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the house chapter

You know the house. The one everyone knows about, where all the deviant kids live with little if any adult supervision. You know the type; there are always two or three brothers and at least one slutty sister -- or perhaps she's the lone Jesus freak making a stand against the depravity all around her. More often than not, though, she's the slutty type, like the one who steals all the neighborhood boys' cherries just for sport. If you ask her about it, she'll dismiss you with a few words about veedee or some such crap.

These have always been dangerous times.

Well, I'll just go out and say it in case you haven't figured it out yet. That house? That den of secrets? That was home to me. And oh what a home... Being the youngest, I obviously got away with much more than anybody else, not that anybody else really noticed though. To labor in obscurity within one's own home is the weight that must be carried by the youngest in the house. As sure as all those hand me downs hanging in the closet, almost untouched, like a strange collection that must not be sullied with the hands of people. These are the second hand realities of us trailing behind as nothing more than afterthoughts, an idea that in retrospect it may not have been the brightest of ideas, but there's no use in fighting the wind.

"You have to ride it like a wave, never resist..." was the way she put it. She had a way about her, something I would later, much later, figure out could be classified as a pathological tourist. Always thinking about the next stop and hurrying everyone around. She was always trying to talk my middle brother into countless road trips and adventures. Elena, even her name seemed like it was passing through, blowing past us caught in some undercurrent that didn't affect the rest of us. Needless to say, my heart stopped whenever I saw her walk in the always ajar door of the house. That was one of the many perks of island life, the door always ajar to some degree, regardless of the level of secrecy needed by the activities inside.

It may have been a Saturday, when I saw her last, but it was definitely a weekend day. I remember because it was not long after my parents separated. They both had left the house that weekend and would not come back until Tuesday, thinking, or maybe wishing, the other would take it upon themselves to announce the break-up to the progeny spilling out of the three small rooms of the house. Of course, she was already there when I woke up on a couch -- another dubious honor for being the youngest; sometimes I had to find my own berth.

She was in the bathroom, but had not closed the door. I could've climbed up to the second story and used my parent's bathroom, but seeing her topless while smoking a one-hitter paralyzed me in my tracks. It was not so much the illegal herb but, of course, the supple bareness of her torso. I like to believe that she knew of my stilled presence by the door, contemplating her in sheer admiration. I could imagine how big my eyes must've seemed to her if she had turned around. But she didn't. After a long pause, she exhaled some smoke and announced, to no one in particular, "just a second."

And that was plenty to keep me transfixed by the door, the gesture of reaching for the doorknob frozen in mid flight. A slight trembling in one of my fingers. A beautiful shadow, all curves and roundness against the wall, thanks to the morning sun. Well, it wasn't really the morning sun, but I wouldn't figure that out for quite some time still. If I don't remember too much more it is not because it wasn't as memorable as I think it was, but rather, that weekend became a casualty of what was to come, from deep beneath our feet, in the guise of luminescent plumes foreshadowing the terrible tremors that would change things forever after. And if I can't really remember how old I was back then, it's because such things became irrelevant shortly thereafter.

It would seem -- isn't retrospect always 20/20? -- that looking back I should be able to say more of what actually happened in the following days, but the reality is that I can't, that as I stand here so many years after the fact and believe I'm recognizing her from afar, it all seems now like ancient, irrelevant history. I know it sounds counterintuitive to say so, but history is a luxury of the past we are unable to afford at the moment. But one thing was certain, my heart hadn't skipped a beat since that long lost weekend forever associated with the major break-up that ensued. A break-up in all possible levels, from my parents on to general island life. It all came apart and nothing, as the cliché goes, would ever return to the way things were in that house.

excerpt from "as we know it"

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