Seems like I can remember much of my early childhood but I have a hard time with yesterday, or last week. I was three years old when my parents separated. One of the first things I can remember is being knocked down face first into a glass coffee table. My brother was (and still is) two years older than I am. He and I were playing one evening after the sun had gone down. We’re in the living room of my Aunt’s bungalow and he just plows my face into the table. I was going to need stitches.
I am carried to the car by my Aunt who is rushing quietly while my mom is shouting at everyone..angry..worried. I can remember the night perfectly. It was a Santa Ana night. There was a breeze that was warm and dry as a bone. The air smells like cut grass and jasmine. I am in the backseat and I can hear the tires thumping over the seams in the concrete blocks that the roads here are made of. kathump, kathump – kathump, kathump…the lights of the city are spread out across the whole windshield as we head down the long hill our Aunt Rita’s house was on. We eventually get to the hospital and soon a nurse is looking at my face with a wince and grimace like someone being shown Blood on the Highway for the first time ever and rushes me into another clean, white, blindingly bright room. I have to look at the floor but it’s white so I shield my eyes and kinda close them a bit. My left eye is swelling shut so that’s good. My mouth is full of the coppery taste of blood and I can feel the slippery, sharp cut along the inside of my lower lip.
The Doctor comes whooshing through the door, his white coat like a cape behind him..I was already familiar with Batman. He takes a look, tilting my face up into that blinding, painful whiteness of light and says “whew! what happened to you?..looks like your gonna have a nice shiner there – open your mouth now, wide as you can…that’s it – does it hurt to open up like that? yeah? ok – I’ll be right back”.
He stops where the nurse is standing and says something to her then walks out the door.
The nurse smiles at me then goes to the wall cabinet and gets a tray – she starts putting things on the tray then brings it to where I’m sitting and sets it down. It has lots of very sharp and shiny things on it and they are all glinting at me in this bright, garish, gleaming white room. A very painful memory…but like it always does, the pain fades away eventually.
Soon afterward we were in Canada for the first time. There would ultimately be three stints for us there, in the great North Country. This one lasted about a year and a half. I started kindergarten there but within a week or two we would find ourselves at the train station in Rochester NY..headed for San Diego…and back home? I would soon be conflicted and confused about where exactly ‘home’ was on a map.