When I was one year old I ate my first birthday cake with my face, smiling, chocolate icing on my chubby cheeks, chin, and nose.
When I was two years old we moved to America, to one-half of a prefab house in a field on the ground of the laboratory where my father now had a job. In this field stood other prefab houses, and in many of these houses lived other children.
When I was three years old I got my first Big Wheels[tm]. If you don’t know what a big-wheels is, it’s like a tricycle, except it’s plastic with the seat low to the ground, two small fat wheels in the back and one big fat wheel in the front. My best friend, Evan and I rode our Big Wheels[tm] all around the sidewalks and playgrounds in our little neighborhood. Sometimes, when we felt especially brave, we’d venture out into our aging concrete cul-de-sac made up of giant slabs with lines of unmowed grass and dandelions standing in the cracks. The world was ours to discover.
When I was four years old we moved into our new home, a 1920s era gray shingled ranch up a steep driveway on a dead end street with a backyard surrounded by rhododendrons, gooseberry bushes and strands of maples, oaks and birch trees. Laying on the cool, soft grass I felt completely enclosed, safe.
When I was five years old, my grandfather would come to visit bearing airplanes made of balsa wood and rubber bands, batwing kites with yellow eyes, and strange technicolor bubble concoctions banned, years later, for being carcinogenic. He would reach into my ear and pull out quarters.
When I was six years old I fell and hit my head real hard on the street. All the adults gathered around, hunched over, looking down and asking me how many fingers they were holding up.
When I was seven years old we played red rover, red rover and capture the flag and monkey in the middle in my neighbors backyard. Liz, being the oldest and the loudest, was the boss. Sometimes the neighbor’s goats would wander into the yard and chase us, giggling, inside, where we would play Sorry, Battleship, Stratego and Uno. Dice and pegs from one game were cannibalized to replace missing pieces from another.
When I was eight years old I started wearing my mother’s clothes.
When I was nine years old my favorite baby-sitter was Miriam Wisenbloom. She would play cards with me and help me with my homework–unlike Joanne Monicamore, who stayed parked in front of the television watching General Hospital. Luke and Laura were trapped on an island, hunted by an evil genius with nefarious plans for the citizens of Port Charles. They escaped his island and had a wedding attended by everyone who was anyone. They were madly in love.
When I was ten years old I would come to work with my dad on Saturdays. There was giddy fear wandering the labyrinthine hallways, peeking into darkened rooms full of strange humming noises. Glass corridors connected buildings. Silhouettes of birds, wings spread wide in flight, were taped to the transparent walls.
When I was eleven years old I dreaded soccer practice. Mike McGuire would kick me hard in the butt and say, “quite picking your ass, faggot.”
When I was twelve years old we moved into yet another new home, a two-story house with a two-car garage. Abstract geometric shapes in a bygone palate of brown, orange and yellow covered the walls. My parents new, oversized bedroom had it’s own bathroom. There was an alcove, or really an antechamber to the bathroom with a mirrored wall where my mom kept her makeup. After school I would look into the mirror, applying lipstick and eye shadow, and see a woman looking back at me.
When I was thirteen years old I disappeared into the worlds woven into the pages of pulp paperbacks. I became a character in the infinite branching side-stories born of idle afternoon hours. I was admired for my brilliance, charm, skill at swordplay, and, most of all, my magic. That year my voice broke and little wisps of black hairs appeared above my upper lip.
When I was fourteen years old I got my first job, washing dished at a country club. The manager let us drink beer at the end of our shift.
When I was fifteen I got two D’s and an F on my report card. I was far more interested in getting high and tripping my brains out then I was in algebra, chemistry, or American history. I’d discovered magic; there was no competition. My mother’s sobs were muffled by the wall between us. I was grounded for six months.
When I was sixteen years old I learned how to drive. I bought an ancient Toyota Celica held together with rust and skateboard stickers. My newfound friends and I spent our weekend evenings travelling from town to town, late-night drive thru to empty parking lot, wandering back roads to clandestine gatherings of teenagers, wasting time and wasting gas. Radio blasting, we were too old and too young to sing along.
When I was seventeen years old I fought my father. Circling each other, arms grappling, shaking from adrenalin, I managed to get him into a headlock and bring him down crying, “I don’t want to fight you! I don’t want to fight you!”
When I was eighteen years old I gathered an assortment of clothes, toiletries, and books and drove up to college with my parents. After we hugged goodbye I watched them drive off, lit a cigarette, and began putting my stuff away.