1. When I was three, I threw a snowball at my mother’s back—we were somewhere in the mountains of southern California.
2. My mother walked out on my father and me when I was in the third grade. I have this vivid memory I see sometimes. It consists of the front door to my childhood home and my mother with the floral suitcase she used to take with her on trips. She is holding it in her right hand and closing the door with her left hand. The light on the other side of the door is bright, so bright that I can just see the outline of her. When she closes the door, it is dark.
I remember it now as rain. With her absence there was rain.
I chased after her. I do not recall if she took the car. Even if she had, my third-grade self would still have run aimlessly through the streets, head turning back and forth. She was not a fast walker; I thought I could catch her. I never did.
When I was running, screaming, and crying through the streets of my neighborhood, a family friend came out of her house to hold me and tell me I would be okay. My mother was in that house, the woman explained, and she would be staying a while.
3 . I didn’t meet my sister Helena until I was about ten years old. I don’t think I believed we were siblings, but when we drove to Vegas the next day we fought relentlessly over the air vents in the car. Eventually I became tired and fell asleep with my head on her shoulder. After that day, there was no doubt that she was my sister. She always came with summer.
4. The first time all of my dad’s kids were together we tried to bake a cake. It exploded.
5. One Fourth of July my family came over. My cousins, Lavina and Brianna, and I had a great time hanging out. It got even better as all of the elders became less and less sober. We went to watch the fireworks and as we were watching them we convinced our drunken tio to get up and start yelling, “Viva México!” He did and he felt like he was on top of the world while he was yelling. The funny thing about gravity is that no matter how high up you are, you will fall back down. Like a toppling tree, my uncle landed into the lawn chair with a crash and a lot of curses in Spanish.
Later that evening, my cousins and I were talking in the room away from the rest of the family. I do not recall what we were talking about, but the same uncle we’d convinced to stand up at the fireworks came into the room. For the longest time I never understood why, but he made us sit on the floor as he took the only chair in the room. Suddenly the room became a courtroom and he was the judge, the prosecutor, the bailiff, and the jury. Lavina and I were the ones being prosecuted. I was in the sixth grade; he was sure I would end up in jail. I am reminded of him when I smell any light beer.
6. My first experience with drugs was when I was in middle school—I don’t remember which grade. A couple of older kids, Curt and Billy, and I were in a sketchy alley near one of their houses. We had a clear glass bubbler. I didn’t know then about the things you are supposed to do and the many sins you could commit while you may be or may not be committing a sin. While my mouth was on the piece I exhaled and water started to come up through the other end of the piece. Apparently, blowing into the piece when there is water in it was a sin. They were furious.
7. I asked my last girlfriend, Jordan, out over Facebook. Five years ago.
8. I went to meet her and her foster mom at the mall the next day. I remember because I was lost as I tried to find them in Target. I heard her voice like a sweet breeze and I looked to my right. Jordan was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, admiring a pink sweater. I opened my mouth to say, “Hi” just before a security guard tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could return what I’d stolen. As the blood rushed to my face in a violent cocktail of fear, regret, and embarrassment, I bit my lip and gave him the socks I’d taken from Sears.
9 . My father walked out when I was in my junior year of high school. When he left I did not know he left. It reminded me of a California fall going into winter–the warm slowly leaving while the cold slips in.
10. After my senior year of high school, I left everything familiar to me. As I was on the airplane to the Midwest, southern California cried for me. I cried too, but I did not look back.