I was the one to find the back door open. We had just returned from the swim club, and at first I thought my brother had forgotten to shut the door. Then I saw the broken glass on the rug and the smashed window.
When the policemen came my mother told my brother and me to go outside and play, but instead of playing, we sat on the curb and stared at the police car in front of our house. There had never been a police car in front of anyone’s house. My friend Richard came over and asked why the police car was there, so I told him. He was impressed. I added that the burglars had thrown all the drawers on the floor.
That night my brother woke me and said there were strangers in the house. I listened for a while and didn’t hear anything. However he insisted I go downstairs to make sure, so went downstairs. There wasn’t anyone.
This same scene repeated night after night. I would be asleep and my brother would come in and say he heard strangers in the house. “But there aren’t,” I would say, and he’d say, “No, I heard them.” I would remind him of all the other times he supposedly heard them, and he’d say, “I really heard them this time.” Finally, because it was only way to get him to go back to sleep, I would walk through the house in the dark.
After a few weeks of this, my brother suddenly stopped waking me. This seemed as strange as the waking had been, but I wasn’t about to risk asking him about it and having the whole thing start up again. Instead I said nothing, and he said nothing, and that was the end of it.
Decades later my mother confessed to having staged the burglary. I believe we were talking about my childhood and she was describing, yet again, how hard those times had been for her.
The burglary was a scam to collect insurance money. We were destitute because my father had stopped providing child support. So while we were at the swim club, my mother’s boyfriend Phil smashed the window and ransacked the house.
I still remember Phil. He had a lot of body hair. I liked him best of all my mother’s boyfriends, then or ever. He was nice without being phony.
I asked my mother if she had told my brother yet, and she sort of looked at her hands. It turns out she that had told him a few weeks after the burglary. She had no choice. Before waking me, he would wake her, and she’d be the one to walk through the house in the dark. Afterwards she would lay in bed and listen as he crept down the hall toward my room.
This morning over oatmeal, K and I brainstormed offensive taglines. It began with the brown sugar. The current Domino tagline reads, “We’ll always be your sugar.” I suggested they change this to “How come you taste so good?” but K convinced me it would be better as “Just like a black girl should.” Imagine it. “Domino Brown Sugar: Just Like a Black Girl Should.” All hell would break loose.
Then K and I turned to the bananas. It only took me a minute to formulate the winning tagline. However, before I reveal it, you have to promise to imagine a world in which this phrase appears on a little sticker affixed to every banana you buy.
Did you just promise? Are you now imagining it? Thank you.
The sticker says, “Happy to See You.”
Her letter lies unopened on the kitchen table. Since I don’t know what it says, it could say almost anything. This remains true until the moment I open it, when all possibilities dissolve into a single reality. Right now I don’t want that moment to come, despite the fact that my last thought before opening the mailbox was how much I wanted her letter to be there.
One hears of people who avoid certain medical tests for fear they may have the disease. They do this despite the fact that such tests do not and cannot change the facts: one either does or does not have the disease. Similarly her letter already says what it says, whether I read it or not.
At the moment I begin to read her words, I enter an unknown room, one in which nearly anything is possible, although some things are more possible than others. For now I sit outside that room, in a kind of waiting area, readying myself.
A friend told me that Debbie was claiming I had made out with her at Pennysue Gold’s party. This was a lie. I hadn’t said three words to Debbie and certainly hadn’t kissed her.
What to do? On the one hand, I wanted my friends to know that I hadn’t kissed Debbie and wouldn’t have done so if given the opportunity. On the other hand, I had no desire to humiliate the poor girl, who after all had chosen me for the lie.
In retrospect, Debbie’s lie may have been less flattering than I imagined. Had Debbie claimed to have made out with the hunky Mark Goodman, her friends would have laughed at her. I was a believable choice. Or perhaps the lie was genuine, perhaps Debbie liked me and chose me for that reason. It’s even possible she told the lie knowing I would hear about it.
Whatever the truth, I’ll never know because I moved away soon after and never saw any of those friends again.
I didn’t kiss her, though, that’s for certain. I’ve kissed and not told, but never kissed and forgotten.
I met Stacey at a dance party in Pennysue Gold’s basement. I was fourteen. We danced a slow dance and she put her leg between mine, rubbing my crouch in rhythm to the music.
At first I had no idea what she was doing. None of the girls I knew would ever do such a thing. It never would have occurred to them, nor would it have occurred to me to want them to do it; it was an act beyond our mutual conception. All that changed with Stacey.
Unfortunately I can’t remember how the dance ended or what we said at that moment, assuming I managed to speak. Instead my next memory is of breathlessly telling my best friend David what had happened. He wasted no time asking Stacey to dance, and she did the same thing to him. Evidently it was how she danced.
Later, on the couch, Stacey revealed that she lived in the suburbs somewhere, an impossibly far distance away. She was Pennysue Gold’s cousin and had been driven to the party by her mother. I knew I would never see her again, and I never did.
In memory she has become my ex-girlfriend, S. Whenever I try to picture the girl in my arms that night, I see S. Because of this persistent confusion, I’ve often wondered if my “type” was imprinted that night in Pennysue Gold’s basement, at the moment Stacey glided her leg between mine.
I’ve decided to write something new on Oblivio every day for the next hundred days. This is probably a bad idea, another in a series of self-made prisons, but bad or not it’s still an idea, something I haven’t had in some time.
I do have a few stories in mind to start. For example I’ve been working on a series called Girls I Never Kissed. This should keep me busy for a while, given the number of girls who qualify.
How many is that? Several billion, give or take. Of course if you count the dead, the numbers go up. According to the calculations of Tom Ramsey at the University of Hawaii, approximately 96,100,000,000 people had lived on the earth as of the year 2000, roughly half of whom, one presumes, were female.
That’s a lot of lips to have never kissed. But then I think: Someone did, most likely. It’s a nice thought.