I Remember

A boy riding a bicycle down a lane.

[This post is an homage to my college creative nonfiction classes, where we were asked to write a string of sentences that all begin with “I remember…” It’s such a great exercise to get you in the mood for writing, especially nonfiction. The exercise is based on Joe Brainard’s book of the same title (1970). Feel free to comment your own I remembers.]

I remember the dusty hayloft and rickety ladder, and the abandoned pile of horseshoes found beneath the hay.

I remember the adult-sized tricycle Natalie gave me before she died. I pedaled it up the hill and down the small gravel path that led to the cell phone tower, where I sat and watched the sun rise.

I remember when the chain rusted and snapped and the brakes stopped working and how I took the bike back to Natalie’s house in the middle of the night without telling her parents it was me who had it in the first place and how I never went back there again.

I remember bokchoy in oyster sauce, and sneaking kisses while his father watched the Peking Opera on the couch.

I remember inerasable red rings around our mouths from drinking fruit punch from plastic jugs in the sweltering heat.

I remember playing with my father’s hands on the wraparound porch, looking at his hairy knuckles and being afraid that I would grow hair there, too.

I remember the smell of vinegar and dipping my fingers into the dye.

I remember talking about paleontology the first time I got drunk with the boy whose beard later felt like sandpaper.

I remember when I used to receive trophies for being good at bowling.

I remember the loaves of bread my grandmother made. Sweet, Sunday carbohydrates.

I remember the old man in a rusted yellow pickup who offered a Gideon Bible as a tip for carrying his groceries out at Fareway. I accepted reluctantly, but with a smile.

I remember how the Bible slapped around in my pants pocket the rest of the afternoon, back and forth, like some sort of biblical erection.

I remember headlights shutting off behind the Hungry Hobo and listening to the sound of my own heavy breathing as I headed toward apartment fifteen. The sound of the city was faint and even, as if masked by the late hour and the overwhelming feeling of my own regret.

I remember trips in my uncle’s semi, and the stash of pornos I found in the back cabin, above the bed.

I remember the discarded outhouses, picnic tables, signs, and boat ramps the day I found the lake’s graveyard, and how she said this is what the apocalypse would look like.

I remember it being so quiet behind the silo we could hear the knock of the wind chimes from the porch far, far away, and how our noses touched, and how they were snotty, but perfect.

I remember the white noise of the wind and the high frequency pitch at the end of “A Day in the Life.”

I remember the strong smell of blood in the garage as my father and brother taught me how to properly remove a deer’s insides, and the black of the plastic bag used to hold all the guts.

I remember the group of boys showing each other their pubic hair, flaunting it like a prize of masculinity, and how I watched with an uneasy, junior high curiosity.

I remember the monster behind the tent.

I remember the time spent in the school auditorium, how you thought it would be a good idea to wrap ourselves in the velvety black curtain and make out and it was.

I remember when the school librarian fell in the library and, in her old age, broke both of her arms. At the time (and still today) I wonder who had found her lying there, unable to move, or if she had screamed and screamed or simply remained silent, racked with terror.

I remember the baseball diamond and eating peanuts from their shells.

I remember the worst thunderstorm. My mother and I, drunk, sat in the garage trying to take pictures of the lightning flashes with our cameras.

I remember sliding pennies down the banister and catching them in a coffee can.

I remember my first and only Boy Scout meeting. We made lanyards and I hated the Scout Masters who pretended to be father figures.

I remember the house on Washington Street and how the fishtail flopped against the cutting board as her knife sunk into the notch just behind its head.

I remember stealing vegetables from the school garden and feeling like a badass.

I remember admiring my grandmother’s sweater collection as a small child and then one day (many years later) realizing that my collection surpassed hers.

I remember when the traveling carnival rooted itself in the mall parking lot, and how, the morning after opening night, they found a carnival worker dead beside the dumpsters. No more carnival after that.

I remember the projection box at the theatre, the lone, tatty couch the managers used to fuck girls they brought in for an afterhours movie.

I remember my aunt wrapping her dead pet fish in aluminum foil and putting them in the freezer. They’re probably still there now.

I remember the yellow kickball bouncing to where I sat on the edge of the playground. The boy, my neighbor, running toward me as a I held it in my hands, and how I kicked it over his head as he got closer.

I remember, years later, thinking of the kickball as we watched the police enter his home while his mother sobbed outside, asking herself loudly why, why, why?

*

[Image credit: Moonjazz (2008). Irish Spirit, Boyhood on a Bike. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/4L3Je8. Used under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)]

One thought on “I Remember

  1. When I was in college, a group came to our dining hall and passed out small, green new testament bibles to everyone. It felt disrespectful to decline, and once in possession, blasphemous to throw it away. Little green bibles were all around the dormitory.

    I did a similar exercise once with the phrase “I miss” where I painted various scenes in my long and troubled relationship with alcohol.

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