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
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