Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At the Corner of My Mind

Recently a friend asked me where I see myself in ten years and I couldn't conceive even the slightest semblance of an answer. Then he asked what it is I want out of life and I couldn't answer that either. He suggested I begin a ritual of sitting quietly, searching the depths of my brain and asking myself what are the things I truly want in life. He believes that knowing oneself completely is the crucial key to the success of happiness, for once you know who you are and accept that, all else falls gently into place. He said memories are good to focus on and that knowing one's first memory is a good start in the process of self discovery.

I've found that to recount one's earliest memories is a difficult task, if not impossible. I rove my brain hoping for a first word, my mother's embrace but I only trundle up images in clip: The Green-knit blanket, the kitchen wallpaper, the feel of the linoleum floor. Everything else, whole important events and the pure, simple moments are scattered about like toys on the suburban front lawn of time.

The moment I may very well have been snapped into life was when I was three years old and wandered away in Disney World.

I was obsessed with the elevators. Well, obsessed with anything, really, as fidgety was my nature but on this trip with my family, the elevators dazzled me. We had been there for a few days and I in my black and red Michael Jackson sweat-pant suit was being led by my father's hand through the Grand Floridian hotel to the indoor arcade. My sisters are on the other side of him. I'm too small to play any of the games. I can't reach the joy sticks and without success my father tries to hold me up for the length of a quarter's game. There are not many people in the arcade and it's during the day. My Father and sisters are playing an arcade game. I am close by, a few feet away at most. I'm bored and I begin to fidget. I begin looking for a quarter on the ground, beneath the arcade games. I flop to the floor and look into the small space between the floor and arcade game. There are some popcorn bits and dust but no quarter. I turn my head around and see through the archway arcade entrance the elevators moving up and down. Up and down. Mom's upstairs. She's taking a nap. I'm going to go to Mommy. I glance up at my family. I see them there. Rachel, smiling, her pointy nose, so tiny at the time laughing and quickly hitting the buttons. Mer, my big sister, next to me, her hair pulled into a pony-tail, taller than Rachel and also hitting buttons. My Father watching with a smile. I am right behind him. Just right there and I walk away. My Father feels no departure, no slight gust of wind, no sneaker shuffled on the carpet. By the time he checks back, I am already gone.

Apparently there were lost child alerts. Security began screening the exits and somehow two hours had passed. None of this I remember. What I do remember is riding up the escalator. A pretty woman with gold bracelets asking, "where's your mother?" To which I reply, "She's upstairs." She takes me by the hand and leads me to a jewelery store which I think she works at. She puts me up on the counter and I sit there, looking around, kicking my feet. My mother comes running in, hand over mouth and hugging me. She thanks the woman at the store. She leads me to my Father, his eyes red and bleary, he takes me from my mother's hands and shakes me hard. So hard. Then hugs me. I can't tell if he's angry or happy it seems a frightening blend of both. "Don't you ever do this again! DON'T. YOU. EVER. DO. THIS. AGAIN!" He shakes me so hard I bite my tongue. I feel the pain. I remember the pain. The jerk of my neck. It is that pain. That one single flash of heat upon which all my memories are brought back. That is when my eyes first opened. When life as I know it, truly began.


Jim said...

This all sounds so familiar. Memories can be very powerful and affect the present. It's hard to stop this sometimes.

Spouse Walker said...

Happiness is not who we are, it is what we sometimes experience.

Tony said...

your writing here sears into me, eric. the way you are able to relate to us the first childhood shock of "regret"--the realization that some of our choices can be seen as wrong, that our desire for adventure can affect others negatively. i know that little boy you write of, we all do, i suspect, and the shakings just continue as we grow older--our first sense of shame, the first time our heart breaks, our first jarring loss. what keeps us going, maybe, are the hugs that hopefully follow the shakings. your father and mother must have just been besides themselves at the thought of losing their little boy.

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