This morning, I laid down the first thousand words in the new book. I thought I'd share them with you now. This book is going to be incredibly person, as you'll probably notice, which means I'll only include some cuts for you to read here.
Here's the first:
The first time I wanted to kill myself was NOT in August of 1983, even though that would have seemed more meaningful. But we'll get to that. The first time I wanted to kill myself was around 1974.
I was in the third grade.
I don't remember what trauma had gone on at the time but I remember that I'd had enough. You see, I wasn't the most stable child and I hadn't been raised in the most stable environment. I was a nerdy kid stuck in a world that didn't seem to care, raised by a pretty unstable, single parent, tormented by equally unstable siblings.
My father had left four years before, when I was five years old. I remember the day he pulled his old Ford out of the driveway of our home for the last time. My mother had woken us all up like a fire alarm and we didn't dress before heading outside. This was in a by-gone day when all children wore pajamas - or so it seemed to my five-year-old mind. My mother screamed like someone having their guts ripped out without the benefit of anesthetic as my dad tried to get into his car. I didn't look at the others, my brother Keith or my sister Audrey, because my eyes were riveted on what was going on before me. I knew I couldn't miss a moment of it. Even as my dad slammed the car door and started the engine, my mom continued to scream. And then he began to back away. She tried to hold on to the car door but something inside of her couldn't do it and she let go. And he drove away.
I don't know how we ever got back in again.
But we did. And my mom took good care of us, though I can't imagine how. We had nothing to begin with, except the house. My dad let her keep the house. Even that was a struggle; I remember hearing her screaming about how hard it was for her to keep the house. Whenever we would ask for some luxury or even those necessities that weren't yet a priority, she would scream.
Actually, my mother would scream a lot. She'd scream about how hard her life was and how lonely she was and how awful we kids were and how much of a burden we were and how terribly we treated her and how rotten we were and… well, it just got worse.
But she was the only mom I had and, as much as I hated the screaming, I never hated her.
To be honest, I couldn't. My mother had drilled such a deep sense of guilt so far inside of me, an issue I still live with today, by telling me over and over how much she sacrificed and how I should get down on my knees and thank her and what a louse I was… I just felt sorry. And I felt that way most of the time.
My mom's life was hard and she passed it down to me, to all of us. She couldn't help it. It was practically genetic.
Meanwhile, in the first few years at least, my dad would occasionally pop up from out of the blue. He would show up, looking like he was doing pretty well for himself, and take us three kids (but never my mother) out for a good time. This usually meant a Disney film - there were so many in the early 70's - though he'd always complain about the film as if he hated Disney. Now, the truth was that my dad didn't hate Disney. He loved Disney. And he wasn't doing pretty well for himself. He was struggling, too. (Though, for the record, he never struggled as much as my mom.) But, while my mom was always blatantly honest with me, sometimes painfully so, my dad was never much of a communicator. He didn't necessarily lie but he did leave a whole lot out of the conversation.
What this created, though, was distance. And the distance created, in me, a desire to bond. I never did bond with my father but I worked incredibly hard to that end. My father had once wanted to be an actor so I worked on being an actor. My dad played the keyboards… so I became a writer, though that's not quite the same thing. Like all children who come from a broken home, I had a need to feel accepted, a deep, empty hole in my gut where most people have love.
So, from my father, I learned a sense of urgency. From my mother, I learned guilt. Together, these were an impossible combination.
I could never interact with others on a normal level. Because I was funny, I quickly became the class clown. But there was also a temperamental side to me, which caused no end of trouble. In addition to all of this, I was a small child, thin, because we never had a lot of food in the house, and awkward, thanks to misdiagnosed double-vision not dealt with until I was in my late teens.
And so it was that, on that day in the third grade, I was in the playground. I'd done something stupid, owing, if I remember correctly, to a lack of proficiency in sports most people take for granted in boys. The kids were laughing at me and I remember that I'd had it. In my young mind, I was done with this shitty life. So, I ran out into the middle of Raitt Street, which John Adams Elementary faced, and awaited my fate.
Now, wait. Let's stop a moment and think about this. What's the worst that could have happened? Death? Hardly! Broken legs - tops! What good would that have done me or my mother, and how would that have stopped anyone from laughing at me? It wouldn't have.
So, I guess I'm lucky a teacher walked out into the street and asked me what I was doing.
I remember looking around… and there was no traffic.