I’m seven years old and it’s one of those nights where it’s still light at eight and the chirping of the crickets seems amplified by the dry summer air We’re in the front yard, the boys and I sprawled on the lawn eating marshmallows as you tamper with the truck radio, before finally finding the broadcast of the Dodgers game I listen closely through the static of AM radio, wanting desperately to understand so I can be included in your excitement.
I’m ten years old and I’m starting to feel like the only thing this family cares about is baseball We’re in Oklahoma for the biggest baseball tournament of the year and you’re the coach and when you talk, everyone listens And I’m sitting in the bleachers at probably the 800th baseball field I’ve been to and all I can do is shrug when a mom of one of the players asks, “So, what do you like to do?”
I’m fourteen years old and I’m sitting in my room painting my nails when I hear you mention my name while talking to your friend downstairs in the kitchen I tip toe down the hallway and sit at the top of the steps, straining my ears to catch fragments of the conversation And you’re saying, “I don’t know, she’s just such a smartass. Her brothers were never like that.”
I’m sixteen years old and I’m reading Slaughterhouse Five because you casually mentioned that you thought I would enjoy it It’s a far stretch from the young adult novels I’m used to reading, but I take notice and great pleasure in the fact that you’ve never recommended a book to one of the boys So I read it and the more I feel connected to Kurt Vonnegut, the more I feel connected to you, and that feels important.
I’m eighteen years old and I’m still unsure of how you feel about me We’re standing in the kitchen as you wash the dishes and I search the fridge for the third time in an hour And you say, “You’re special, you know. I mean, your brothers are too. But I mean it when I say, you’ve got quite a remarkable brain.”
We lay there and looked up at the night sky and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls and I told her I’d never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it on your own.