Memory Repressed Until the Death of his Mother
Look at what mommy has, she said, unfolding a decrepit photo album. You’d never smelled dust before, and it made you feel old. It made you cough. And that’s what old people do, they cough and then die. Or such had been your experience with the one old person you knew, the one that used to steal your nose, hold you upside down, tickle you, and cough on your face. Then your parents told you that he was dead, which means he’s finished living. But you didn’t mind that he stole parts of your face. He always gave them back and you always smiled. You didn’t mean to kill your grandfather, but it’s like someone said, someone important: don’t steal. You will die.
Inhaling the smell of antique adhesives, you coughed into the air, freeing germs and spit. Cough cough cough, you’re so grown up now. But I guess that’s what murder does to you.
Come look at this one, you little murderer, your mother said, pointing to a girl with pigtails. Do you know who that is?
That’s you mommy.
That’s right, angel. This is your mommy when she was a little girl. And that there is your uncle Albert, wave hello.
Your mother, your uncle, and the grandfather that you killed by letting him steal your face, they were all young once. And in the next page of that rotting album, they’re a little bit older. Each page is another cough. I’m never going to cough again, you thought.
Look at the picture of mommy, she said, putting her thumbs on the old black and white, each thin thumb covering a pigtail, leaving only her smiling, posing face. Look. It’s you, it’s you, she said. You and mommy are the same. Can you see that?
And you could. You saw your own five-year-old face staring at you from your mother’s childhood head. You put your hands down your pants and grabbed your penis just to make sure she’s wrong. Maybe she’s trying to steal it, you thought, gasping, then pulling your hand from your crotch to catch a cough. You stuck your spit covered hand back in your pants and realized that by the time you’re 7, you’ll be an old man that’s murdered his whole family, what with all the coughing and their attempts to steal your various body parts. But at least you have your penis for now.