When I was 12  there was a boy in my class I liked named Keith. I remember his face and the way he smelled, but I don't remember why I liked him.  At the old house we had a big backyard.  I got in trouble once for repeating a word I heard my Dad use; I said our backyard was as big as the whole fucking world. I think I was five, or six, then. Memphis is a very green city; lots of trees, lots of bushes.  I remember how the bushes smelled in our backyard.

My uncle was a paranoid schizophrenic; I always remembered that term.  He committed suicide the year before. My Dad and I found him together, he put a gun to his head, and shot.  You'd be surprised how unrealistically that scene is portrayed in movies and on TV.  There wasn't music. I didn't scream. I wasn't sure what I was looking at; it was comically-proportioned, the remainder of a head sitting on the remainder of a  neck, none of it was human anymore.  At times a sort of catatonia ensures that we survive; I was surprised, less blood than I would have thought, more brain matter.  We never talked about that day.

I liked my uncle’s craziness; it irritated the other adults around us and I thought that was funny, at the time  I was always around adults when I was little, and had to learn to be one quickly. But I remember thinking when my uncle talked it sounded like the inside of his head was "messy", as when things are out of order in a messy room. I wondered if I would ever be like my uncle, or ever need to be.

After school Keith came over to my house and we went into the big as all the fucking world backyard, and practiced fucking. We had nosy neighbors on our street. I saw the inside of my uncle’s head on the bedroom wall; I had no reason to stay in my own backyard.

I never doodled Keith's name on my notebook covers with a heart over the "i".  It wasn't that kind of relationship. I wasn't that kind of girl.

My  dad and I are a lot alike, full of Irish passion and bluster. Quick to anger, just as quick to forgive, we blow up and then blow over. My mother nurses a grudge, and nursed me accordingly. My dad wasn't home the day the neighbors came about me and Keith and the bushes in the backyard.  My mother reported my transgression to him like a Capo.

My Dad blew up, and then blew over.  Then he took me to the record store. For three months my mother spoke to me in clenched tones, only when my Dad was gone.  I think I've tried to live up to her expectations. A year later we moved to another house with a small backyard and fewer bushes.

At 16 it started getting loud inside my head. 

If I could see the inside of my head, I wondered, would it look messy, and would I be surprised.

 

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