Tuesday, February 6, 2018

happy childhood

When I was 17 I read in a magazine that your chance for having a happy marriage was greater if you had a happy childhood.  I thought about this for a few days. I couldn't decide if I'd had a happy childhood or not. Finally I decided I had, my criteria being: Joe had never used any part of my body to extinguish his little cigars. Therefore, I had indeed had a happy childhood.

kitchen table

I sit at the kitchen table, I am coloring. It's a weekend morning. I am 8, maybe 9. My feet don't reach the floor.  I hear my parent's bedroom door open.  I am afraid to turn and look down the hallway to see who is there.  Joe comes in, begins making a pot of coffee. He is silent. I am frozen, I should get up and leave but I'm too afraid, paralyzed.  He sits next to me, to my right, says in a quiet, friendly voice, "You know what I'd like to do right now?"  I feel happy for a moment, feel he is confiding something important to me, or something easy, normal, fatherly, like get an ice cream cone, or go fishing...I feel hopeful..I say, No dad, what?  He says, "I'd like to smash your head into that wall," inclines his head to the wall opposite. Oh, I say. He smiles a little around the edges. Watches me. I am careful not to react, to keep a poker face as he would say, a poker face yes but a friendly poker face. If I do anything that could suggest I have an "attitude" then he could start in (you're worthless, no one likes you, your friends aren't your friends they're just pretending to like you and so on and on) and it would escalate until his sadism is at last sated, spent, and I am trying to remain motionless and tearless. Tears provoke sneers and mockery. There is nothing unusual about this scene.