September 19, 2009

-image-“can’t see me!”

Oh, be prepared. Crackie’s making up fer some lost scannin’ time now that I got me a purty new one.

I don’t know why I’m talking like I’m in Oklahoma! It’s distressing.

Let’s start over.

Remember the post where I talked about running around as a toddler with random ribbons and/or trash on my head declaring to anyone who would listen, “Can’t see me!”?

Yup. Well, here’s a prime example:


It’s important that you know I am invisible.

This means that you cannot see my droopy diaper or my sausage calves or my little shoes cruelly cutting off my sausage circulation.

Shhhhhh …… can’t see me ……

August 19, 2009

-image-her real eye

I was six years old the day my mom seemed suddenly different to me.

This one day. This single moment.

It was a fault line that shook everything in my world for several stunned seconds. The flutter of a heavy veil showing a glimpse of face I’d never seen.

This one day. This single moment.

I was six. Just a little kid. At that age, my childish eyes saw her as one thing and one thing only: Mommy. I was busy making mud pies in the backyard. Rolling down the glossy hill across the street. Swinging on the park swings. These are the things that consumed me. I had no sense of her personhood. No concept of her “self.” Those things didn’t exist for me. I was aware only that Mommy was a blonde goddess, golden and rippling through my life like a banner. I couldn’t possibly understand that she was also a kind of hermit crab, forever scavenging new and better shells to keep her and cloak her. It confused me: the sun of her appearance, the brittleness of her heart. I wanted to bask in that sun; I wanted to live in that heart, but it wasn’t that kind of sun and it wasn’t that kind of heart. No matter what new shell she found to house her hidden self, it was never big enough to hold me, too. Yes, she clothed me, fed me, put me to bed, but she never played. Never acted silly. Never let down her guard with me or my siblings. She simply didn’t know how.

Sometimes, I would flutter about the living room in a made-up ballet, hoping to catch her eye. Her real eye. An eye that might actually see me, not that veiled eye she preferred to use. Mommy, hi! Watch! Watch me! as I wobbled like a top across our smooth cream carpet. Sometimes, sometimes, she would glance at me vaguely and say, Oh, you’re my little sunshine and I’d look, hopeful, at her golden face only to see that, no, it was that shrouded eye gazing back at me again. Not the real one. I tried so hard to find that real eye. But I was just a little kid. I didn’t know her history then. How she was slugged and beaten and struck with heavy objects her whole life until she had fled home for the blessed respite of a rigorous college education. I was only aware of being hungry for her, of always trying to be as good as good could be in the hopes of getting just a tiny extra piece of her.

Of her looking at me with love with her real eye.

She was a golden goddess and I craved her my entire childhood.

That day was a summer day. A pool day. My mom, my sister, and I wandered across the lazy street to the giant neighborhood pool to swim the day away. During the summers, I craved this pool nearly as much as I craved my mom. Entire days passed where I was not dry until bedtime. Entire nights passed where I dreamed of nothing but jumping in that pool again. Entire summers passed where my blinding yellow hair was green or bronze or shiny gold from too much chlorine. I was a fish, a dolphin, a gliding manta ray.

But what I really wanted to be was a water ballerina.

I’d seen them once, you see. At Sea World. These perfect floating creatures, these glittering eels, twirling underwater in weightless sequined circles. Their ballet was never wobbly like mine, never teetering or unsteady. Water, I decided, was the key. It smoothed out everything. Sure, the Sea World creatures were sleek and polished and didn’t wear bathing suits with pink ruffled bottoms, but I tried not to think about that. Every day in the pool, I practiced and convinced my older sister of the importance of this, too — for the sake of our future as world famous water ballerinas. Side by side we worked, pink-ruffled bottom and blue-ruffled bottom, twisting and flipping and somersaulting for hours. I thought if I could learn to arch my back and curve my foot just so, like those perfect Sea World mermaids, maybe mom would finally look at me with her real eye and be proud.

