I’m 3 years old; I notice that the heavily stuccoed wall next to my bed has a plaster pattern that might be interpreted as a face. I spend the next 3 years talking to the tiny plaster face, wishing I didn’t know it would never understand what I said.
I’m 18. After some sporting event, possibly football, at the Superdome at which my friends Steve & Marty and I got rather drunk, I decide it would be appropriate to punch Steve in the face. Steve is 6’1”, easily 250 pounds and used to be a college linebacker not very long before. He hits me back, after carefully explaining why the recompense is at least as appropriate as my initial punch. I remember groaning on the ground shortly thereafter.
I’m 24. I’ve been in Ireland for a month. My flight home after my vacation is the next day. I use my new friend Henny’s phone to call my parents at home. My youngest brother Michael answers. I tell him to tell Mom & Dad that I won’t be on the flight home because I’ve decided to stay in Ireland. I remain in Ireland for a year.
I’m 6. My sisters Shannon and Erin and I have made a pastime of watching the new house get built next door. One day, we go to the window in our housekeeper’s bedroom to watch the heavy machinery do its thing. We eat ice cream. Shannon has chocolate. I have chocolate and vanilla. I discover the “swirl,” when your ice cream is just soft enough to swirl the flavors together, resulting in a delicious combination of breathtaking flavors (although it is a disgusting shade of brownish poop color, as Erin points out).
I’m in first grade. I’ve read a book called “Molecules” three times. I have questions about nuclear physics. I ask Ms. Surgi, my first-grade teacher about the cohesive properties of atoms, protons, neutrons & electrons. She is stumped.
I’m 39. My friend Greg and I are at a bar. I’ve recently moved out from the house my wife and I have shared for many years. We take turns discussing our “women problems.” After a few minutes, I literally cry into my beer for half an hour.
I’m 21. Still living with my parents, I’m walking through my brothers’ bedroom to get to my own bedroom, actually the garage that’s been turned into a garconniere. I ask my brother Patrick a casual question, to which he lies about the answer. I’m incensed that he lied. I recall my parents’ admonishment, “Don’t hit your brother! Don’t hit anyone unless they're your own size!” It occurs to me that Patrick, aged 17, is easily my size, perhaps even a bit bigger. I allow my anger to get the best of me and slug him several times. He gets a black eye, swollen and barely able to open it. The next day, my Dad has a photo shoot with a local magazine, as he’s running for public office. The photographer takes several pictures of our happy family. The photograph that appears in the magazine pictures my brother with one eye open, the other swollen shut. I’m smiling.
Speaking of photographs, there are very few family pictures in which I am not standing on my tippy-toes, to appear taller than everyone else.
I’m 26. I’ve just gotten back from a contract job in which I maintain aquariums through Bobby’s pet shop, where I work. Dr. McSwain calls Bobby, whose office aquariums I’ve maintained for a year. He’s complaining that ‘his fish are dying.’ Too embarrassed to go back, I ask my co-worker, Chip, to go to his office to check out the mysterious fish deaths. He returns later, and explains that I forgot to hook up an air tube that oxygenates the water in the aquarium. Two hundred dollars worth of tropical saltwater fish have died (this is about three actual fish; Dr. McSwain has a generous aquarium budget). I am too embarrassed to go back; I ask Chip to take over the account. Bobby never deducts the losses from my salary.
It’s my fortieth birthday. I’m in Anaheim, California, living as a refugee after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I rejoice that I’m two thousand miles away from anyone that would have a “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Forty” birthday party for me.
I’m one year old. It’s my birthday. I don’t understand the importance of the one-piece jumper my aunt has given me as a birthday present. I try to escape the festivities the adults are enjoying but the three steps up to the kitchen are too high for me to climb. I learn their drink preferences by overhearing their requests from my Dad, who rarely drinks, but is the party bartender. I don’t know what a “Martini” is yet. An “Old-Fashioned” mystifies me; at a year old, my idea of old-fashioned is last week’s stuff. The thought of a drink “on the rocks” will perplex me until my speech patterns are fixed enough to ask about it years later. Eventually I make it outside, where Maria, the girl next door, plays with me in my round strolly-walker thing.