A Fractured Memory
Eight years old in a shiny fish-skin bathing suit on a white plastic bench swing, feet dangling and toes wiggling like live bait; my aunt Jane and I sit, watching my cousins splash in the turquoise pool that was a red hole in the ground just last fall. The thick July air, filled with chlorine and shrieks of laughter, hangs even thicker above the water. My temperament could only handle so much shrieking and splashing, so I had ambled up on the swing and plopped down next to my aunt. My parents and other aunts and uncles sit around a blurry glass-topped table a few feet over. Diane and Jerry smoke, their grey plumes mimicking the cloud of grey kittens weaving through legs and tumbling across concrete. The cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds create a chaotic peace; this is summer at Jane and Jerry’s.
I pick up a handful of Goldfish from a salmon-pink plastic bowl and toss them in my mouth. “Here, this is what I do,” my aunt says. She picks up one Goldfish, one of the puffy ones, and sets it between her molars. With a gentle crack, she splits it perfectly down the middle and exposes its hollow insides; she sees the wonder on my face and adds her bubbling laughter to the surrounding melody. I spend the rest of the hazy afternoon trying to split Goldfish in half, never getting it quite right—leaving the bowl littered with fractured tails and smiles turned to dust.