Two memories still burn in my mind to this day, they are my earliest and both surround the same event. Somewhere outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, in which my biological father, my mother, and myself as a little boy are living in a small downstairs apartment. I am four shortly to turn five and I am sitting on my tricycle in the middle of the street with cars parked on either side of me. It’s dark and I am staring up into the streetlamp imagining it is a spaceship, and inside it is a little spaceman getting ready to blast off to the moon. I am dreaming he’s going to take me with him, and we would leave this place and go far away.
My first thought as an adult, of course, is what the hell is a four-year-old doing in the street after dark and what exactly is going on in my house at the time? The next memory, however, explains it all. My 23-year-old mother and I are in the kitchen of our small apartment, the memory is a little hazy, shades of off white and light browns, yet my mother’s screams and cries I know well enough. My mother has the stage set to leave my father, her purse and keys are at the end of the kitchen island closest to the short flight of stairs that lead to the front door. I am standing with her ready for our escape. Her soon to be ex-husband, my biological father, has other ideas about us leaving and pins her up against the wall, she fights him crying, screaming, and yelling, he is hurting her. Then I panic as well. I reach for the most dangerous thing I know at the time, a serrated steak knife.
The image of the knife is the one thing that is clear: the kind with a brown and white fake bone handle. I swing the knife at my father, it does little to injure him, but it is a distraction, and my mother and I break free and run. That was motherfucker number one. Motherfuckers two and three would come in quick succession, both in the same fucking year. All three before I turned five, and all three military men. She was into military men, and one day she told why. She said, “So if they fuck me, I know where to get my money”.
My mother was raised Catholic, complete with Catholic schooling. It was the 60s, and the Catholic nuns who taught school could be a bit harsh in their approach. As a result of their strict upbringing, a lot of those girls didn’t turn out baking pies and going to church socials. They were pissed off, and railed against the system. All that bullshit about God punishing you for your sins and who you are, it had to have been stifling. I remember seeing one of the pages in the Bible that my mother kept, filled with sketches depicting the depths of hell, flames, demons, and gross men and women looking up in agony begging for mercy. My mother wanted out of that life and she was determined to find something better.