At one point that day, during this strenuous workout, I surfaced and saw her. Mrs. Parker. The fattest lady I knew. The meanest lady I knew. She was a stack of old inner tubes. She was a walrus. She terrified me. Her skin was orange like Tang. Her hair was red like flames and, on that day, stacked high in a ridiculous mountain of curlers. I heard myself starting to giggle nervously at her until my mom shot me a single warning glance from her deck chair. Mrs. Parker sashayed over to the stairs at the shallow end and dipped in a foot the size of a pot roast.

My sister and I resumed our important work. Flipping, splashing.

Mrs. Parker dangled her fat foot in the water just a few feet away.

“Stop splashing,” she commanded.

We didn’t. We couldn’t really hear her. We were half underwater.

We splashed, twirled.

“STOP splashing. You’re getting my hair wet.”

Still, we didn’t. We were busy ballerinas.


My head broke the surface just in time to hear her yelling. The rest happened so fast, all at the same time it seemed. My sister splashed closest to the walrus. Too close, too close. As she screamed, Mrs. Parker plunged a thick fist into the pool, grabbed my sister by the neck, and thrust her brown head under the water, holding her there. I huddled nearby in the water, only my eyes bulging above the surface, like a frozen little hippo. My sister’s neck was lost in that giant fist. I could see her brown hair floating around her head. I didn’t know what to do. I opened my mouth to scream, but water rushed in to drown it. Let her go! Let her go! Let my sister go! I could hear it in my head, but I couldn’t get it out. I shivered in the warm blue water.

At that same instant, I saw it. The flash of gold as my mom leapt across that deck, roaring like a wounded lion.

In a split second, a seismic second, her brittle shell shattered and I saw her real eye. An eye so raw and bitter, so full of hidden rage, that it was bound to break free somehow …. it had to …. some day. No flimsy shell could contain the universe of betrayal that burned behind that eye. A supernova of pain. It had to burst out, explode.

And this was the day.

I was terrified and I was mesmerized.


She didn’t even sound human, my mom. She roared and growled and threw herself headlong at this mound of woman twice her size. Who was this Mommy? What was that word? I started to cry big heaving sobs. My sister was being drowned. My mom was going crazy. I just wanted to be a water ballerina. I sobbed harder and peed in the pool from fear.

Then I saw her do it. My mom, my golden mom, plunged into that water, wrestled my sister up and safe, wound her arm back and slugged that orange walrus with such primal force she fell backward onto the deck shrieking in outrage.

But mom’s roar was louder.


That word. Mommy didn’t use that word.

She collapsed at the side of the pool with my sister sputtering to breathe in her arms. Then she saw me there, still trembling in the pool.

And she looked at me with her real eye.

“Tracey, get out of that pool right now.”

You obeyed that eye in an instant.

As I stumbled out of the pool, still sobbing, she grabbed me hard. It hurt how she grabbed me, but she held us, my sister and me, at the edge of that pool, tighter than I’ve ever been held in my life, tighter than I’ve ever wanted to be held.

“Mommy …… Mommy …..” we heaved in her arms.

I don’t know what happened to Mrs. Parker in those moments mom held us tight by the pool. To this day, I don’t remember. I only remember she was gone when we finally got up to leave. In spent silence, mom collected our things, took us each by a hand, and led us across the street toward home. On the way, I stole wide-eyed glances at her face, but it was dim, guarded. She didn’t look back at me.

In our room, my sister and I shook and sobbed while we wriggled out of our wet bathing suits. At the dinner table, I looked anxiously at mom for signs of her real eye again, but the veil had fallen back into place. A new shell had been found.

She had seemed suddenly different and now she was suddenly the same.

It was temporary, this shell. I would see her real eye again many times, directed at me, but right then, that night, when she tucked me into bed with her careful veiled eye, I breathed a sigh of relief.

