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“I will never forget the summer that I first…” seems like such a lovely beginning to moments of nostalgia and reverie – a sort of harkening back to more simple and, implied, truer times. I can’t begin any story that way, though. My memories of growing up come to me in almost discrete segments, short bursts of recall and quick snapshots. I don’t have a consistent narrative to my childhood, and so no chapters that I can title with seasons of any kind. My summers blend one into the other and, in the album I sometimes leaf through, I can see myself playing handball against the outer wall of the parking garage, hopping on chalk-drawn sidewalk grids or sitting on rough concrete with ankles crossed to play pickup sticks or jacks. I watch as I try to bounce a ball while I quickly work my leg over and under, jump rope or clap my hands with a friend in synchronized rhythms to time-worn rhymes about marriages and baby carriages, and learn to skate on borrowed skates. I experience once again what seemed like endless, sweaty hours waiting to hear the lyrical tinkling of the Good Humor truck as it drove down one street and up the next, coming closer and closer with its promises of cold creamy sweetness. I also remember those long days of loneliness because my friends’ families could afford to take vacations and we had to make do with a rare day at a lake upstate or a Staten Island beach. But, I don’t remember doing any of them for the first time or the excitement of that first time. I do remember grabbing what little joy I could get and holding onto it fiercely so no one might tear it away.
I’ll never forget the summer that I first… Killed a guy. It was no big deal, much less of a deal than I’d expected, and had many fewer repercussions. Emotional, legal, societal ramifications were suspiciously absent, and after some thought I concluded my Dad must have pulled some strings on the marionettes of officialdom. Got them to bend to his will, forward, backward, side to side, right foot, left foot, hinges squeaking, blurky painted-on gazes revealing nothing but a vague wish to please, and a desperate will to not engage. Years later, the body count is in the triple digits and includes dear ol Dad, his whole fam damly, plus the ‘rents on my mother’s side — not much of a challenge there, them being mostly obese and about as mobile as sacks of potatoes crowded into the basement and pleading for their lives. It was hilarious. But whatever. I don’t do it for the challenge — it’s because it’s what I was born to do. Dogs bark, waves lap, a schooner swims, wisps of cloud gather and disperse. I kill.