Sunday, July 05, 2009

That sounds good

When I was 12, my father called me down into his office and told me about the accounts he created to save for my sister and I to go to college: $100,000 already in the one for me, maybe $60,000 in the one for my sister because she would need it later. He showed me where he kept the bank statements, don’t tell your mother because then she’ll want to spend it. Who was the wife, and who was the child? There were differences: my mother could leave, but chose not to.

You know when I stopped eating, right? When my father looked at a photo of me when I was two, framed in my grandmother’s apartment, and said: most fat babies grow up to be fat adults. My mother was always on a diet, and my father was always taunting her. But let me stop here, before the transition, to focus on this office visit: I can remember the sound of my father opening the desk drawer where he kept his bank statements, that loud sound of metal rolling, why is it that desk drawers are louder when they’re wooden -- teak in this case, of course -- something about metal against metal must be smoother. Anyway, I want to frame this moment, a moment when my father trusted me and did that mean I trusted him?

Twelve was when they sent us to sleep-away camp. This meant I was stuck in a cabin with 12 other boys who each taunted me in a different way. I wrote a letter to my parents every night: please let me come home. Please. For three whole pages. I don’t know exactly what they say; I asked my mother to make copies of the whole shoebox full of letters, and then the shoebox disappeared. Was I there one month, or two? At least 30 letters and sometimes, when I couldn’t stop crying, the camp administrator let me call my parents but all they did was send more candy. Sour balls. Salt water taffy. Lemon drops. Firecrackers. Bazooka chewing gum. Bubblicious. Chiclets. All this candy in my mouth -- that’s how you know this is before, before I stopped eating. Before I’d do anything not to go back to their house, because here I was trying to do anything to get back. Maybe I wanted both: never, and always.

Maybe a few years earlier they’d dropped me off for my first soccer practice and I remember standing on this hill, in my mind now that hill is the size of an entire city, an empty city of green grass and I’m just a little dot in the center with tears of clarity. They would never rescue me, but I still hoped for it. So if sleep-away camp was before I stopped eating, before I threw away my glasses, before I started drinking, before I went to therapy, how does this relate to all the kids from Florida at this camp in West Virginia, running outside in crazy joy at a summer hailstorm, thinking it was the first time they had seen snow?

I always hated summer, and loved the snow, unless I was at the beach. Sometime after sleep-away camp, after my father told me most fat babies grow up to be fat adults, maybe even after I threw away my glasses but before I started drinking or smoking because that one time in the fallout shelter would not be the last, maybe I was in therapy or maybe this was before, do you see how there is no one time and I keep trying to find it? There was one time in the car, I was telling my father about school I liked telling him about my day but he wasn’t listening he never listened he just said mm hmm, that sounds good. So I said: I’m just going to get off right here and lie down in the middle of traffic, and he said mm hmm that sounds good.