September 25, 2005

Confession

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.