This all started out as a response to the Daily Prompt – You’re about to enter a room full of strangers, where you will have exactly four minutes to tell a story that would convey who you really are. What’s your story? _ I started with my most prominent childhood memories and the story took on a life of its own … Here’s what I have so far.
The bones of my mother’s hand are piercing my pudgey paw.
“He’s not coming with us.” Her voice is matter of fact and unyielding.
We squint-stare into the wind. The port of Oslo diminishes, melting down into the ocean.
Sea-spray stings my face.
I bite my lip, breathe deep and refuse to cry.
I want to kick her ankles and bite her arm so I taste blood.
I am 3.
The living room is blurry with darkness.
I feel the cold planks under my bare feet.
Am I dreaming?
What is that shadow?
His thick fingers smooth my face and stroke my hair.
He whispers, “I made you something special for Christmas.”
“Are you staying?”
“I have got to go, Moonface.”
He opens the door and is out.
I am 4.
I am gripping the hard plastic of the phone to my face.
“When are you coming home?”
The kitchen light slices into the shadows of the darkening apartment.
“Do you want to come with me to Ed’s?”
“No, I want to stay home.”
“Well, I need to see, Ed tonight.”
“When are you coming, home?”
“I am hungry.”
” You can make a sandwich, or have some cereal.”
“Please come home!”
“I need to see Ed.You’ll be okay.Be a good girl and don’t stay up too late.”
It’s no use. I hang up.
I go to every room and turn on all the lights. I turn on the stereo radio full blast.
I turn on the tv. I sit inches from the screen.
I wrap myself in a blanket and dig myself into the beanbag chair.
I watch the black and white images. I scream till my throat is raw and cry myself to sleep.
I am 6.
I am standing in front of the rest of the kids.
She announces that I have a story to read to them.
The pencil marks between the blue lines become sounds in my mouth.
They are quiet and listening with amazed eyes.
I finish. My classmates clap and hoot praise and mumble compliments to me as I walk with jelly-legs to my desk.
I have become a star in my small world.
I am 8.
I am crashing down the streets in metal skates.
I am singing and running through the grassy hills barefoot in a long cotton print dress.
All day, all summer, the apartment is empty, except for me and maybe a forbidden friend.
We are sitting in my mother’s sunny bedroom on wrinkled sheets.
I balance the weight of the “Joy of sex” between our knees.
We flip through the pages and say – Grooooss!
She is 10 and I am 9.
I am wearing a pink and white knee-length dress with lacey ankets and patent leather shoes – dressed up for my first day at school even though it is October.
The black expanse of the parking lot separates me and a crowd of kids staring, boys and girls dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers.
I am the only girl that raises her hand in class to answer the teacher’s questions.
During recess the other girls giggle about boys and what they did with them after school.
I go a year without friends.
The boy in the desk in front of me is nice to me, cause I let him cheat off my paper.
In the schoolyard, in front of the other boys he ignores me.
He is my first love. I am 11.
I run after the siren for a half mile – and stop short of my house.
Charlie’s garage door is wide open, and a rope-noose is hanging from one of the rafters.
Charlotte and I were neighbors and best friends, and an hour before we are skipping and laughing, enjoying our freedom a week before school.
I had convinced her to leave her house even though her mother had begged her to stay home.
I said – “Your Mom will be okay, what is she going to do, kill herself?”
At school, whenever I pass Charlie in the corridors, she pulls a kid over to her and points to me, and fake whispers to them with her hand cupped over their ear.
“She murdered my mother!”
They stare with mouths open like evil fish.
I go 2 more years without friends.
I am 12.
I show the stylist a crumpled magazine picture of Farrah Fawcett.
I want the “feathered style ” to show off my “fashion sense” at my new school.
What I get is bangs cut like two angel wings.
I enter my home room in stiff new Levi Jeans and a Rolling stones t-shirt.
They stare back at me in their Izod sport shirts, chino pants and skirts. It is rock and roll versus the Bee Gees.
Someone mutters that my hair looks like bat-wings.
The kids laugh. The teacher says nothing.
I am “batwoman” for a year.
In the empty hallways, I get special attention from the boys who punch me in the arm or take flying karate jumps at me.
I am 13.
The night air covers us like a warm, damp blanket. The river lap-licks the side of the boat. We are nearly invisible to each other on the bow.
Lying to my left is my cousin Lewis, who is stoned and sweet-talking the neighbor-girl on the far-left, who is usually my competition.
But tonight, Alex is all mine, on my right. I reach my bare foot over to stroke his bare leg with my toes.
He asks me if I am cold. I lie and say – Yes.
He pulls me close into his armpit . I turn to look at him, his nose is shining, and his eyes without glasses wander around in their sockets like they are lost.
Our first kiss rescues us.
I am still 13 and he is 19.
I get up before my mother, dress for school, and then hide in the backyard until she leaves for work.
Every day instead of being bored in classes, I call in sick to the new highschool, impersonating my mother’s voice.
I spend the rest of the day handwriting letters to my love, reading Anais Nin, masturbating under covers and roller-skating around town.
One afternoon, after 6 weeks of missing classes, the school administration calls my mother.
They are very concerned about my health.
My mother asks me – “Why?”
I can’t explain. I am shaking and repeating – “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry,” like a mantra.
She says – “Shhh, shh, it’s okay. Let’s go out for dinner.”
I have never loved her so much.
I am 15.
I am holding her really tight so she won’t fall apart in my arms.
Her body is heaving and shaking.
I have never seen her cry before.
She was always the rock upon which my waves would break.
It was turbulent that morning, but he still wanted to fly and shrugged off her doubts.
Thirty minutes later, his glider is caught by a jagged gust of wind and he is smashed against the face of the cliff.
He lives for less than a week, until his impatient family unhooks him from his life.
She breaks into his house and brings back a bag of his clothes.
Night after night after work, we eat the dinners I make. She goes straight to bed. I tuck her in.
She falls asleep in one of his shirts, clutching her knees to her chest, meeting up with him in her dreams.
I never saw a man treat her so well. I never saw my mother so in love.
I am afraid of EVER being THAT in love.
He was 26 and she is 40. I am 16.
We have waited 5 years for this. I am no longer “jail-bait.”
Inky light filters through his curtains.
We are shadow-beings, running our hands over each other, polishing each other’s skin.
He tells me he will take it slow. I feel a pinch of pain where I usually feel pleasure.
He writhes on top of me for a few minutes, stops, and then rolls off of me, kisses my face, and then falls asleep.
I don’t know what to think.
The next morning our steps navigate between the slick of ice and the crunch of gravel to his car.
I am walking like a cowboy. He asks me if I am okay.
I tell him it was no big deal.
He drives me to the airport.
I am 18.
The sky is still grey. Has it been this way since I left? I wonder.
He meets me at the airport gate. I give him a smile so big, my face feels like it is going to crack. He returns a half-smile.
I chit-chatter next to his silence in the car. The warm air whips through my hair. A sharp pang of joy fills my lungs.
Finally, we are together, and this time I don’t have to leave him.
We roll up to my Uncle’s house, and I ask him what we are going to do together for the rest of the day.
He shakes his head and tells me he can’t stay and that he started seeing someone else, months ago.
I ask him – “Why are you telling me this now?”
He says something unsatisfying, and tells me – “I have got to go, Elizabeth.”
I get out of the car and watch him drive away.
It is the beginning of a very long summer.
I am still 18.