What I Don’t Remember

I don’t remember anything from my earliest years. My sister M. was born when I was nearing three years old, but I don’t remember any of that. We lived in Northern Virginia at the time, in the town where I now work. I don’t remember that, either. There are photographs of me with my mom as a very little boy and of me with my dad as a toddler or perhaps a bit older, when we were in our first home in G-burg.

I remember being a kid, before I made my first communion, sitting in the pew at church, kneeling in the front row or one of the front rows, where my family habitually sat at the time. I think my youngest sister, K., was not yet born. I played some sort of game in my mind, kneeling there by the place where ministers distributed the Precious Blood. Thinking of it as wine, I remember in a hazy way that I did not want people to drink it. Whether I was seriously concerned or only playing, I cannot say. I remember squeezing the arm rest in front of me, squeezing as hard as I could discreetly, willing the communicants to pass the chalice untouched, peeking through slit eyes to see whether my desire had succeeded.

I remember kindergarten and vaguely Mrs. R, my teacher. She was, in my memory, a slight, erect, Chinese woman with grays mixed among her short, broad curls. It seems unlikely that she was Chinese and had curly hair, but that is how I remember her. I remember there were other kids from my neighborhood in the elementary school: Erica, I think, whose father’s stash of pornography was an early or first acquaintance for me with the stuff; Bill, who lives still in G-burg and whom I have seen once since high school graduation; and Michael, one of my most frequent childhood friends. For ten years, until he moved away and then I did, we were friends. Many of my earliest childhood adventures happened with him at my side or I at his. I played video games at his house on the old Coleco set they had, with a smurf game. We had sleepovers at his house. His mother made us pancakes for breakfast and our friend Chris asked her not to use the “gross Aunt Vagina” syrup. He meant Aunt Jemima. His parents divorced and in my mind, as I look back, that might be the earliest shadow that I felt in our pleasant neighborhood of row houses punctuated by cherry blossom trees and filled with sprawling commons, playgrounds, and woods. There was already something at work in me, though. Some years ago, I found my first journal. If I recall, in it there is an entry from when I was eight years old, in which I talk about a dark hole inside my heart.

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