My first memories…
As hard as I’ve tried to recall anything else, the first memory I can remember is from when I was younger than four years old.
We were living in Barcelona at the time, just my mother & father and me. She was all alone in a foreign country with no friends or family there and a deadbeat alcoholic Spanish maniac living off of her, squeezing everything he could out of her, and psychologically abusing her, whilst ignoring the baby in the bassinet whose mouth he’d propped a milk bottle in so he didn’t have to hear it cry as he painted in the other room.
I remember walking home with my mother at night after getting groceries. The moonlight would reflect off of the statues on top of La Casa Milà and they reminded me of gargoyles watching over everything. Of all the things in my life, they were the least frightening and actually somewhat comforting for some strange reason.
When we had reached the apartment, my mother told me to go in whilst she gather the bags or whatever she was doing. I remember being too short to reach the light switch and just standing there in the darkness wondering if my father were home. I remember calling out for him, and then suddenly falling silent as I saw something glowing in the distance.
As it came closer to me in the silent darkness of the apartment, I realized it was a skull – a silent, glowing skull floating toward me in the blackness, slowly, steadily, ever closer and closer. I remember screaming and screaming like I was going to die. Then my mom came in and turned on the light.
And then I saw my father take off a glowing skull mask, laughing and laughing like he’d just heard a funny joke.
That’s my first memory.
Everything before and after until we moved away from Spain, before I went to kindergarten, is mostly just more black silent darkness. And I still live there how many years later. I live in this darkness that’s deafeningly silent, so quiet that there’s an echoing reverberation inside of me, all around me, at all times.
I think it’s me still screaming. Always screaming.
Always in the darkness alone with my terror.
To this day.
My next memory is still around that time period, and then there’s nothing more until kindergarten, when I was 5 & back in America.
Other than the memory of the glowing skull, all I remember from that time period was ‘Il Nino’ – the life-size wax head my father liked to keep in a fruit bowl on a side table surrounded by fresh fruit. He thought it was very amusing. She looked so realistic to my child eyes. I was always afraid she was going to come alive and look straight at me.
When I crept toward my parents’ room in the darkness after a having a nightmare, I would press my back into the wall and never take my eyes off of Il Nino’s head in the fruit bowl. The way the moonlight glinted off her big glass eyes made me sure she was going to blink and turn slowly to look at me at any moment.
She had real human hair and was hollow so my dad could put her atop a broomstick and wrap a sheet around it, pretending that she was a real person and dancing around the house with her shouting, “Es Il Nino! Il Ninooo!!” and cackling up a storm with some kind of perverse glee. I didn’t understand it at the time, but it disturbed me.
When I was in 1st grade a few years later, we were tasked with a creative writing assignment. I wrote a story about Il Nino which concerned my teacher so much she brought it to my mother’s attention. My father wasn’t even with us anymore, and I didn’t consciously feel there was anything to be afraid of, but there was still that lingering feeling deep down inside of me that always made me feel wrong and unsafe.