The Terrible Twos? Hell. Shouldn’t this be Chapter 2 then, not Chapter 3? Curses. I’ll have to hammer that out come the final edit.
In 1956, we moved into the little white house on Pacific Heights. I still live here. When I crawled back to Hawai‘i from Wisconsin, I was in terrible physical and even moreso emotional shape. I’d broken up with a woman I’d thought I’d marry, and I’d simultaneously left the Mad City realizing too late that I was actually in love with another woman. Had I been cognizant of that fact from the start of the whole shitstorm, I always tell myself, things might have turned out so much better. I’ve written about all of this crap too many times, so I doubt the whole maudlin saga will play a return engagement in this masterwork, but hey, you never know in show business.
Anyway, I was in such bad shape coming home, that I told myself I’d move back in with my parents until I could find a job and recover my health and sanity enough to rent an apartment. My folks even asked me if I’d like help on a down payment for a condo, but I poopooed the idea, assuring them that I’d be fine on my own eventually.
Eventually. I surmise I’ve lived out the longest possible interpretation of that word. I’m still here, 43 years after stepping off the plane, in that little white house. Which I do love, by the way. As long as I can handle the stairs – and there are a shitload of them – I plan to live here until my death, that previously mentioned final chapter of my autobiography.
Friends tell me that I should rent out my spare bedrooms to help myself out financially. But if you’ve ever seen Michael Keaton in the movie called Pacific Heights, you’ll know why I am sufficiently creeped out, living here on Pacific Heights, that I always assure them I’d prefer to live alone. As long as my State pension and Social Security can handle my bills, I’ll choose living by myself over letting a stranger, I mean a really bizarre stranger, move in.
Is it that the age of two is a terrible year for children, or is it that children are terrible people at two? Is it both? I’ve heard this term used from time to time, but because I’ve never had children, so I was never sure exactly what it meant.
I don’t recall whether 1956 was a terrible year. I do not recall if I was terrible either. My mother tells me that I was always a quiet child who slept a lot. Apparently I did not cry much either.
I did grow up to be a champion complainer about many things, most recently our 45th President, but it’s true that I am generally a quiet person, preferring a night reading a book over a night out on the town. In fact I grew up and into being such a silent person, that all the women in the world have so far passed me by, obviously not realizing I was right there.
True, I am a champion hide and seek player. When my sister and I played, I would pride myself on finding unique locations in our house, places no one would ever expect me to be. One time, back when I was small enough to do so, I hid in a laundry hamper. She never figured it out. Another time, I hid in a broom closet, once in a cabinet under our kitchen sink. Again, I was much smaller than I am now.
Good at it? I was great at it. So much so that one time when we were playing the game at my cousins’ house over in Mānoa Valley, no one found me. I didn’t realize everyone else had been found and that because there were so many of us, they’d lost count of who’d been located, or something. So I eventually joined them downstairs where everyone was eating.
We used to have some wonderful family parties back when I was a kid. My dad had so many brothers and sisters, and they all had so many children, that we were our own army. I miss those days. As we grew up, and many of us married, we all broke off into our own groups. It’s to the point, and it’s been like this since high school, really, where I rarely see any of my relatives any more.
Of course now, most of my dad’s generation have passed on, but even my generation of Lees pretty much only see each other at family funerals these days. And once those started, my grandparents first, and then my aunts and uncles, these occasions came just often enough that when we did all meet up, I, at least felt more like a stranger around them than a blood relative.
Now that was terrible. It’s terrible to have been so close to blood relatives for so many years, and then to lose track of everyone.
I lost a cousin for the first time a few years ago. He’s one of the ones at whose home we used to play our massive hide-and-seek games. It’s our generation’s turn to move on now. And so it goes.
If I wasn’t all that terrible when I was two, I’ve made up for it since. I’ve done some things that have made me ill afterward.
Once, when I whined so much my parents couldn’t take it anymore – I wasn’t two, I was more like ten – they bought me a Benjamin pellet rifle. I loved shooting that thing, but I was never any good at hitting targets. I guess I could never figure out how to use the sight correctly.
One day, I was shooting at some plastic Army men I’d set up on a low stone wall, and missing them. I assure you these little green men were rarely in danger of receiving even a flesh wound, but I would play this game of shoot and miss for many mindless hours.
All of a sudden I was quite surprised to see a little gray rat come wandering out from a crack in the wall. Now here was a target worthy of shooting. It was at least twice the size of my stationary little men, and I liked the idea that I could try to hit something that moved. Not hitting it did occur to me, but I was feeling lucky.
I took a deep breath, squeezed the trigger, and watched in amazement as the little rat squealed and jumped up in the air. When he came down, he didn’t move. I walked over to check on him.
The little guy lay there on his side, breathing rapid shallow breaths. It was horrible. It’s not as though I’d really thought I had a chance of hitting him.
I knelt down and examined him more closely. The pellet had ripped a pretty substantial hole in his body. I sat there, nearly crying, not knowing what to do.
Eventually he stopped panting. I couldn’t exactly tell if he was dead. I went in the house and returned with a slice of white bread and a little bowl of water. He was still lying there, absolutely still. Leaving the bread and water by his side, I went back in the house.
The next morning, I went out to the place where I’d left him. Of course he was still lying there, as were the untouched bread and water. I buried him in the yard, and I never shot my pellet gun again. It went into the broom closet where I used to hide from my sister, and their it sat and rusted away until I threw it out many years later.
I can still see that rat. It was the damndest thing. And I’d grown up loving animals of all kinds. I even had pet rats. Nowdays, I can’t even kill cockroaches. When I find one in my house, I catch it and toss it out the door.
There were many boys in my neighborhood, all of us within two or three years of each other’s age. We were what I referred to as a bike gang. Obviously we rode our bikes together. A lot. We also played basketball, tag football, and ping pong, skateboarded and rode push scooters, and blew up fireworks at New Years and on July 4th. We smoked our parents cigarettes together, and sometimes drank their beers. We would camp out overnight in each other’s backyards. Eventually we even smoked a little weed. And all this before we’d even made it to high school. Amazingly, all of us practiced various religions.
One time, a new boy moved into the neighborhood. He looked about my age. I don’t know why, but we decided we didn’t like him. It was ridiculous, I know, but we were too stupid to help ourselves. He would sit and watch us play basketball, but we’d never speak to him or ask him to come play with us, defiantly ignoring him. His constant watching of us gradually grew on our nerves, and several of us decided that we wanted to do something to permanently rid us of his annoying presence.
So one day we went over to his house and called him outside. He appeared, smiling at us, probably figuring we were about to ask him to join us. As he stood there at the top of his stairs, we began making fun of him, his face, his hair, the way he dressed, the way he talked. It was like every insult we could possible dream up. He began crying, and we continued to shout at him until we ran out of things to say.
We went away congratulating ourselves on a job well done. I can still see him sitting there on his back porch sobbing. We were such a bunch of snotty fucking little assholes. I never had a chance to apologize to him. We never saw him outside again, and within a year his family moved away.
I sometimes see him standing there, that stunned expression on his face before he started crying, the tears running down his cheeks. All for nothing. Kids can be so cruel. I never had a chance to apologize to him. That may be the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve done other things I’d consider terrible, maybe even cruel. To my parents, to women I’ve loved and then not loved. But that pointlessly cruel act stands out in my head as absolutely unforgivable.
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Aloha #WriterWednesday. Today’s #WritingPrompt is
Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece somewhere I can read it. I would love to see what you come up with : )