A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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Marion Winik, the author of The Big Book of the Dead, is the recipient of the 2019 Towson Prize for Literature. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and teaches at the University of Baltimore.
There were signs, I suppose. First she stopped lining up with the other kids for ice-cream sandwiches and chocolate bars. No dessert, she said.
A notorious buffoon is elected to the highest office in the land. He lies, cheats, connives, and endangers the planet and all its inhabitants. Did anyone expect this?
It seems she was surprised to hear from me. “Marion,” she wrote back a week later, “I kinda liked you when I met you, and then I learned to love you, but now you’re just the skank that fucked my man when I was struggling to make a family.”
Dear Mom, As it has been six and a half years since you died, we have a lot to catch up on: marriages, births, deaths, graduations; all kinds of news, good and bad. Your little namesake started high school in September, and just a couple of weeks ago your pal Leon Katz died.
Whereas other memoirists seem to have unlimited drilling rights in the rich territory of childhood, I am largely reduced to mining the immediate past — Memoirs of the Month, as it were. My childhood is a metal milk crate, a parquet floor, a lighted button in an elevator. If only I could recall something I haven’t already remembered, one brand-new memory never before fondled, unraveled, torn, and patched.
“There was nothing that could be done,” said the policeman to my friend Nancy last Sunday at her door. By this he meant, Your twenty-year-old daughter died in a traffic accident on her way to work at the mall this morning.
Something like this can really mess you up, you know? You could spend quite a while feeling bad and acting worse. You could hitch up a train of bad poems and lost weekends and therapy sessions, and whoosh — there goes 1982.
The things they googled were determined by forgetfulness, by need, by desire, by curiosity, and by the endless availability of information. In fact, there was no point in remembering anything except how to google.
Recently I came up with the idea of writing a series of personal essays on biblical events. First, of course, I had to read the Bible. But the Bible and I did not hit it off. Children’s Bibles proved to be more my speed, particularly one by Seymour Rossel.