July 30, 2009

-image-random facts about little tracey

My birthday is tomorrow, so naturally, I will be donning black and scooping out ashes from the fireplace and rolling around in them, coating myself and sobbing.

This seems the best way to celebrate.

Unless MB takes me out for pie. I don’t mean any pie. I mean apple pie. And I mean apple pie you drive an hour for — to a tiny hamlet in the mountains called Julian, where all they do, from what I can tell, is make people happy by making awesome pie. That’s it. That’s the sole reason they exist. They’re like Disneyland for pie. The North Pole of Pie. I’m pretty sure — and I’m very knowledgeable about this place seeing as how I live as close as an hour to it and visit it LOTS, like three times a year — that every business there is a pie company. That’s what it seems like to me. Or if they actually do something else, they offer pie on the side. Locksmith with pie on the side. Plumber with pie on the side. Bank with a piece of pie with your deposit. (If that’s true, and why wouldn’t it be, I am totally switching banks.)

Also, I’m now going to jam things down my toilet just so I can have a plumber show up with some plunge-y things and PIE.

Please don’t be jealous that I just might be having apple pie tomorrow and opening a new bank account. Oh, and here’s the piece de resistance about it all: You order the warm apple pie …… with cinnamon ice cream …. and I’m not sure if it’s a religious experience or a sexual one, but yamahama, Crackie, something in you is changed forever.

I know. Take a moment to let that sink in. Warm apple pie with cinnamon ice cream. It’s astonishing.

You know, if I died tomorrow, it would be okay with me. Just call me home after the pie, okay, Lord? Also, don’t let MB try to kill me by taking me on a glider ride like he did a few years ago. I still have post-traumatic claustrophobia from that experience. Amen.

Uhm, what is the post even about? (Drunk, see? I’m telling you, pippa. Every post like this is a searing cry for help.)

Oh, yeah. Random facts about little Tracey who is now a withered crone.

But I prefer to remember the good ol’ days, when I was two.

Here we go:

~ When I was a toddler, apparently, I liked to pile ribbons of every kind on my head and announce, “Can’t see me! Can’t see me!” Mom and dad would say, “Oops! Can’t see you!” And I’d look at them and whisper, “Shhhhh …. shhhhhh …..” Yeah, you know, mom and dad, you’re ruining the illusion, do shut up. I shush you. There are waay too many pictures of me in this state of “invisibility” with various piles of ribbons — and sometimes, what looks like trash, frankly — teetering atop my blinding white hair. And if my scanner weren’t broken, I’d show you, but alas, you are forced to imagine. So I was, at the age of two, obsessed with my own perceived invisibility.

And now, when I go to church and want to be seen — uh, sorta — Ta DAAA! Can’t see me! I was prophetic.

~ I walked very late. Embarrassingly late. Like uhm, is something wrong with your daughter late. Actually, truth be told, I still can’t. I talked very early, mom said, so I didn’t need to walk. I would just inform people what was up, what I wanted, what I expected of them. Little Tyrant Tracey.

~ I didn’t crawl like a normal child either. Nope. I dragged my entire body around by my right arm. You know, as if my other three limbs were totally paralyzed. What is that?? I dragged my entire body around by my right arm. This, I did not believe for years. No way, I’d say. That is bogus. I did NOT do that. Why are you trying to hurt me? Blahdie blah. Then, years later, when my niece Piper was a baby, the whole family witnessed her drag her entire body across the floor with her right arm. My mom gasped. “Oh, my gosh! Just like Tracey!” I stared, dumbfounded, watching my niece do what little me had done, the thing I’d refused to believe. Seeing it didn’t exactly sweeten the pot, either. It looks retarded, basically, but there you have it.

