Memoir


If Nights Could Talk: A Family Memoir, St. Martin's Press, 2001


An Excerpt:

Paperback, I like it better than the hardback.  

Paperback, I like it better than the hardback.  

1

the arrival

Jamie was on my porch. Standing in the door in his black leather jacket, black jeans, and combat boots, he blocked out the porch and streetlights, even the light from the moon. His eyes were hard to see behind the long swath of greasy hair pulled down to cover half of his face. At first, I only saw the wild hair falling around his shoulders. I remembered the way my father often had brushed my bangs out of my eyes and I would swat his hand away. I knew not to touch Jamie. The writing on his black T-shirt looked as if it were scrawled in blood; slowly it came into focus: The Dead Kennedys. I had been in the sixth grade when Kennedy was shot.

“Hey, Jamie,” I said. I heard myself say it as if from far away. The name, which had meant so much for so long in our family, didnt seem to fit him. “Hey, Jamie,” I said again as if to assure myself he was really Jamie. He seemed to grow larger the longer we stood facing each other, and I imagined if I let him in the house he would fill it with darkness.

We stood in the triangular wedge of the opened door, which seemed perpetually ajar, half-open, half-shut, held as if by its own geometry, but really suspended by the drama of the one who stood asking, though without words, to come in. I remembered my high school boyfriend, Pike, warning, “Hell follow you. Hell end up on your front porch someday.” Pike had meant my brother, Jimmy, and at the time Id been angry at the prophecy and at his fear of the prospect. How incredible, I thought, that it was my brothers son who was finally on the porch, and he looked so much like my brother I couldnt move my body in space, couldnt make my mouth say “Come in.”

My house glowed lamplit yellow behind me, and I felt its particulars pressing forward—the portrait my friend from New York had painted of me in pinks, reds, and purples; the two dogs, one yellow, one brown and black, both jolly at the prospect of a visitor, tapping their paws on the honey-colored oak floors as they came to see who was at the door. We were all lively commotion in contrast to Jamie, who was part of the night, a question waiting for an answer. I wanted to tell the hulking boy that Id carved and shaped and clawed this bright life into existence. I wanted to shout, “You cant come in. You will bring it all in with you.”

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