sometimes I have nightmares

about the smell of your hair dye

the gently pressed corners of your

pies – you never – used your own crusts –

but you called yourself betty homemaker with

a slightly maniacal laugh and

when you laughed you cried a little bit

on the inside

and the tears gently collected in the pit of your empty

starved for attention


salty and sloshing back and forth

as you sway in your little

floral print,




I was eight and in the bathtub splashing around with my floating toys. I was a child and an adult. I was tall but always too short. I had separated myself from those younger than me but still couldn’t see age as a process. I thought – I have aged. I have become. I am done. I am ready. And I splashed.

My parents would shout from the bedroom across the hall. To make sure I was alive. To make sure I was breathing. To make sure I hadn’t drowned, had a stroke, I don’t know. A baby stroke. A little kid bonking her head and bleeding out, bubbles going red and sticky. Always responding with a sullen yeah.

The bathtub was freedom. Quiet. A room to oneself. The bathtub was power. Cleanliness warmth. The bath was fun. It was an empty canvas for my imaginative scribbles. Barbies on the swim team. Catching the biggest fish. The plastic repair man plugging the small drain holes that my toes still deeply feared.

Our bathroom floor used to be linoleum I think. Whatever happened before the age of eight, whatever my life was back then, the state of our bathroom floor has not been retained. I do remember the living room carpet. A forest green, a mossy green, short a stout, kind of prickly, and patchy in places. The coffee table covering up the coffee stains, a trick I’ve stolen more than a decade later.

One day a man came in to the house. Put his toolbox down by the door on that green carpet. Walked to the bathroom. Going to install some new tile. They ripped up the laminate and knocked out the floor. Water damage, probably.

There it was. A light coming up from down below. The basement. The crawl space. The part of our house I’d never seen before but I was convinced so surely held all the secrets of homeowners before us. There must be dolls down there. Toys of some kind. I bet there is even a jungle gym. My parents probably wondered why I thought there might be toys buried beneath the soils of our crawl space and thinking of it now, I understand. Let’s hope no kids ever had been found down there.

I tip toed around the empty holes before he patched them up, fearing I’d fall in and never be recovered. The space under the house wasn’t a dreamscape now any more than the attic had been once I saw it filled with dust. It had shown itself to me for what it was. A place for different kinds of fantasies. Darker ones, dreary ones, ones I had no interested in at eight. I walked back into my room and shrugged onto the carpet and into a pile of myself.

My parents came into the room and told me I couldn’t play mermaid anymore. I rolled my eyes or sighed or held myself up a little higher and said I didn’t do that anymore. Why did they have to say that in front of the repair man. Now he would think I was a little kid. I didn’t play mermaid anymore. I just liked to splash the water. Splash it back, and forth, a slow swaying motion. So small back then. My feet didn’t even reach the end of the tub. The water would lift me up if it swayed me just right and it would rock me to sleep.

“Still alive in there?”

Toes rubbing up against the ceramic. A splash of water on the new tile that I cover with the mat. One lone bubble that shifts down my leg as I dry myself off.

It’s said that we cannot recall memories earlier than the age of 3 or 4, and anything this young is blurry, unreliable, or at the worst, a completely fabricated story our brain has crafted in order to fill in the missing pieces.

Sometimes someone comes along and says they have a perfectly preserved memory from the age of two and I wonder if they are pulling back some truly repressed shit, or if they’ve simply created this world for themselves and are the most psychopathic among us.

It is a blessing to forget those years. Pooping. Screaming. Crying. Confused. The sheer insanity of learning every single thing you see all at once. The neurons stretching out and bursting, breaking, plastic melting, your brain growing and on fire, exploding. And pooping. And screaming. and crying. But you don’t know why.

I don’t remember much from being little, just snapshots. I remember a mossy covered sidewalk. I remember a dog. I remember the smell of a house I was only in once in a city I couldn’t place if you asked me to try.

I always thought that consciousness is what makes us human, and alive, but what a strange consciousness it is. A passing kind of consciousness. A charging stage where we exist mostly just to boot up into our solid selves.

I wonder what the brain of an infant would do in my body. Right now. Sky and trees and cars and wind and dirt and the slightly sickening smell of tuna and day old creamer. A bee buzzes along the bush outside while I type. I wonder if I would absorb these things all at once, or one at a time. If my eyes rocking back and forth along like a scanner would present a picture that made sense on the other side. Or if, simply, i would be screaming, and crying, and pooping. Because life without experience is simply terrifying.

I was sitting outside of advising the other day when this foreign exchange student walked in. He said his name was ____ and he sat down and shook the advisors hand. It’s a small room with two office chairs and a desk that has a monitor placed on top.

“Can we have your ID number?”

“We want to bring up your class schedule.”

He offers the numbers and they put them in. He’s nervous, he’s fidgeting.

_____ just moved here recently. They’re offering him support to get through his degree. I wonder where he moved from. He doesn’t say. I wonder where he grew up. He doesn’t say. I wonder where his mother and father are. I wonder what he ate for dinner when he was a kid. I wonder what he’s afraid of. I wonder what his favorite movie is. I wonder how long he’s been in school and I listen in to see how much longer he has left. He makes a second appointment. He leaves.

I come back next week and he’s there again. There’s no interesting story, it’s just a normal one I guess. He figures out his class schedule. He goes to class. But it makes me think about all of the people around me. They’re all thinking about the same things I am. They’re all doing the same things I am. We wake up and we eat breakfast and we go to class and we struggle with whatever little system we’re currently cycling around in. How many weeks ago did I have that same conversation? Was anyone listening in on me?

He’s wearing sneakers.

“Nice sneakers.” I said.


I’ll probably never see him again.

It is easy to box up memories.

Yeah. I boxed them up.

I told myself I’d throw them away.

Fabric and paper and plastic and

slippery shiny photographs once loved and

kissed and hugged and

well, I let it go anyways.

I tip it into the bin


it falls

and I guess it keeps on falling

a kaleidoscope of

all those things

but I can’t remember what

any of them were


I left a mess about

and it follows me in ghostly footprints

all the places that I go.

I left a mess about and

sometimes I try to wipe it up

with those super unabsorbant

memory tricks of mine.

I left a mess about and, you know,

sometimes I wonder if it bounced before

it broke.

Sometimes I wonder if I threw it

into the wall and

sometimes I wonder if it

rolled down the street a bit

before coming to a halt.

I left a mess about and

I swept it under the rug and

and I moved out

’cause some messes

I guess

you can’t clean up.

I can hear his alarm go off at the same time my alarm goes off, mine a loud chant, his a low hum as it rattles against the bedside table.

He gets up –

I get up –

I pee –

he pees.

I can hear it all echoing out

in symphonies of thin walls

and early morning habits.

I imagine the whole complex

like timed mechanical puppets-

the clock hits 5 –

we rotate upwards –

yawn –

pull the covers back –

make the bed –

places to be.