I am old enough to know my numbers because Mom points to the black and white alarm clock on the bedside table and tells me I can wake her when it says 3-1-5. She is trying to catch a nap while I play with her tin of necklaces—strings of beads and shells that clatter against the metal when I tug at the tight lid and it finally gives way. The numbers of the clock are white on small black plastic rectangles that flip like cards in a rolodex. There is a small click as a number falls into oblivion. Do I understand the concept of time, or am I just watching for 3-1-5? I am waiting and doing something grown up.
I am lying in bed, waiting for sleep, listening to the hollow flow of the Edens Expressway. It sounds like someone breathing or like a heart beat or like Mom’s rocking chair after being tucked in–someone is there even though I can’t seem them.
I am seven, and my younger brother is five and a half, and Mom and Dad and I have a secret. Each night when Noel falls asleep, I sneak into my parents’ room and join them on the bed. Sometimes they are watching Masterpiece Theater. Sometimes they are doing needlework or reading. Sometimes Mom and I play a game. She takes a yellow legal pad and scribbles random lines—zig-zagging-, swirling-, figure-eighting-lines—all over the paper. Then we look for things in the random shapes. “I see,” Mom says, holding the “see” like a whole note, “a house.” Then she takes the pen and traces certain lines to reveal a house. “I see,” I say, holding the “see” like a whole note, “a flower.” Mom hands me the pen, and I trace the lines that make a flower. Bees, dogs, rabbits, faces, socks, windows, and leaves, we find a whole world in the 8.5 x 14 space of one yellow legal pad.
I am lying on my bed, watching the red and white lights of planes blink across the sky. I watch to see where the next blip of light will appear, what line will be revealed, and when it will be drawn beyond the frame of my window.
I am sixteen. I want to paint like Van Gogh. I go through my bedroom window onto the roof to work on a canvas. A deer appears in our yard, and because deer do not come to our neighborhood by the highway, I feel doubly lucky to be on the roof where I can see its whole tawny form against the greenery like one of the found creatures on a legal pad. It pauses and looks back as though something is pursuing it. It leaps the viburnum bush, darts across the street and disappears into the margins of other homes.