~ Mom had a hard time potty training me. For some unfathomable reason, she thought putting pretty underwear on me would stop the inevitable, you know, flow of nature. Why, Mom, why would you think that? I’m, like, two. I don’t care about underwear. I care about putting trash on my head and being invisible. She’s told me, “Yeah, I had all these ruffle-y little pairs of underwear and I’d put them on you, thinking you wouldn’t want to ruin those (again, Mom, what??? You are nuts) and moments later, I’d find you in the closet with soiled underwear. You’d just hide in the closet and poop right in them.” Obviously, I did not give a tiny rat’s bottom about this frilly underwear. Mom, I’m sorry, but this is so lame. I was two! I’m kind of howling right now, picturing my mom’s frustration at finding me in the closet — weird child — sporting the latest pair of ruined underwear. Hahahahaha. If it makes you feel any better, Mom, I don’t do that anymore. At least not very often.

~ My older sister tried to suffocate me when I was a baby. Perhaps to spare my mother the coming pain of all that ruined underwear.

~ The Christmas I was three, I was given this …. thing ….. called Timmy the Clock. Timmy the Clock was whack, I tell you, WHACK. It was this walking, talking, ringing, buzzing toy clock. His eyes rolled around like he was on drugs. He had arms that would flail about menacingly. So it’s Christmas and Dad winds Timmy up for me for the first time …. and he starts walking and clanging towards me and it is completely freaky and wrong, just wrong, and I am overcome by the sheer terror of Timmy the Clock and run shrieking from the room in my feety pajamas to hole up in the bathroom. It’s Christmas, mind you, and there are other toys to play with, but I’m so traumatized by that horrible clock that my parents spend about ten minutes coaxing me out of the bathroom to, you know, enjoy Christmas again. Somewhere, there is a picture of me posed next to Timmy (again, why, Mom and Dad, did you make me pose with Timmy after that) with my eyes bugging out and my mouth a perfect O of horror.

I had nightmares about stupid Timmy the Clock for many years.

Hopefully, there will be no Timmy the Clock tomorrow.

The vile thing.


May 27, 2009

-image-perpetually pink

(ed.: I cannot find part two of this post — sob! — but I’m posting it anyway, just this part, until I either find it or, gulp, rewrite it.)

It’s fifth grade. I am 10 and live in a perpetual pink haze of shyness. If someone just looks at me, I blush. If someone just talks to me, I burn. If my teacher calls on me, I want to die. Whether I know the answer or not doesn’t matter; I’d simply prefer death, thank you. At school, I sit at a “desk grouping” across from Bosco Wasco, the large-headed object of my secret yearning. Ten-year-old Bosco is the complete opposite of 10-year-old me. He’s cool, for one thing. Confident. Wears a denim jacket to school and I feel confused liking a boy in a denim jacket. In my house, there is no denim. No jeans, certainly no jackets. Denim means rebellion and we will have none of that, please. So I feel a bit panicky, discombobbled, and sad in my certainty that my twittery crush means I am flirting recklessly with The Dark Side. The road to hell is paved with denim, you know.

The first time I laid eyes on Bosco, I noticed his crew cut, “stick-up hair,” I always called it — never to anyone else, though. I thought it meant he was a bully or had recently had head lice, but no. Bosco is polite and certainly seems clean enough. He likes to joke and whenever he smiles or laughs, which is a lot, the corners of his eyes shoot crinkles like a firecracker. He talks to everybody, including me, and none of the boys talk to me. But Bosco has a magical ease. There seems to be no one he doesn’t like, no one he’s afraid to talk to or joke with. If he murmurs a joke to me in class, I’m careful not to laugh because I was born a goody-two-shoes and don’t want to get in trouble. Instead, I lower my head, smile, and quietly blush crimson, of course. A demure pink girl in love with her big-headed denim boy.

Next to Bosco sits Judy. In whatever spare moments I have between longing glances at my big-headed boy, I’m staring hard at Judy. How I am learning anything at all in 5th grade is beyond me, since my primary academic activity is staring. The teacher writes equations on the blackboard. I stare at Bosco. The teacher has us read around the room. I stare at Judy. The teacher calls on me. I burn bright red, want to die, and try to answer the question all while simultaneously staring at Bosco and Judy, if physically possible.

