In my Power Ranger days, my brother’s friends had a nickname for me. I’m sure they had several when I wasn’t around, but Birdboy is the only one they ever explained. See, our house in Hammondsport was at the bottom of a road that inclined nearly 45 degrees. I would push myself to the top on my bike, turn around, and fly to the bottom, arms opened wide, singing hard against the wind that would force its way into my throat.
In these moments I felt the world spinning beneath my feet as fast as I thought it was actually turning. My arms out, air passing me faster than I can breathe it in, and one hitch in the road would likely maim me. I was free in a way that I was not inside of that house.
But, that’s another story.
It was during one these said hitches where I turned sharply onto Grape Street – a street that would later be my final home in that town. I swerved onto this street to evade a truck coming out of the factory the wrong way. I made the turn parallel to the ground before losing traction completely. I launched over the curb, flipping the opposite direction, flying face-first with only a hedge breaking my flight into a neighboring house. Amazingly, I’d broken no bones. Unamazingly, I’d bruised myself in several places, opening two gashes that would later become scars on my left elbow and right shoulder as I did everything possible to hide the accident. I had popped several spokes on the bike, bending the front rim, and tearing the tire. The inner tube was still intact, though.
This accident taught me many things. One: how to, single-handedly, apply my own sutures. Despite achieving this, I learned that fishing line, not sewing thread, would have been a better choice. I also learned how to repair a bicycle. I claimed it was run over while doing a convenience store errand; otherwise I’d have had another gash or two to show for it. I patched the tire, used pliers and a hammer to bend the rim back, and learned how to rethread spokes – replacing, as need be, with parts from junked bikes thrown on the other side of the factory.
At the time, this was the street the First Rachel lived on. I had met her in my third grade year in this town. And I remember how annoying I thought she was. Every time I turned around, she would be following me, talking to me, trying to be in every part of my perception. She seemed nice enough. She had run to her father to call my mother the day my skull was rent asunder.
Moving from town to town caused me to do lots of stupid things in order to assimilate. The girls-always-have-cooties thing was second nature already. So, I would do everything possible to avoid her. Let me be clear: I didn’t hate her. I just hated how she was always inside of my personal space. I still hate when people linger inside my personal space. In third grade, she said she knew we’d be married someday. She may have seen the future, but, wrong Rachael, sweetheart.
She saw me flying through the air that day as she sat on her front porch. Screaming, she dragged her sister to ply me out of the bush. I was in a lot of pain. Well, I’m sure the hedge was just as bad – it’s branches were snapped and bent anywhere my body slammed into it, looking like a cartoon outline of a character running through a wooden wall. I was pleased to be out of the bush, but not ready to move yet. So, she kicked me – hard. Wanted to make sure I wasn’t dead.
This may have been a contributing factor to why she’s simply called the First Rachel. I had a bruise along my ribcage for months after that. Pretty sure by the pain I remember she either broke or bent something the wrong way. Blamed that one on a car accident, when the time came.
Now, if I had communication issues, girls at that age were worse. I will always remember this curly headed blond that would just beat the shit out of me every day. I mean full-fledged donuts on the arm every time we passed. Finally, by seventh grade I asked what her damn deal was. She thought I was cute; I explained I was terrified. If her ‘Hello’ leaves me sore and bruised on the arm, imagine what ‘Let’s get hot and busy’ would have done to me – and where it would have done it. This eventually led me to my first “girlfriend”, a mousy little girl with pitch black hair which was more independently minded than she was. And she was easily half my height (and a year my senior). That was the First Sarah.
Dating shorter women has been a lifelong adventure.
Going full circle (and back to point), Rachel’s sister was part of my brothers clique. Can’t remember her name, but I do remember her saying she’d never drink the water of that town. She said it made people just a little dumber each time, so she’d only drink bottled iced tea until she left (bottled water wasn’t quite the rage that it is today). Naturally, this all meant that my brother found out, and his cronies. I remember one of them (I couldn’t tell you which. To me, at that age, they all looked like Lemmy Kilmister), gave me a helmet. It was a simple skateboarding helmet, but he wanted his Birdboy to keep said brains inside said skull.
This guy lived up the road from us. He had several Dalmatians that terrified me, as the few times I’d try to meet them, they seemed more inclined to eat the soft flesh from my bones than to have their ears scratched. Well, he saw me go flying that day, but didn’t know who it was until he’d heard the stories. He’d apparently taken a few of the others to see the bush I ran into, and they all had a good row over that – flapping their arms and screeching.
I don’t know if there’s a moral here. Maybe, if you’re going to keep your arms off the steering apparatus, keep your eyes open? Everyone in a small community with a windowless van isn’t out to rape you? Picking up a toad does not give you warts - but wash your hands in case it peed on you? I feel like this is a story with characters and set pieces; that there’s a bigger tale that I can draw from this now that it’s out there. I mean, I don’t really think about these tales - I just sit down and tell myself, “Write.” What comes out is the first thing to come to mind.
It’s a journey to trace them backwards. I am a larger expression of these figments of memories. The complete aspect of these memories I’ve kept bottled up, so I am only ever living and acting out my life with but the smallest fraction of them catching the glimmer in the little bottles I locked my mind inside. This is cathartic, as it forces me to open these little baubles and explore the bits and bobs. Making it public, forces me to uphold a standard – both for delivery of content, and for quality.
Alright, the quality is not always there, but at least the delivery’s timely enough.