I was scared that Mom or Dad would kill me in my sleep. Dad was an FBI agent and he had a gun that he sometimes kept in the house. I thought even he was afraid of Mom, who screamed all the time, got hysterically mad and spanked me when I was little. It was her I listened for as I laid in bed in my thin yellow nightgown, reading Nancy Drew by the light of my night-light, while I tried not to think about getting murdered.
My parents’ bedroom door opened and I heard Mom’s sharp footsteps in the hallway. They sounded mad. I waited curled on my side with the book under the covers and screamed No, Mom, No! inside my head. If either of them came for me tonight, I’d jump out the window. I didn’t care that my room was upstairs. I’d jump anyway, land mangled on the driveway and run across our yard as fast as I could. I’d pound on our next-door neighbor’s door. If she answered, I’d tell her my parents were chasing me and beg her to protect me. If she didn’t believe me, I’d run faster and pound harder at the next house and go through the neighborhood with wild desperation until I found someone who would keep me safe. It might not last. My parents might follow me, shoot into the distance or use the authorities to take me back, but that was like the second story window and the driveway; if I wanted to survive, I’d have to think about it later.
The bathroom door opened and Mom went in. I kept freezing. She finally stalked back to her room and I breathed. The quiet lasted a few full chapters.
I got up and went to my window. It faced the driveway and our front yard with its giant tree. The moon was out, maybe full, I couldn’t tell. It was big and white and round and it cast shadows through the branches onto the grass. I had a huge feeling of dark and mysterious magic in my chest. If I could touch it, it would be like touching my soul. It would make me huge too, and magic. I stood watching the moon, the tree, and the shadows until I was finally tired.
Yeah, it’s just a little dark, I know. This is what I was invited to read at “The Best Memoirists Pageant Ever” at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC in 2007. So the picture is from that event. Fun times.
Fun fact: I was kinda freaking about reading this piece out loud and so a good friend had me read parts to her beforehand, and from the first sentence we were laughing our asses off. It’s not really funny, it just somehow struck us that way. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. And that’s okay.
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