Judy wears large Coke-bottle glasses and looks grown up to me. Like 17. She wears a brown crocheted bag slung across her body everywhere she goes and her clothes are beige, grey, black, brown, colors of adulthood. She’s tan, so I figure she’s been places I haven’t, like outside. Or maybe around. My undying fixation, though, is with her hair. The bulk of it is a mousy mound that moves in a single lump, which is interesting, a phenomenon even, but it’s the edges of this mound that consume me. They’re fuzzy and flyaway as if the atmosphere around her head is slightly different from the rest of earth’s. I’m mesmerized by the floaty ends and check in regularly to see what they’re doing. Sticking up. Sticking out. Frowsy strands trying to break free. We’re inside, there’s no wind anywhere, and yet, her hair waves at me. It fascinates me. I cannot get past it. It has my heart almost as much as my big-headed boy.

Many times, I wonder why I don’t have anything that interesting happening on me. I have a red pleated skirt and a white puckered blouse. I have teddy bear knee socks and a baby blue headband. I have a perpetually pink face. Maybe this is interesting to someone, but I want to be interesting like Judy. She’s got it going on. Sometimes, because I am devoid of social skills, I stare too long and Judy catches me gawking. But when she does, she always smiles a smile where her eyes spark up yet her lips turn down. I stare even harder because I don’t get how she does that.

Nobody but Bosco talks to me or Judy, and he’s too much in demand by less marginal children to really hang with us, so of course, Judy and I must become friends. It’s destiny. Kids have already paired up. Grouped up. Started their sly whispering circles and their petty grade school thuggeries.

One day on the playground, Judy walks up to me. No, that’s not it. She doesn’t walk so much as lumber. She’s tall for a girl our age. Lanky. So she lumbers up to me. Wanna play tether ball, she says. I don’t, really, because I’d rather skim the edges of the ball field, singing “I Have Confidence” to myself. I don’t like to be seen doing anything with anybody in case I do it wrong. But she stares down at me and her eyes are huge and gray behind the Coke-bottle glasses and look like eyes you really shouldn’t say no to. Besides, I am 10 and perpetually pink. I don’t know how to say no even if I want to, so I say yes and die inside.

We play tether ball. Or rather, because she’s so tall, I stand there in my knee socks and watch as the ball whizzes in hypnotic circles over my head. I raise my arms to give the appearance of effort and to make my face look like it’s red from exertion not mortification, but, really, there’s not much point on either score. I think she knows there’s not much point; she’s clearly tall enough to beat most of the boys in tether ball and I’m clearly self-conscious enough to drop dead from failure. Playing tether ball with me, the girl who just drifts around the playground or swings in the swings or occasionally plays hopscotch, can’t be the most fulfilling experience. Still, day after day, she asks me to play tether ball and day after day I say yes. As we play, she smiles at me with her turned-down smile, says encouraging things to me. “Good one” or “Nice try” and stuff like that. I think these things are strange because, frankly, I don’t do any good ones and not one of my feeble tries is nice. I wonder if she’s kidding when she says them, so I always check her face. Is she smiling? Is she gonna laugh? Should I believe her? She seems years older than I am, like a big sister, a wiser cousin. Sometimes her shoes have heels on them. Sometimes my socks have Raggedy Anns.

As time goes on, she tries talking to me a little more. What do I think of math? and What do I do after school? and What do I think of Carlyn Carnevalli? My face burns. I answer hesitantly: I hate it and I go to the park a lot and, since I am too afraid to blow it by saying I hate that Carlyn Carnevalli, she is a big fat bully, I say Well, not much. Little by little, she gently pries open my thick shell, allows me to emerge at my own slow pace. She waits for me, but I don’t know she’s waiting. She sees things about me, but I don’t know what they are.

