Silly Grins

Monday, March 5, 2012

Memory: Where Demons Live

Demons live in memory. Or at least, that’s where some of them subsist.  Waiting beneath the surface. Waiting for just the right moment. That’s what they do; that’s what they are for.

For instance, the time Wifey almost left their sleeping two-month old child alone, maybe because the weight of motherhood was heavier than expected, a hormonal imbalance, or whatever sympathetic excuse was close at hand, within the reflexive grasp of denial’s practiced reach.  What the mother didn’t know was the name of one of Father’s demons, something akin to Abandoned. 

Abandoned sucks the life out of idle cars left abake in front of pastinko parlors. Suavely smiling Abandoned whispers seductive ideas of convenience, “It’ll be all right, just for minute… or two… good… that wasn’t so bad now, was it? Anytime…”

Abandoned is one clever son-of-a-bitch with it’s control of reason.   

“Who? Me?” says the one who is oh so very quick to point a gnarled finger, feigning righteousness as it says that Paranoia is the real one who ought to be blamed.”

Shifting in tone.

“Just relax. It will be okay,” the voice says through the comforting language of trust.

Just this morning, the demon  said to him,  in response to hearing about the second incident:
“I thought we had this conversation once before, just after he was born? Now she's leaving her for quick trips to the coin laundry!” 

The kindred soul of Abandoned, that clever bastard, appeared to have had Father so angry that he’d forgotten to say, “Wifey... what if something happened to you while you were away? Who would know that she’s at home, alone? What if someone were to knock on the door? You don’t leave a young kid alone, not ever!”

But, instead of saying anything, there is just silence, and remembering…

A long time ago, a little boy who’d grown accustomed to sitting in cars, alone, for hours at a time, was eventually left off a day early at the rendezvous point.

“They still haven’t answered… light is fading and I don’t want to fly at night. Hey, I’ve got to go before it gets dark. They’ve probably just stepped out for a minute.”

He checks the fuel, calculates for weight and checks the distance again. He wants to get back in one piece.

With conditioning to think this nothing unusual, the boy waves goodbye to the departing guardian, then heads back to the pay-phone and tries the number again. A fading drone turns to silence. The sun slides down behind the foothills as dusk begins the nocturnal transition, inviting the the shadows.

Maybe there’s an overhead light outside or something, because the memory of the boy can still clearly see the payphone that seems okay even without the yellow pages to keep it company. 

A few cars are in the distance, but none in the tiny parking lot at the municipal field. Instead of trying again to dial the number that has become an eternal ring, he checks for any spare change in his pocket and thinks…

“I’ll call them.”

The number he can never forget, the one he knows better than his own.  He dials… and waits. Waits for the familiar voices of parenthood who gave him permission to grow up in their household, even if it’s usually just every summer afternoon and the occasional sleepover. Like a son with the brothers and sister, sorrows, joys, bumps and scrapes. There is hope… 

"Inkya binkya,
bottle a’ stinka,
the horse ran out

No answer there either.

The air is starting to cool. In the distance, a windowless blue van looks like it might be decidedly slowing down, getting ready to turn.

In his head, “What was the other number? The one I hardly ever call? The one across the street?” He tries hard to remember. The first five digits are not a problem, it’s those last two.

On the second ring, someone picks up. It’s a mother’s voice, the Mother of Seven (maybe soon to be eight). Apologizing for the inconvenience, worried in his kid-head that she’ll scold him, he starts trying to explain where he is, what is going on.

Mother of Seven from the Family of Nine is there within twenty, in their blue van with all the windows, the blue van that seats maybe eleven. He gets to ride up front on this rare occasion. There are only the two of them.

Later the next day, when he walks across the street to meet the other set of guardians who had no idea what was going on, excited and confused arms embrace him. 

“We had agreed to pick you up this afternoon…” followed by a laser-angry question concentrated into a monotone beam, “Tell me…what happened?”

But this isn’t about the boy, way back when. And this isn’t about Father either. This isn’t even about being Abandoned, this is about demons and where they live.

In us. They live in us. In our memories. And often times, we don’t even know it. We all got ‘em. And if we’re not careful, the can really raise hell when we’re least expecting it. Maybe that's why some people can turn on a dime

When that out-of-nowhere white squall of fury hits, the boom can be deadly. Gotta remember to put your head down for that one-hundred-eighty-degrees of unpredictable mood swing. Yeah, of course there’s disorientation! And it might even make you sick. So what.

Takes a strong stomach to be able to keep those demons in check, keep ‘em busy working for us. While it would be nice to get those pests to carry all our mental baggage around, that takes some skill... if we’re paying attention. Gotta pay attention 'cause they might even open up some of that luggage, reach in real deep, and then start throwing some of our own shit at us, maybe even try on some of our old clothes, start dancing around, singing… anything to piss you off and get you to really cut loose and lose it.

Father stands there in silence…

Abandoned’s kin whispers, “She’s done it…” up close now, hot breath into his ear, ah-gain.

Fully aware, in that split second of familiar eternity, he doesn’t move…  

(somewhere along the line, he's figured out that he doesn’t have to)

The demon stands back now, reaching into that old blue suitcase, picking up an old pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and sweat-stained baseball cap that a six-year-old boy once wore. 

Then, it starts to scream You call yourself a husband! You cunt of a man! Go on, YOU FUCKING COWARD, LET HER HAVE IT!  

He starts to smile, and gives a soft answer, but only to himself, only one that he can hear, “Yeah, I am a husband. And also a father. And that’s why I am still here. Not about to leave… not anytime soon. Not if we can help it.”

At this point… a person may wonder where this is all going… what keeps Father in check… at least most of the time.

Father’s strain of Abandoned is a yattering.

One important rule that he tries hard to remember is that we’ve all got demons. We’ve all got demons of various shapes and sizes, but mostly in our memories. When someone unknowingly recites some incantation through the use of a key phrase under uncanny circumstances… when anyone does this, you’d better have a very clean memory, emotional and otherwise, in order to be able to deal what is about to be unlocked.

Understanding that everyone’s got ‘em comes first. The second, and perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind, is that you don’t want to get between anyone and theirs. Or there will be hell to pay. Just don't do it.

Wifey’s demons live in the laundry. She tries to wash them away, tormented by the weather, with no place to hang her stuff out to dry, she is lured by the hypnotic rhythm of that coin swallowing drier, the one that promises salvation by sevens, one hundred yen at a time. Round and round… anything to forget about the never-ending trail up Mt. Wash, one step at a time through the blindingly unforgiving fog of parenthood. Father can see her tormentors... and though we've got plenty of mirrors in the house, Wifey cannot.

Deomon’s must get a kick out of watching people fight. Gives them a chance to rest, grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show. 

Father thinks the worst thing a person can do is to deny that they have a dark side. People who profess that they don’t have one concern him the most. That’s why he does what he can to look in the mirror knowing that, although he might not like what he sees, he still needs to be able to see himself. 


  1. Ah...beautiful ...beautiful!!.

    All of my Demons took their seats in the front rows of my soul by the time I was 10? The biggest ones. Then the one wearing a "guilty" t-shirt came and pushed them to the side like some kinda V.I.P
    The others still stare but the biggest one comes to me when it chooses.

    1. When they said, "It takes a village to raise a child," I think they meant that you sometimes need a whole village to keep Mom and Dad from ripping each other apart when their inner-uglies aren't in check.