More Memoir Stuff …

I am having an incredibly difficult time writing this.  The whole scene is set in my head; breaking it down and describing all the elements are killing me. Sure, the material is compelling, but I can’t assume the reader knows anything.   The feedback so far is helpful, but sometimes I wonder if they’re actually reading the piece or just hungry to criticize.  Whatever is fine.  Another fine line to walk is not to make sure I’m holding the reader’s hand the entire time. I can’t be condescending.

Of course I’m going to be hard on myself, and of course I won’t be completely satisfied with any end product.  It will always be “in progress.” I’ll just keep working; it’s all I can do.

***
Towel wrapped around me, hair still dripping from the shower, I walked into my parents’ room, and Dad closed the door behind us.  I removed the towel, or maybe he did.  Did he gently direct me to the bed?  Perhaps, and he draped the towel on one of the bedposts.  I lay face down on the bed, and I was concerned with getting the bed wet, as I hadn’t completely dried off.

It was my parents’ bed, which I found a bit strange because they usually forbade me to enter their room, but he didn’t suggest going to my room and using my bed.  It was my dad, after all, telling me to enter, and I trusted him.  I trusted that he only wanted what was best for me, that he only meant to do good things.  Their bed seemed bigger than mine; I had a queen sized bed, too.  Maybe it was higher, perhaps their mattress and box springs were taller.

The frame was a solid, light wood, perhaps oak.  Beautifully varnished.  Hospital corners, oversized comforter, big, fluffy pillows, just the way my mom always made the bed.  The bed posts were like elongated bowling pins, but with the heads more rounded.  The ones on the footboard were shorter than the headboard ones.

It was a sunny day. Perhaps it was during the summer, as sunlight bent through the closed blinds of my Key West home that evening—it was as if the windows were squinting. All the bedroom doors were open and the second floor was still relatively bright.

Just a few moments earlier, I called downstairs, barely louder than a whisper:

“Dad?”

I sensed a pause. “I’ll be there in a second,” he said. Then I heard his feet thudding up the hollow, wooden stairway. My heart matched the pounding, but doubled the tempo. At the top of the stairs I saw his wavy, brown hair crest over the steps. He looked at me standing in the towel as he reached the top step.

“Are you ready?” He asked.

His voice naturally boomed, even at a “normal” volume, and it startled me.  I blinked, then I nodded.

My dad was a somewhat large man, 6’1″, easily two hundred pounds.  However, he was average-boned, with relatively narrow shoulders that made his pot belly look especially prominent.  He had reddish, weather-worn skin, especially on his face and neck and forearms.  His hands were working man’s hands–rough, calloused.

It was 1984.  I was eight years old, a little taller than 4 feet, maybe 60 pounds.  My dark hair still dripped onto my brown, summer-kissed skin.  Still in my terry-cloth toga, I turned as Dad started to lead me into his room.  I stared at the bed.

I was holding a bottle of lotion he had told me we would use.

I have always had dry skin. At an early age I was taught to apply lotion to my arms and legs after showering. If I didn’t, my skin would crack and appear scaly and it would itch. I could easily scratch the word dry on my skin if I went without lotion.

Somehow, it occurred to my dad that he would help me with my after-shower ritual. He made the suggestion–the day before?–and I didn’t say no. Because I couldn’t.  I couldn’t say no when he suggested we do it before I put on my pajamas, before dinner. “No” was talking back, and talking back was disrespect, which meant spanking.

I remembered all too well, several times in the past few years, walking around the front yard, trying to pick out my own switch; my yelping from the initial sting; the branchlets whipping my fingers when I tried covering my bottom with my hands. I remembered my mom’s lithe, leather belt with her name, NORA, engraved on it; how Dad made sure the name-side faced me as he flicked his wrist as to leave a red, throbbing, inverted ARON on my hide – perhaps a type of branding, for ownership.

Counting always accompanied the yelling.  One: Why did you disobey me?  Two: You know better than to say ‘no’ to your mother.  Three: You’d better move those fingers, or it’ll hurt worse.  Four: It’s your turn to count now.  Five, I whimpered.  Six.  Seven …


I did not want a spanking.  I felt conflicted.  I didn’t know exactly what Dad would do.  I wanted to trust him, but why did I feel so scared?

The room darkened after Dad closed the door. He took the bottle of lotion.  The curtains were drawn loosely in their room, and Dad paced to the nightstand and switched on a lamp. The walls glowed softly. After I climbed onto the bed, the comforter absorbed the water on my body I didn’t dry with the towel, and I imagined leaving a damp, small, May-shaped impression on the bed.

The air conditioning was on, and goosebumps emerged from my skin. I wanted clothes. I wanted to curl up under the comforter, but I knew that wasn’t why I was on the bed.

The lotion spurted out of the bottle.  I could only hear as much, because I was face down on the bed, in the prone position.  He began.  I felt his sandpapery hands slide across my back.  He slathered what was in his hand on me until it ran out, then he flipped open the lid to get more, then he closed the lid and resumed rubbing me with the lotion.

His hands moved up to my neck and shoulders.  He made his way over my arms to my fingers.  It was slow, methodical; unrushed, thorough.  He worked the entire posterior side of my body, head to toe.

I don’t remember hurting.  I blink hard and search long into the recesses of my mind, but I just don’t remember.  I can’t remember.  I don’t think my dad was forceful or violent.  I don’t remember nerve endings being stimulated.  But, he did touch me there, his fingers gently probing as I was lying face down.   I don’t even remember if he turned me onto my back to lotion the front of my body.  Maybe he asked me how my day was, but I don’t remember talking.  I lay there, motionless, while he helped me with my dry skin.

He finished; I don’t know how long it took. I smelled sweetly of shampoo and a little flowery and a smidge tartly from the lotion.   He told me to get up, so I did, and he wrapped the towel back around me.   I looked at the nightstand with the lamp and saw the bottle of lotion with the fliptop lid.  My skin was slick and still warm.  I noticed the bed wasn’t all that messed up.  Dad opened the door.  I left my parents’ room and went to my bedroom.  I closed my door.  I put on my pajamas.  My feet were slimy, and I wiped them on the carpet before I left my room and headed downstairs to dinner.

***

I’m turning in my homework late, so that I could get this assignment in on time.  It was due today, and I turned it in last night.  It’s shorter than the last version, but I like where I’m going better with this one.  Slow, deliberate.  That is more my style, but I get very impatient with myself very quickly.  I’ve gotta stay calm …

A little discussion.

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