What you are about to tell, no one can know. Since you will tell it anyway, you cannot order the sequence of the memories. You will write it quietly in the order it came.
Three and a half years old, left alone, again, I walk confident by the houses in bare feet down the hill to the park. More of a baseball field, but I did not know that then. I sit on a bleacher, get a splinter in my thigh. Staring at the field before me, I feel an angel of the Lord beside me.
And he says, “God created the earth.”
I look at the grass and up at the trees, the blue with white cloud puffs, the bend in the horizon. I don’t have words for what I feel. Amazement, maybe. The trees strike me the most, something about each green leaf.
Put that memory away! That did not happen! Just believe me that you are psychotic and you made it all up. You’re not touched. You’re not special.
Rain on one side of the street. Sun on the other. A perfect divide down the middle. It is a sign. It is perfection.
Do not say what happened in the other field, the one They told you never to go to. Be angry with God for what he has allowed.
My first memory is of my death. I am two and a half, and a boy squirts his black squirt gun up my nose. As I fall I think his face evil. So rabid was he. And then, I only see dark. Black. In it, a glowing old man with big hands that holds an orb that is me. As he puts my soul back in my body, he says, “The first sound you will hear is your own voice.” A gasping breath. My eyes open. Sky. And then it comes out, “What happened?” My grandmother is over me with smelling salts. She is crying and moving the smelling salts from one of my nostrils to the other.
Do not tell the next part. Never write about us, including your sister, Chris.
Sitting up from my death pose, I look over my shoulder to see my sister, Chris, five years my elder, walking out of the apartment across the grassy area that separated the buildings. She has a stuffed, green snake. A very long one. She is proud of her new acquisition, and somehow the coincidence is not lost on me.
See, this is the thing. You do think your sister is evil. You’ve never written about her. Don’t start or we will do something. Why are you tensing? Scared?
There are slugs on the sidewalk on a summer night. I hear crickets, see fireflies, feel heavy, hot air as I sit with a couple of neighborhood kids and my sister in front of our house. She leans in and so do we as she tells the story of a young girl ghost who hitches rides in cars and gets dropped off where she had once lived before she died. She makes sure we understand that part. She makes sure we are afraid of the dead. She teaches us the song, “Never laugh when a hearse goes by or you might be the next to die.”
Remember the words.
I am in the potty. My sister, Chris, knocks and says she wants in. An angel tells me not to let her. But I do. I open the door and she and the thug neighborhood boy laugh and stare. She swore. I trusted her. Now the Satan men will be able to watch me pee the rest of my life.
Give us a break! No one will believe you. Joke’s on you, sistah.
The thug neighbor boy shows me his penis on the porch. I don’t want to see it. I find myself in the bushes with who I thought was a nice boy but who says, show me yours and I will show you mine. Him I simply tell no. Perhaps that’s the difference between naughty and nice.
I was three.
My sister, five years older than me, makes a haunted house in the shed and only later admits I was not feeling brains. It was spaghetti. Eventually, I fall asleep.
Blame it on your mother. Blame it on your father.
My father runs into the house he had to leave because he is “sick” and slaps my mother who is in the kitchen. On the couch, watching TV, I see him come in. I see him go where he knows she is. I hear him yell, “You let my baby get sick!” (A sign from God I am in trouble.) I hear her yell, “Dick, no!” I hear the slap. I smile. My sister crouches by me and cries. My father runs out. I am three. I was three. All this, too young.
Blame it on yourself.
I’m four or five. Christ swoops passed as I lie in my bed and says, “What do you want when I come?” I tell him chocolate milk and chocolate pop tarts. They don’t make chocolate pop tarts anymore. I blame Satan.
Stop. Now. You’re adding to this. We told you no.
Chris sends me a text and says I am evil. She says, “Own it.” She is very angry with me, and I don’t know why. I watch her sickness as it starts, intensifies, the way my fathers did, the way mine did…. I hide from her now, at 54, and bar the door.
You don’t even know why she hates you? You moronic imp. Run while you can, sweetie.
My sister sees demons in her smoke, in her photograph, and in lights. I would hold her tight, but she won’t let me. I would hold her, anyway. If I could hold on, maybe I could push her and my demons away. Maybe I could keep her from wriggling out of my arms. Maybe I could save her, my father, my mother, and me. If onlys. Whys and why nots are tiresome.
You can’t love her. Don’t even start with us. She’s evil! You’ll pay for this.
I know. I always do. But, I don’t know anymore what the enemy is: innocence, knowledge, neglect, presence, time, what we see or what we fail to notice, what we do or don’t, when we love and when, when we don’t.
All your spew is impressive. You are mocked despite your puny fists! And! We get the last word. We always do, mincemeat.
Carroll Ann Susco has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh and numerous publications, including Cutbank and The Sun Magazine. This entry is part of a memoir chapbook currently in progress.