When I was eight years old my father was arrested.
In theory he hadn't done anything wrong.
At the time, I was not aware of this strange night of turbulence in the lives of my parents. I was content to be asleep in my warm bed in less than eager anticipation of a return to school the following morning. My father spent an hour in jail. I was mostly concerned with the frightful spectre of swimming lessons. The next day was the first Thursday of the month. Every first Thursday our teacher would take us to the community center pool to learn how to swim.
When I was eight years old I couldn't swim.
In theory there wasn't anything wrong with that.
My parents managed to conceive and birth a child before either had put down the foundation they wanted in life. They had to tilt and jilt their schedules so they could make ends meet and still try to advance their careers. Both had plotted a course through to the future, but now they were navigating through clouds and fog. My father worked days and my mother worked nights. There are certain things that seem to have been passed on to me from my father. One is the inability to sleep with any kind of pants on.
I believe that we remember the future
in the opposite way from which we remember the past.
It was a fairly dark night, although the moon was nearly full. Had it not been, my mother wouldn't have seen the stranger on the porch. Most of the time my father left the porch lights on. In the summer they attracted too many winged creatures, so he turned them off. Working second shift as a nurse, my mother came home close to midnight. The stranger was sitting fairly calmly on the porch and did not move as my mother approached. When she got close enough to see him, she screamed. He got up and started running. Seems he had not been wearing any pants and had been massaging his personal pleasure center. He took off down the road.
You can walk into walls when you try too hard to do the right thing.
My father tried to teach me all manner of things and most of what I really learned from him was how not to do things. He would have preferred it the other way around. When he heard my mother screaming he jumped out of bed and leaped down the stairs. He opened the front door and listened for a moment as my mother relayed the information to him. A man had been on the porch, fondling himself and calmly watching as she approached. He wasn't wearing any pants. Neither was my father as he started running up the street after the shadowy character that was now only barely in view.
These things are funny in retrospect but disturbing in the present tense.
My mother called the police. She dialed with urgency. There was a threatening pervert in the neighborhood. No, he had not threatened her, but his actions were most disturbing. The police agreed to send a car around. And they did. And they caught the man with no pants. My mother was driven down to the police station some time later to make positive identification. That was no problem. The man in the holding cell was the man she had married.
Are we prepared to confront madness? Or does it become us when we least expect it?
Even if I had known at the time what happened that night, I still would have been more concerned about swimming lessons. Most of the other kids were good swimmers. I could barely tread water. I was scared of most things in those days and drowning was one of them. I was afraid to die. I was always terrified of dying. Things change so quickly. The other kids taunted me and the fire of their mockery burned a chasm in my heart. I would do anything to get out of going to school on swimming lesson day. I learned most things from books, at home, and this went a long way into explaining why I never learned how to swim. I did learn some years later. It was summer camp. There was a camp counselor who looked like a goddess in a one-piece bathing suit. I worshipped her body. She was my swim instructor. I learned with a smile on my face but I often tripped running onto the dock. I'm now much better at looking at women than I am at swimming. Some things change slowly. Others always stay the same. I find myself fabulously attracted to women with no pants on. It is a good thing they invented skirts and shorts or I wouldn't be much good at anything. It all ties together somehow.
We remember the past the opposite way from which we remember the future.
I couldn't remember if these things had happened to me already or if they were yet to happen. I was caught in a tidal pool. I could see where I had been but the current pulling me into the future was stronger. The sky said good-bye as the ocean said hello. Always somewhere in the middle of them both, negotiating passage. All your papers are never in order. There are things that needed to be done and things you have yet to understand. The dusk is often similar to the dawn. Some things taste like heaven. Other things taste like the cold metal sheet that burned us in ways we lack the words to properly describe. We climb upwards but have no idea which way we are really going.
No one is absolutely sure that winning isn't something to avoid
and that losing isn't the ultimate goal.
We had a favorite tree in the yard. It was in the middle of the yard. My brother and I gave it a name, but it is a name I no longer can recall. It was straight and tall and impossible to climb. We talked to it sometimes. Then my father decided to pave our paradise. He hired a man to cut down the tree. The man was thirsty and tired as he fought with this ancient master of the earth and asked my father for a glass of water. My brother and I had been pretending to be bartenders. We were still too young to properly drink rootbeer, but we had seen our Uncle Victor working as a bartender at the outrageous Swedish-American picnics we always went to. Not having access to alcohol, we poured water into a glass and sprayed furniture polish on top to give it a lemon-fresh aroma. When my father asked for the glass of water, I handed my brother one of our recently mixed cocktails. We both knew what we were doing was wrong, but little brother followed my lead. The man drank the water while I watched from the upstairs window. After he finished he thanked my father and noted that the "lemon squeeze" was a nice touch. A half-hour later he was in the emergency room and my brother was getting the spanking of a lifetime. I escaped unharmed because my brother never ratted me out despite the torture he was undergoing. Neither one of us knew why it happened that way. I've never blindly followed any leaders since.
