Cabot O’Callaghan is all grown up, but his childhood memories still haunt him.
I remember my mom would often ask if I felt bad that I didn’t have a father. I didn’t feel bad, I’d say. She would fix me breakfast and then fall asleep on the couch. I would make a nest with my blanket in the bend of her legs and watch TV. I remember hugs. I remember kisses. I remember feeling safe. I remember being happy. She called me Guy. My guy. I remember the curls of smoke from her cigarettes, the big glass ashtray. The house was always clean and everything had a place. Men would stare at her when we would go to the pool. Men always stared at her. She liked it. I did not. I remember Ultraman on the television and her yelling at me to stop jumping on the couch.
I remember my aunt. She lived with us and worked at the air force base. She was slow. Sometimes spit would leak out the corner of her mouth. I would ask her math questions and she wouldn’t know the answer. I remember she had a funny laugh. We watched a movie on TV and the ship sank. Everybody died. She cried and cried. I cried too. She would yell my name down the street in the summer heat. I remember I would pretend not to hear. I remember being annoyed when she told me what to do. She was more like my big sister than aunt. She was nice and watched out for me.
I remember my grandfather. He would throw me in the air. We would go places in his car. The dashboard was all shiny metal with lots of switches and levers. He would take me to the ocean. He would take me to the mountains. His camping trailer had a box of stale Cheerios in the cabinet. A small drop of snot hung perpetually from the tip of his nose and he aways had a handkerchief. He was gruff. He was tall and strong and his hands were rough. He lived alone. His house was messy and dusty. Piles of National Geographic lay next to a chair. Rolls of Irish coins were under his bed. There was a fist-size hole in the wall in the kitchen covered with a calendar. He would drink and say confusing things.
I remember my uncle. He was scary and his clothes were dirty. I didn’t know who he was. He asked for my mom when I answered the door. Mom was sad when he left. She told me he was a bum and traveled on the trains. I remember the headless body on the tracks. I remember the bits of flesh and hair and dark dry blood left at the scene. He never came back.
I remember my great aunt. I saw her on holidays. She walked with a cane, wore her hair short. She lived alone and wore polyester pantsuits. Sometimes a hat. Her house smelled funny. I remember old candy in a glass bowl on a coffee table and the organ with all the dials, switches, and sliders in her living room.
I remember I was seven when mom found someone to love. You are going to have a father, my Big Brother said. You don’t need me anymore, he said. A stranger was going to be my dad. I remember that’s when my mom found out my secret. I remember the panic in her eyes. “Do you know what a homosexual is,” she asked. I didn’t know. I remember feeling scared and confused. She said I didn’t do anything wrong but I felt in trouble. She said to stay away from the older neighborhood boy. He lived just down the street. He had secrets with other kids. No one called the police. No one saw a counselor. I remember the curls of smoke from her cigarette and the big glass ashtray.
I remember that’s when I started feeling that something was wrong with me.
…and I felt abandoned.
…and I became afraid of the dark.
…and I had night terrors.
…and I tried to run away.
…and I changed schools every year.
…and I started stealing.
…and I didn’t feel safe.
…and I stopped trusting.
…and I was afraid to love.
…and I felt separate.
…and I started to feel lost.