Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I was dreaming about my first neighborhood, cranky Mr. Epstein with arms crossed at the counter in his stationery store, Mr. Epstein who peered crossly at all the children he expected to make messes and steal gum or perhaps a package of Lifesavers. The bank on the corner with its polished granite floor, the way it smelled like a crisp new twenty-dollar bill, ink and paper and the hush of wealth. Michael's, with its garishly painted toy cars to sit in while enduring the indignity of having one's hair cut, which I never thought was much of an indignity, bottles of blue barbicide along with a real honest-to-God barber's pole out front, and the promise of cellophane-wrapped lollipops, red if you were lucky. The Jackson Hole restaurant for burgers and milkshakes and, always, the story of when I was a baby and my mother left my unwieldy English pram outside the plate glass storefront while she lunched with my grandmother, "but everyone did that, Sarah, it was a different time." The pebbled sidewalk around Brick Church, and the pleasant buzz in my head from my skateboard's wheels battling its rough surface, no shock absorbers or kneepads in sight. The strange little overmanicured garden at the Cooper-Hewitt where I liked to sit on a bench, squeeze my eyes shut, and imagine the museum my house, as it was indeed some child's house, once. The Good Humor truck in front of the Guggenheim that set my small heart racing with the anticipation of a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. I must have been smiling in my dream, remembering all these lovely things, and more: the wind singing tonelessly past my ears as my brother and I raced banana bikes down an access road in Central Park. But then you showed up and told me that I was wrong, that this memory couldn't possibly be accurate, because thus-and-so, and the same for that memory, and all the rest. I trembled, I think, retorted, "You weren't there! How could you know?" And then, yes, you actually smirked, and I remembered something else, visiting Dr. Moloshok and sitting on the examining table for so long, my white Carter's underwear not nearly enough to keep me from shivering as I waited in a tiny dark room for the nurse (Mrs. Bell, in hilarious contrast to the name of my first-grade teacher: Miss Ring) in her white uniform and cap to arrive with her stainless steel tray of syringes and do the dirty work of protecting me against funny long words that translated, somehow, into death. And the cellophane-wrapped lollipop proffered by the receptionist after the fact finally feeling like the bribe it was always intended to be.