One day, after tether ball, we lean up against the ivy-covered fence to rest. It’s hot and the ivy feels cool on my back. Out of the blue, she says I’ve kinda invented this person. I jerk my head up to look her straight in the face. I invent people too, but I don’t talk about it. Judy’s talking about it. Well, it’s not a person, really; it’s a dog. I kinda made up this dog character.

I listen and my heart is flooding over.

May 26, 2009

-image-happy girl

What’s up, Trace? You jammin’ to the Perry Como tunes, are you, hon?


June 27, 2008

-image-me, age 2

See this? This was my thing at that age. This move with my arms in the air. Apparently, I did this all the time. I was obsessive with the arm thing. While other toddlers were rockin’ their Fisher Price bubble vacuums, being useful, I was running around with my arms up in the air declaiming “I am SO BIG!” until mom or dad or random strangers agreed with me. Needy much, Trace?

So, yes, yes, little Tracey. You are SO BIG! Please calm down.

And, oh, I can see your diaper, big girl.

February 3, 2008

-image-girl with red shoes

Me, 4 or 5 years old, in the park across the street from my childhood home. Blazing blue sky above me. Pink and yellow blooms trumpeting Spring behind me. But I am dressed for inclement weather, apparently. Or a random smattering of weather conditions: Lightweight cotton dress. Warm — and slimming! — black tights. Bright red Keds. And my blue corduroy jacket with the hood up. You know, in case there are thunder clouds a’brewin’ over yonder teeming hill.


March 26, 2007

-image-mom, why did you hate me?

So very much?


Oh, I see such a bright future for my little Tracey! Perhaps as …..

…. a little boy who discovers he’s really an earl and warms hearts everywhere he goes because of his bitchen hairdo:


…. a brave prince of The Round Table who defeats the Huns with his bitchen hairdo:


…. a young successful Dutch dude hawking gallons and gallons of paint the world over — all thanks to his bitchen hairdo:


Oh, my little Tracey. I’m so proud of him. Her. Him. Er, yeah ….. what?

February 21, 2007

-image-piper’s mom

A couple of my favorite pictures of my older sister, S.

My dad’s inscription on the back of this one: “(My mom) made herself a mohair jacket and with the leftover material, she made this one for S and trimmed it with rabbit fur.”

(Good job on all those details, dad. I’m impressed.)

I’m between giggles and tears on this one; it’s just precious to me. She’s the perfect little girl in her perfect party dress:


No in-between on this one. Just flat-out hysterics. Mom had this hair dryer from the Middle Ages or something that she used to torture our hair to girlie perfection. From a practical standpoint, I do believe it was also a vacuum cleaner.

It always seemed so rickety to me, with that huge hose flopping around aimlessly. But, man, once it was plugged in, that thing roared like an airplane engine, sucking your entire head into that blistering floral bag. As a bonus — I think mainly to keep us calm about our brains being sucked away — mom would always make us some nice Jiffy Pop. Which is a hilarious parallel image, if you think about it. Look at S’s face. She’s deaf at this moment, of course, from the din of the hair vacuum. And look at the droop of the bag at the bottom, as if her brain’s just plopped out into it. Hahahaha — I can’t write anymore. I’m dying, looking at this.


September 24, 2006

-image-the old barn (the beginning)

I never saw the man who tried to kill my family and me.

I only heard him — his low voice, his rumbling laughter, his crazy cries. It’s many years past that now, and I am alive and mostly well, but sometimes, in my head, I can still hear him, and I am in that summer and I am in that place and I am that 7-year-old girl again.

We were in Pennsylvania, visiting grandma and grandpa. Their house was white with red shutters and wood floors and a huge spread of grass on the side. As we drove up to the house for the first time, I gazed, confounded, at the large crimson shutters framing the windows. High secret doors, they seemed to me, or magical doors, even. Our house certainly didn’t have magical doors. Questions buzzed in my head: Where did they lead? And who were they for? And how did you reach them? I wondered and wondered, the whole time I was there, never figuring it out, never even asking, thinking perhaps these were questions that should not be asked. Just in case they really weren’t high and secret doors. And if they weren’t, I didn’t really want to know, anyway.

