I’m trying to read the code.

She grabbed me by the arm and
gently pulled me up,

let me take you home. 

They say don’t start the story with something traumatic. But my first first memory was me standing up in my crib and looking out in the hallway to see my mother pass by dressed like a witch.  That memory is boring and so is the second one;  me screaming at nap time refusing to go to sleep. My mother’s reproving look. That is also boring and my third memory they said is too traumatic. They said don’t start with trauma. (No, I said that once). I said I wouldn’t tell a rape story in my own story but my third memory is before the license plate. I think. It is my babysitter’s brother locking my door and telling me to get changed. Then I remember cutting my hair and hiding it behind the dollhouse. No then, I remember my babysitter’s brother making a face as I stood naked throwing clothes over my head dramatically, theatrically, and being wanted. Histrionic. I do remember cutting my hair and hiding it behind the dollhouse. That was my fifth memory.  I also remember being on all fours, naked in my daybed. That was part of the fourth memory. The way he told me to take of all my clothes and try on outfits. I made it a gamel smirking, throwing them over my shoulder. Nubile. And wanted. He made a face though. Some crinkled nose face as I pulled a cotton ball or some sort of lint out of my belly button. I turned around and saw him make a weird face like I smelled. And

I remember looking up at her with the limp brown pine needle in my hand unable to explain any needs; the way I hold things, the way I need to pace alone and mime, the necessity of reading the numbers in order. I’m sure my parents felt no worry when she returned me. I would be more careful when I needed it now: checking to make sure their brown car wasn’t there first, and skulking.  I would sneak into the yards to watch the numbers. 

The sixth memory is the one that I feel still, like it’s palpable and mine to hold forever, no matter how leather my flesh turns: swinging the screen door open and running outside in my favorite blue and white sundress, my hair in a ponytail and my mother nearby. The sun hit my shoulders, that’s what I remember. That’s what I crave every day. Grass was green and soon Alex would be home and the sprinkler would be on and the sun would stay on my shoulders. Laying stomach down on the lawn, I placed my summer reading list  on the ground and began to twist a blade  in my fingers.  Began to read the titles, excited. I had been the first child to read in my class, and in kindergarten, younger than anyone else.  My teacher had paraded me across the hall when she found out. Had me read to first grader’s so they could clap which I liked. I didn’t understand what I was reading. It was about a blue dog. I knew that from the illustration. Only I could read it proficiently and perfectly without comprehending what I was reading. Same way I speak foreign languages now. If you heard me say the phrase, you’d think I was fluent. But I don’t always know what I mean. 

every once in a while on a walk around town i say
vous avez envie d’intensité
to practice and

It was the applause I liked. The way the teacher beamed when she caught me reading, creeping behind me like they do. Me, big eyed and small as she held my hand and pulled me. The way I tossed my dress over my shoulder towards him like that. The audience’s jaw shift. Me, practicing Vah and the numbers to follow. Trying to give them all cadence. Like songs. The way they hear me humming round the block. The way they creep up behind me. The way eyes befall a mouse. The way eyes befall a garden. Heading to the dandelions and even with the hoverfly squarely in center, what are shoes for? Curious, learning about consequences. Learning to lift from your center. Learning to approach in whisper. Learning to

step on
things that are

“first memories”  

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