1954 The Boogey Man
Memories are strange; they don’t line up in a row like a neat vegetable garden. Mine are like a plot of land planted by an eccentric gardener. On Nina Street there’s ass fingering and Lisa’s Goth boyfriend wearing the long black velvet dress he discovered at Savage Love in Kensington Market. In another, Overbrooke, ass fucking on a grey industrial carpet, and then me crying on my knees in a living room with only the black furniture looking on, and Caroline waiting on the front steps because Garth is inside, and I’m saying, “I’m just running upstairs for a second, honey,” and the old landlord’s wife who is also old and fat, it’s not true old people are all skinny, asks Caroline if she wants to come in. She’s just waiting for her mother, she says and I think what kind of mother am I? Throughout the rest of my life, I worry what kind of mother am I? What kind of person am I? Am I a good person? I review my life and make my list, just like Caroline used to on Bluffwood Drive—her good column on the left and the bad one on the right, just as it should be.
My grandfather bought our first house, a duplex on Soissons, for my parents so they should have some income coming in even with my father working his way up in my grandfather’s Federal Stores. Sometimes I’d watch TV with Linda Taba, because we didn’t own one yet which didn’t bother me since I didn’t know much about shows or even what channels were. Mostly I’d listen to “How Much is That Doggie in the Window” on their record player, and that was fine. Sometimes Mr. Taba would hide in the kitchen cupboard when Linda was bad and he’d come out with his boogey mask on. “The boogey man’s gonna get ya!” he’d say and Linda would run away, screaming. She never clued in. Seemed like the boogey man was lying inwait in the kitchen broom closet. Mr. Taba would be seated on his kitchen chair, the kind with the plastic cushion that sticks to your bare skin, and the next minute he’d be up and into that cupboard.
I never thought I had a boogey man. “Maybe I’m amoral,” I told Garth. “I just don’t care,” Garth said. My mind archives my transgressions past and present including those planned but never executed, who I was and shouldn’t have been, and who I was not and should have been, sets them in a concrete room hidden behind a basement closet smelling of must and moth balls and padlocks the door. “I need to know how you think,” he said, so I pried the old door open. I wasn’t prepared for the jumble inside. “It’s a condition, this guilt, connecting me to my Jewish roots,” I threw out at him, although I didn’t believe a word of what I said. So he gave me an hour lecture about comparative religion. Although you’d never think it to look at him, Garth is a really spiritual guy.
My list of transgressions is like a monster tree, one of those fast-growing trees that live thirty to fifty years max. I once saw one of those trees being chopped down. It involved a man wielding an electric chain saw in a chair lift as he cut boughs according to the laws of physics, although each bough was secured with a chain because sure enough it would swing wildly as it inched toward earth. And if you were watching you’d catch your breath as the bough made its turns, scaring onlookers and the people looking on from their living room windows in the houses beside the tree. The street was sectioned off with the same yellow tape used to surround crime scenes. It took a whole day to chop that tree down.