I’ve been futzing around with the Shut Up and Write Memoir Challenges, and while I don’t often write about memories preceding my mid 20s, there is a lot to be unpacked.
Here’s today’s prompt:
Much of the importance of any memoir is how it captures you as a person. In the beginning, the reader will most likely know almost nothing about what makes you – you.
The trick lies in identifying all of the unique details about you and your life, because a lot of these details may seem so normal that you don’t notice them anymore.
- What interpersonal histories are relevant to your life? How can you show the reader these histories?
This is a great post as I already began exploring it yesterday afternoon as I sat at the empty laundromat and listened to the wash attendant pour quarters into the change dispensing machines. It was a loud and offensive sound, but I was in a mood for wondering, and it sparked memories of my childhood.
Of the attached laundromats, along row after row of identical apartment buildings in a complex full of families waiting for something better.
Of the laundromat where I encountered my first kiss, a stifled gasp from my mouth as an older boy I was attracted to took not Prince Charming alacrity in pushing me up against the white, cold, hard metal of the old, scummy top loading washer and stuck his tongue down my throat. I took off like a bullet, not knowing that this was what kisses were made of, but not before flipping the light switch and seeing my friend Nicole splayed across a neighbouring machine with her breast out of her shirt as another older boy sucked on it like a babe.
It was years before I would recover from this experience.
That night I returned to my home and saw the blood in my underwear for the first time, and sat down and sobbed, because it was Halloween, and Halloweens were supposed to be about dressing up and becoming someone else for one night, ideally a non human entity, while you tried to race about and accumulate as much candy as possible before the houses shut off their lights, letting you know Halloween was over for another year.
Thinking on this as I write it as a woman in my 30s, long removed from the fences of my childhood, and the even smaller microcosm that comes from living in the dumpiest apartment complex in that small town, my eyes water. This moment is essentially how my childhood operated for much of my life, but yet I still miss Sam, Nicole, Devon, and OnDeane.
Sure. There were some pretty toxic power dynamics at play. Sam chose me that night, not because he was attracted to me, but because I was a sidekick like him. We were both lackies, but we found a singularity in that and in our race, some of the only non black kids in our group of friends. In a neighborhood, and a town, starkly drawn up along those lines, it was odd that only among the black kids, that my Half Asianness made me welcome, but my other half made me the obvious choice for Sam to pair off with.
I miss the unknown kids that would loiter on long, itchy summer days next to my lifeguard chair. Even after our mom bought our freedom out of that apartment, my brother and I would continue to return the complex. In some ways I think nostalgia, or comfort, factored into our decision to work amongst the concrete plateau of the complex pool, surrounded by stripper moms who sat tanning as their children emptied the kiddie pool with their buckets, alcoholic boyfriends who we would sometimes have to call the cops to remove, and fresh off the boat immigrant families that kept their children away from everyone else.
It’s kind of weird, but you miss the things that were horrible for you because they’re still a part of you.