July 22, 2005

Lights up on a car. I am in a safety seat, buckled tight. I am two years old. I have a wet diaper. See the look on my face?

My father is driving. I know he loves me because he swings me around, even when my mother is laughing and says, "enough okay enough." My father is twenty-two years old. He is tapping on the steering wheel. He is listening to music that makes me anxious. He is an intellectual. He doesn't believe in God.

I strain against the straps of my car seat. I am tired of sitting in pee and want to be changed. I whine and my father says, "all right, buddy, all right." But it's not all right. I feel hot and wet and I don't like the music.

I have no idea where we are going, but I want to be there. I go everywhere with my father during the day because my mother is at work. We go to used CD Stores and the Salvation Army. We buy groceries with food stamps. We visit my dad's friends.

I alarm my dad's friends because I exist. They do not have children or steady girlfriends. They work at World Cup and Powell's Books. They have plastic glasses over their eyes. They let me suck on their fingers after they dip them in beer. They call me Joe even though that's not my name. "Hey Joe, what's up, man? You wanna play roller coaster?"

I love to be tossed around. I shriek and laugh and say mo' when I want to do something again. My father's friends play catch with me. My dad holds me upside-down and swings me in circles. I can't get enough of it. I say mo' mo' mo' and get roughed up so much I can't see straight.

I whine again and my father says "we're almost there, bud." I ask him where we're going, but he doesn't understand me because I don't speak English. My mother tries to teach me to talk all the time. She holds objects in front of me and says the name over and over again, in a hundred different ways. I understand what she's saying but I cannot repeat her.

It's hot. We don't have air conditioning in the car because it's broken. It's a 1985 Buick. My father has all of the windows open, so I have to blink a lot.