They were always leaving me, always fading out beyond the haze which thickened around me, becoming a blur among blurs. I remember the room growing dim again, and I kept crying until it hurt too much to cry, and so I stopped.