You can watch your own evil unfold without raising a hand.
The problem is when it makes you smile.
My father never drank, except a mixed drink or a couple of beers on rare occasions. The night his spanking of my brother turned into an angry, emotionally driven rage, he drank himself into a stupor. We could hear him crying. He never touched either of us again. The brutality of what resulted from his actions shook him to the core. My brother had blisters and welts. I was the one who mixed the drink. I was the one who handed it to my brother and told him it was "okay." I had watched from the window, amused with my little game as my brother handed the glass to the man. I never thought he could die. I didn't know what the drink would do to him, but I figured it would be funny to watch. Ten years later I told my mother the truth. Twenty years later I told my father the truth. Last year I saw my brother's kids. My nephews were eight and five. The older brother is autistic and sees more than the rest of us do. He brought me a glass of water. There was a lemon wedge in it. He smiled and nodded. He said he thought I would "like it."
When I was eight I tried to kill a man without even knowing.
He didn't die. I imagine he probably didn't enjoy having his stomach pumped all that much. Charges were never pressed and lawsuits were never filed. He came back and cut down the tree three weeks later and brought his own water. I went for a ride on my bicycle and didn't come home for hours. I still didn't care much for swimming lessons. The kids who knew how to swim pulled my swim trunks down in the locker room and called me a pansy. I never wanted to be a mermaid. In those days I wanted to be Cheryl Ladd.
My name was Deborah until several seconds after I was born.
This is true.
They thought there was something wrong with all their high-tech 1960s fetus viewing equipment. Maybe there was. Maybe there wasn't. The future might have been trapped somewhere behind the past. Some years later I found myself talking to a voice inside the mirror in my bedroom. It was a tiny mirror speaking in a deep voice. The voice told me I was on the wrong path. I deserved the voice. I had just finished dialing in a false alarm to the fire department. I didn't like my neighbor, so I told them his house was on fire. I was very convincing. They dispatched four fire engines. I enjoyed watching the chaos. The voice in the mirror changed my mind, but it wasn't trying to save me. It was trying to encourage me. The voice wanted me to seek more adventurous ways to advance my disturbed causes. Instead of following its advice, I retreated into myself. The resulting shyness crippled me and left me unable to act upon my desires for many years.
Each one of us touches darkness in our own way.
The future is a funhouse mirror of the past.
Trying to be good. For a while I sensed that I was a very bad person and yet I was too young to really understand the difference. Without a voice I sought out attention by making dramatic and unnecessary movements through my limited scope of darkness. I failed to understand that the power of evil lies in its subtlety not in its mighty roar. I desired women long before puberty, but because I wanted to be them, not because I wanted them to be an amusement park ride. I saw them as the essence of good and men as the essence of evil. The influences we have shape our perspective. As my father belittled my mother's dreams and hopes, she kept pushing on. I took it as an example by which the world could be measured.
We lose our sense of home early and spend the rest of our lives seeking it again.
What home was in the beginning was the place where you were. Your perspective is limited to the inside of a crib or the walls of a comfortable room. It was once easy to find home. It was all you knew. As your perspective grows, you lose that sense of home. You see it in your minds eye as you wave farewell to innocence. What happens to the soul of the one who no longer cares, of the one who no longer searches? He becomes a desert who loses the desire to go forward. He collapses into his own sand and forgets to wait for the waves to roll in. The waves always come. They bring life just as the sand becomes too hot to bear.
They are never standing still.
will tell you that there is no reason. There is no reason to think, dream or even to love. They change everything into a measurement
. Everything is done for precise reasons. You have to think what is right
and what is accepted by those around you because that is what will help you "succeed
." You must remember to contain your dreams to what they believe is "realistic
." You can only love when that love brings you peace
and when the situation works to your advantage
. Love isn't about peace. It is about fighting and struggling for what you believe in and for who you believe in, no matter how much their stock drops on the market.
Choose your battles well.
You will be graded on the choices,
not on whether you win or lose.
Some will fight wars just because they have the means. Some will fight just because they know they can win. They will fight over every empty piece of ground and every lost cause. They will fight because they are right even though it never really matters who is right and who is wrong. Without a focus on what really means something, you will fight everything in sight. Drawing a line in the sand is no barrier against the changing tides. It is a limitation placed on the self. There are things we can change by fighting. There are things we can see change with the passage of time. There are things that are memories of the past that will soon be remembered as memories of the future once you learn how to turn the hourglass upside down. Everything runs a course and the course winds its way through our life. What was left unsettled will come up again. You can't hide unpaid bills and unanswered questions. They always come back to find you. You can only go onward. Maybe the reason you couldn't swim was because you hadn't found the right reasons yet. Just because you knew you were wrong didn't mean you couldn't learn how to be right. There are more ways to be right than there are to be wrong. Ask yourself about it sometimes.
There are always angels
In the architecture of the soul
We were stripped of our wings
To see if we could fly without them