I’m digging deep into my mind, going back, finding memories, because it helps me to think about who I am now, and it helps me to write, and to process my pain. I have these memories from when I was very young, before I could use effective verbal communication, when I was barely more than a baby. Do you have these kinds of memories too? Do you think about them? Do you think about the thoughts that were pulsating through your mind before you had the language skills necessary to express them? Well I do have these memories, and I am able to access them by remembering the houses that I lived in when I had these thoughts.
Until I was about four, or five years old, my family lived in a this big old Victorian house in Springfield Missouri, a small rural town about three hours away from where I actually grew up, in St. Louis Missouri. I remember this house being so huge, massive almost, or maybe it seems so big in my memory because I was so small at the time, and it seemed to have so many rooms that I would hide in, and play my secret games with dead insects, and pebbles, and dolls that I would give unique haircuts to, because I never could tolerate things all being the same, but then I never could tolerate being the same in any way to anyone else, and this has always brought me personal strife, but I feel I can’t help it. I am who I am, and I am an artist, after all.
The house on Broadway was haunted, or whatever you want to call it. I believe in the unexplainable. I believe in every God. I believe that a spirit can inhabit a stone, and I believe that I lived in a haunted house, and I will get to that, but first, I have to walk you through this old Victorian house as I remember it.
It was a two story house. I can open the front door in my mind, and there is a living room, and a staircase leading up. The front room leads to the dining room, the dining room leads to a sun room that in my memory is made of windows, and there is a back door, and a long steep concrete staircase leading to a fenced back yard. Off to the side of the dining room, there is a kitchen with a breakfast nook, then a bathroom, and a master bedroom. Upstairs there were two bedrooms that I remember, one for my two brothers, and one for me and my sister, then a short flight of stairs leading to what used to be called “the maids quarters”, but my parents rented this out as an apartment to their gay friends, Bernard, and Darell.
I am the oldest girl, but I am the middle child. Jeremy is the oldest, Jacob is next, I am third, Emily is the fourth, and later, Katie came. I had four siblings, but now I have three, because Jacob is dead, but, that’s another story, and I have to stay inside of the house on Broadway.
It was in this house that They began coming to me, they were these shadows that to me looked like these dark fluid noodles, and that’s what I called Them, The Noodles. I would open my eyes, and I couldn’t move, and that’s when they would come to me. They would be there, moving about the room, and I felt safe with them. They would sit in the wooden rocking chair that was between my bed, and Emily’s crib, and they would observe me, and comfort me. I felt like they cared about me, and maybe they did, because they weren’t scary yet, but I was innocent then. When they were with me, I wouldn’t feel so alone and different, but then, They knew the terrible secret I was keeping, because they saw it happen.
Ever since I can remember, there has been this invisible wall between me and the world. It surrounds me, and confines me, thus regulating me to my own mind, where I developed this rich inner world that did not require others, though I longed to share it. My inner world was, and is so very beautiful, but beauty can be so heartbreakingly lonely, and such is my existence here, now, as then. I have never felt like I was a part of anything, or that I belong here among you, so I stay inside of mind, because it’s safer there. This has always been, and will always be, and no matter how suffocating the loneliness, this huge head of mine is preferable to the realities, and disapointments awaiting me in your world.
The two gay men who lived in the maids quarters were not a couple, but they were friends. Darrel was a drag queen, and both of his ears were pierced, and you must understand how radical this was, being that we all lived in a small town in rural Missouri, and it was the 1980’s. Darrel had a collection of wigs, all of them big, and curly, and black as ravens wings, resting on mannequin heads that he had decorated with the most wonderfully garish makeup. They were like little alters, those mannequin heads, and I loved to look at them, because all of the glitter, and bright colours made me feel happy, and in my childish mind, I thought that they were beautiful, and I thought that Darrel looked like a princess whenever he would dress like a woman, and I wanted to look like that when I grew into a lady. One time, I remember Darrell was babysitting me, and decide that it would be fun to play beauty parlor, so he did my makeup, and I remember there was a lot of black eyeliner, bright blue eye shadow, and the reddest lipstick, and he crowned me with a curly black wig. Then he stood me in front of a mirror, and told me that I was queen, and I felt so special in that moment, it was a kind of magic that I can’t forget, because I won’t forge itt. I can’t allow only pain to live in my memory, there has to be some kindness within my darkly beautiful inner world, right?