The house’s wood floors mystified me, too. Slick and gleaming, they could endure hours of sock-footed sliding, but then suddenly creak and groan like an arthritic old man rising from a chair. They were capricious; moody, almost. I never knew how they might respond to my presence. We just had carpet at our house and carpet was predictable.

While the shutters and floors were mysteries to me, it was the grass that mesmerized me most. I never knew people could have that much grass. It rolled and curved before me, a vast army of perfect emerald blades, with faraway edges I couldn’t even see. What kind of people had grass like that? Where did it come from? What made it so green? Our house didn’t have grass like that; it had a yard full of those white rocks with sparkly flecks that sometimes caught the sunlight, but mostly sat there looking stupid and hurting my feet when I walked barefoot which I wasn’t supposed to do. Maybe it meant grandma and grandpa were somehow very special, all that perfect grass. Sparkly white rocks were not special, I knew that. In one blink, I fell in love with that grass and my poor dented feet itched to sink deep into the dark greenness and disappear.

In the middle of the dark green stood two trees, sturdy and tall. I didn’t know what kind they were and I still don’t. I didn’t care. It mattered only that hanging between them was a perfect wooden swing, swaying and beckoning to me. My siblings had no interest in the swing, an apathy I could not fathom, but that simply meant I never had to share or wait my turn. I knew it would be empty when I raced out the door to play and my heart would pound with anticipation. We had a relationship, this swing and I, an understanding. It knew what I needed and freely gave it. It wasn’t just a swing to me. It was solace. It was my friend. Oh, I spent endless hours with my friend, pumping and pumping my pale legs skyward as high as I could go, soaring past this branch, that branch, til the earth held no part of me anymore. My hair was long that summer and blindingly blonde and it rippled behind me in wild golden ribbons. I loved that feeling of the wind tearing at it; feeling that with every upswing I was winning, outrunning something huge. And then, at the apex, the fall, the collapsing, hair flicking at my face, stomach crashing and giddy inside me. I was delirious. And free. I sang little songs. I chatted with God. I gazed at the high secret doors. And the swing held me; I was safe.

And I didn’t think about the school bus. And I didn’t obsess about the school bus.

My school bus.

The school bus that, earlier that year, had crashed down a hill one afternoon while lumbering us all to the safety of our homes. That’s what it was supposed to be doing, anyway, but a boy in the back of the bus had cried out — something, I don’t remember what — and the driver, distracted, took the turn too tight, and we’d plunged down a steep hill.

Many times that year, my first grade year, I had heard kids screaming, playing on the playground, carefree. It was background noise, really. The usual soundtrack to grade school life. But not that day. Not this. The sound of the kids on that bus with me was high and loud, so loud. Apart from the sudden, sweeping wails of “Mommmmmy!!!” no one even sounded human. They were wild beasts screeching all around me, each one louder than the next. The bus joined the bedlam, too, cracking, moaning, roaring. My ears were bursting from too much sound. We flopped like rag dolls against the seats, the floor, the ceiling; we yowled like animals against the sudden shift of the earth. Everyone, it seemed, but me. Throughout it all, I couldn’t make a sound. Even then, in that moment, I was still the shyest girl in school, unable to utter a sound, make my presence known, lodge a protest to the silent invisible God who watched us breaking. My mouth was open, I remember. I know that. Even now, I can hear my loud jagged breaths. But I was just a kid. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as waking horror that can rob voice and thought and sound. I tumbled loose and heaving with the rest of them, but inside me, something froze. The muscles needed to push out the faintest sound were frozen. There was so much shrieking, for so long — so long — and I wanted to shriek, too, thrust the terror out of my body. My mouth was open, ready for it, even, but I just panted and wheezed instead.

Tears rolled. Soundless. I was terrified and I was mute.

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