I found a body when I was four.
There is an old photograph of me, baby-faced, with a shock of strawberry-red hair showing as I looked through the glass of a green motorcycle helmet. The photograph is rounded on the corners, taken with a 110 camera. The owner of the helmet was a friend of my dad.
Every few years, I get a fleeting vision, or a thought of that moment. Of not understanding what that was, or why a grown man was laying there in the bathroom, why there was something all over the floor. Shampoo isn’t that color. Why is he sleeping there on the floor?
I remember … something … There’s a moment that’s not there in my mind anymore. Except that it’s an empty spot where a memory should be. Reading a book, you can tell a page was torn out. It’s like that, but in my head. There is a parent there behind me, and then I am downstairs in the living room again. And policemen come in. One sits down and starts reading a book to me.
And then it’s over.
The memory just ends, like a recorded conversation that’s run out of tape.
In later years, my parents would fill in details around the edges. About his parents. About how he did it. About why he did it. And even though I never really acknowledged it before, it has had a not inconsequential effect.
I often wonder about the ways our lives are steered not only by ourselves but by the events in our lives, how those events become what we consider “ourselves”. If actions are rocks dropped in still pools, how has this rock rippled through me?
Today, while I was tumbling this memory through my mind like a pencil between my fingers, I was struck by an irony: a man hours away from committing suicide, wearing a motorcycle helmet.