The only thing that I remember about Bernard though, is that he was black, and that once he took me to church with him, and I was not very happy about this, because I hated church, and anyone who was raised Catholic knows that Mass is terminally boring. But this church was different. There were all kinds of different people there, and a rock band, and I remember being given a tambourine, and then encouraged to play it and dance, and clap my hands. Then there was a puppet show, and snacks, arts and crafts, and then all of the children were allowed to play while the adults talked and mingled, and drank fruit punch from little paper cups. It was lovely, but I never went back, and I don’t know why, but I can only assume it had something to do with my dad believing that only Catholics go to Heaven, but Dennis McCann is a terrible person, and an even worse parent, so he would think a thing like that because he is an ass hole, and my respect for him at this point in my life is nonexistent.
Whenever I remember the house on Broadway, I seem to remember that there was also a back staircase, but I’m not sure, but I remember something like that existing in that house and I think that it ended in the kitchen. I remember creeping down these stairs when I was very little, just out of diapers little, or very near to it, so that I could slip into bed next to my mother, and nurse. Yes, my mother nursed me until I was two years old, and I remember it. I have very few kind, and comforting memories of this woman, the sweetness of breast milk being one of them. Do you know what breast milk tastes like to a child? It tastes like steamed milk with honey, and it’s soft in your mouth like melting butter, and this memory is wonderful to me, because I felt so loved in those moments, and they are such a stark contrast to my later memories her, Brenda, for as time passed, and I grew older, she always reminded me what a bad little girl I was, and that I was a disappointment, and a burden, but she did that to all of us, and I don’t know why, other than she was angry at her life, and so she took it out on her children.
And so it was that one night I came creeping down these stairs, and Dennis was standing in the kitchen kissing a man. It wasn’t a peck on the cheek kind of a kiss, but the deep kind. It was the kind of kiss where you tie your tongue, and lips up in a knot with someone else’s, and you come away breathless, wet, or hard, and ready for what is next. My dad was kissing a man in this way, but I did not think anything of it, just as I did not think anything of the two gay men, one of whom was a drag queen, living upstairs in the maid’s quarters. I only wanted to be picked up and placed in bed next to my mother so that I could nurse.
The man my dad was kissing pulled away. I stood there in my t-shirt, and training pants, staring, and wanting to say something, but the words in my mind would not come to my mouth, so I could only scowl. Then my dad spoke to me in that annoying high register baby speech that I absolutely hated, oh look at you sweetie, do you want mommy? I stomped my little bare foot on the torn linoleum, and thought, of course I want my mommy you fucking idiot. But I couldn’t make my little mouth say this, because my tongue kept getting in the way, and my mouth could not make those shapes and sounds, and I was very frustrated because the Noodles were in my room and had woken me up, and I was in need of comfort, and here this asshole was, not giving me my mommy.
All of these things that I wanted to say to my dad, they exploded in my mind, and I wanted to tell him what I thought, but I just couldn’t connect the words to my mouth. I wanted to tell him to talk to me in his real voice, and I remember thinking, Dad, you’re a fucker, but I just couldn’t fucking say it, and anyway, my mom wasn’t at home, she was working nights as a nurses aid in a retirement home, and I wasn’t allowed to nurse anymore because Emily had been born, and I wasn’t the baby anymore. So I did the only thing I could do, I screamed the shrillest scream I could muster, and I peed on the floor.
I don’t remember what happened after that, or who the man was that I saw Dennis kissing, but what I do know, is that after that night, words came to me more easily, and ever after fuck has been my favourite of all the words there are to use, because the word fuck can be used to describe nearly anything, and I say it often.