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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

the imaginary numbers



There was a farmer down the road when I was a boy. He was Polish and raised goats, milking cows. He made his own maple syrup like everyone else. Every day or two I would climb into the filthy white Ford pickup and sit next to my father. I would hold the milk pail, drumming against it as we drove. We would arrive, maybe Mr. Kluzak was playing with his goats, even trying to get them to butt heads with him for a laugh. We filled the milk pail and I held it hot between my knees on the way back home. Milk is warm I would tell myself - not cold like in the giant refrigerators in the supermarket in plastic gallon jugs. This curious little truth nagged at me. 

Years later, I am haunted by handfuls of these sticky truths. They repeat in my ears, a humming whisper, a stale reminder of what I already know, or that I should know better. My cheeks run red as I step outside of myself hoping E does not notice. She catches everything these days. Being the parent of a ten year old has thrown me for a loop. Too many ideas have been set in motion to be unsaid, too many habits gone wild. I had no toys with batteries when I was her age. We were too poor and it was not such a strange idea back then. 

Price Chopper was the supermarket we went to, paying mostly with food stamps. I would go to the metal bin of broken electronic toys with my brother, jabbing at them, making frantic attempts at some crude football game or with real luck an Atari left unattended. The salesman would eventually find us, leaning in and saying something like "I'll give it to you cut and dry, you either buy something or you walk away boys." He really spoke like that, like a substitute science teacher. 

I found a game, four white squares across and four down. It had a working battery but the plastic that showed the instructions and the numbers for each square had been ripped off. It had to have had a price of one or two dollars on it, not more. Somehow I got my mother to buy it for me. I spent days, methodically pressing buttons, flipping the little switches imagining what mode I was in, listening to the little electronic songs it burped out. Sooner than later, I surrendered. It was junk, useless, nothing I could bring to school and flash in front of anyone to make them jealous. 



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