Most people claim they can’t remember much from their early years, but thanks to my autobiographical memory I can recall details from every day of my life. April 5th 1994? It was a Tuesday. I was wearing a red shirt. It rained in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon. I had chocolate milk at lunch. June 27th 1991? It was a Thursday. My mother took me to the beach. I kicked a kid who made fun of my Ninja Turtles towel. My mother put me in timeout when I got home. December 2nd 1985? It was a Monday. The Bears lost to the Dolphins 38-24. The Cosby Show debuted a Christmas episode. I was born.
My mother’s uterus contracted and I was forced out into the biting cold air. I tell my friends I didn’t cry. That I stretched my arms and said, “It’s about time. Do you have any idea how boring it is in there?” In truth, my lungs and eyes burned and I was grumpy as fuck. I didn’t know what else to do so I just sobbed like a pansy. Catching a glimpse of the loose flaps of my mother’s vagina atop the fouled-up bedding from her bowel evacuation didn’t help to improve my mood either. For years, even the slightest camel-toe impression on a woman’s crotch was nauseating.
The muscles in my tongue and vocal chords weren’t fully developed so speech was not immediate. I had tried to speak while in the womb, but my lungs filled with amniotic fluid and I went into a horrid coughing fit. I tried to decipher language through the muffled conversations of my mother. It didn’t work too well. Having no frame of reference, I was confused easily and only picked up on a few phrases.
After birth, experiencing the pain of hunger caused another outbreak of crying, which my mother remedied by thrusting her tit in my face. Sucking on her swollen nipple seemed repulsive, but the taste of her milk was strangely pleasant. The first time I shit myself I thought my body was disintegrating from the inside, before remembering my mother’s bowel episode during my birth. Realizing this was normal human behavior, I proudly unclenched my sphincter whenever possible to signal my increased perception of reality.
At home, I became addicted to television without choice. My mother watched nonstop and rather than gouging out my eyes as a sign of protest, I became absorbed by the sounds and pictures. Commercials especially aided my understanding of language. Cars make you move fast. Soap makes things clean. Low-fat yogurt makes you happy. Opening a bank account makes you happy.
The full-length mirror in my nursery fascinated me. Whenever I tried to stare at my reflection though, I was interrupted by my mother’s fake laughter followed by inane babble as she coddled me. “Oh, you think there’s another baby over there don’t you?” No, I just want to see what I look like.
Trying to walk during those first months made me feel like I had been huffing ether. I was cognitive of what I needed to do, but my weak body just couldn’t respond. I became frustrated easily and often resigned myself to doing something my muscular restraints allowed: drooling.
I’m surprised that my mother put up with me. I was boring and didn’t make any practical contributions to daily life. There were occasional amusing events. For instance, there was the one time my mother thought I had been drinking chemicals from under the sink. I thought she would have been proud to see me bleach my t-shirt and slick back my hair with shoe polish, but she just rushed me to the hospital. The doctor was also unimpressed with my hip coif and force-fed me a medicine that made me throw up. When he realized I hadn’t swallowed any bleach he said, “You did the right thing. Better safe than sorry.” The vomit-inducing prick didn’t even marvel at the fact that I had unscrewed the childproof bleach container.
Dammit, I thought the shoe polish episode had been a classic photo opportunity. So much less contrived than the one of me sitting atop a golden retriever while wearing a cowboy outfit. I’ll admit that I had wanted to ride the animal like a horse. What sentient being wouldn’t? But I certainly hadn’t thought, ‘You know, it’s just going to look silly unless I’m wearing chaps and a plastic hat.’
One of my friends says his first words were, ‘motherfucker,’ because his dad had a mouth like a sailor. I didn’t believe him, but I wish I could have mumbled something obscene when my mother fed me generic brand baby food. Instead, it took me five months and twenty-one days before I was able to speak. How pathetic. Even more pathetic was my first word: baby. In my defense, it was the word I heard most. ‘Who’s a good baby?’ ‘What a cute baby.’ Etc.
As I entered my toddler years, toys brought me more joy than anything else. I had this really awesome workbench with shaped holes that I could hammer corresponding plastic pieces into. I could do it with my eyes closed on my second try and then began timing myself. Once, my mother saw me staring at the clock and completely misunderstood, “You’re right. It is time for Oprah. I’m glad one of us remembered.” She’d then drag me away from my toys and plop me in front of the TV. As some sort of consolation she would give me a plastic dinosaur to play with. I couldn’t ever resist sticking its tail into one of my many orifices, an act that would always leave me toyless.
My mother would arrange play-dates with other toddlers. These were mostly an excuse for her to meet up with her friends and drink Bloody Marys in mid-afternoon. I loathed the other babies. There was this one girl who would literally piss then moan every twenty minutes. One time I hit her in the face with a puppet and that made me feel pretty good. Another one of the kids was two and a half years older and thought he was such hot shit. “Yeah, I’ve got a Big Wheels, it’s pretty great. I’d let you drive it but it’s not safe for babies,” he’d say. He was ugly as sin, so I’d just let it go, knowing he didn’t have much going for him.
Then my little brother came along and made my life even worse. I was three-and-a-half when my mother had another baby and I hated the crap out of him. June 4th 1989, twelve days early. Twelve extra days I had to spend with that guy in existence. They say that it’s normal for older siblings to be jealous of the attention a new baby receives, but I wasn’t jealous, I just didn’t like the little shit. He didn’t bring anything to the table, the antitheses of fun. I suppose that he deflected some of my mother’s smothering attention, a welcome change, but being siblings, I became part of a collectivized unit known as: the kids. Before he came along there was no, ‘can you watch the kids?’ or ‘kids, they can be a handful, am I right?’ Like I said, I wasn’t jealous, but I didn’t like being reduced to the same level as that idiot.
April 5th 1994? It was a Tuesday. I was wearing a red shirt. It rained in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon. My brother was being a twerp and I pushed him down the stairs. I think he broke his arm or something. I had chocolate milk at lunch.