There was a teenage boy named Todd who once told me in his room how he would go underneath his bed and lie on top of his girlfriend most times she’d visit. Todd was the brother of a friend of mine whose apartment wasn’t far off and when he told me this I thought of how I had friends over to my apartment and we’d close the door, just as Todd told me he did, and because of that, at first shake, what Todd told me didn’t strike me as curious. The gesture of closing the door, of separation, was mostly okay in my home and it made me feel like an adult, which maybe is one of the reasons why Todd closed the door, because lying on his girlfriend with the door closed not only detached but made him, too, feel like an adult, like he was graced with an achievement, as if he reached a point where he felt he earned seclusion and did this not only to hide the act from his parents but because he also believed that it was his right to keep the rest of the world out. I don’t remember if he told me what they did, specifically, the two of them under his bed, though he must have, in a way, because I do remember how he postured himself well-pleased, a braggart, in front of me that day and it was in that boasting I read a type of lasciviousness defined by my young mind and I responded with an uncertainty of permission for what he, they, did. As I went on standing there I felt somewhat confused, completely unqualified to enter into a conversation or even ask questions that allowed Todd to further talk, and part of me wanted him to further talk, but I didn’t want him to talk about sex, if that’s what it fully was, because young, my body barely felt my own yet and I couldn’t understand what someone else felt like and how to share your bodies with each other, how to merge, how to coalesce, and then leave.
As far back as I can think, my parents and I watched television together in our front room, my mom and dad spread amongst two couches and me lying belly-down on rust-colored carpet. We, too, had dinner together this way, telling stories from the day, and thinking back I can’t see what was missed from not sharing each other’s gaze across a table because we shared words as much as we would have shared looks. How we entered into each other was through the depths of our own etymology, the words like vitamins, saving each other’s lives through laughter, empathy, attention. And still, there we were, experiencing imagination and story through broadcast. It was our own alchemy, our mix, our creation of retrospective relish and bond. One night, we watched a movie together, a full-length cartoon about Charlie Brown and his pals visiting Europe and there was humor and narrative and outside of the setting, nothing all that dissimilar from other animated stories of the same ilk. However, at the end there was a plane flight home and during this scene was when I felt an overwhelming cover of heartbreak and I had to, at that moment, talk with my grandma. What I remember was telling my parents that I was afraid of grandma dying, though there were no immediate truths that supported that fear. Part of me, now, wonders about the catalyst, that scene, and how it prompted my response. Though, more, I think about the arrival of an awareness, awareness of eventuality, of what-to-come. I may have, then, first felt love through that sadness, felt it by way of recognizing that extension was finite, by a distant and arriving pulse, we, waiting to be bleached, to be overcome, to be removed. For me, I identified a loss that I had yet to lose, one with a vicinity I couldn’t tag; as much as I felt its proximity, I couldn’t see its immediate presence. It was a step, a new bloom.
My parents had a maroon van that wasn’t always maroon, though I can’t remember the original color before it was painted and my dad and my uncle stretched black and gold and silver pinstripes along either side and the back of it. This was the van we took on a Friday to my friend Greg’s house where I was going to sleep over and while I wasn’t always eager to spend nights away from my own home, Greg’s home had a dynamic that was reasonably different from mine and it was new and I was getting to the age where I became aware of life habituating me to the new and it was altogether adventurous and comforting. We ate delivered pizza and watched Cubs baseball while Greg’s sisters played nearby, his youngest sister outfitting dolls and showing us one, scantily dressed called “Hooker Barbie.” We built things from mixed Legos and miniature logs and squint-watched cable movies after everyone else had gone to bed hoping to see a blur of a breast. The next day we met three brothers I hadn’t met before on a street with no curbs, cicadas or locusts clattering around us. All us boys had bikes and talked about modifications we’d plan to make so the bikes would be more like bikes that older kids ride. We discussed girlfriends we didn’t really have and Greg used the word “wench” a lot. We threw stones at trees and talked about knives. The brothers brought up lunch and if we wanted to stay and Greg agreed for us and the brothers ran in for permission. One of the brothers started in and then turned back and stumbled and just as quickly as he regained his balance I suddenly noticed that his small, pink right arm stopped just at the elbow, skin curling under and into the rest of his arm, how smoke from an explosion wreathes and twists into its own tube. I turned and cried, ran, as if the part of the arm that was never there was tracking me. I was scared and unsure and later ashamed. Faulkner said, “Unless you’re ashamed of yourself now and then, you’re not honest.” But, then, I was too young for Faulkner. I later tried to make friends with the boy, tried to get close to him, tried to place an arm where it wasn’t at every angle from which I observed that emptiness, tried to imagine life easier, to understand, myself.