I remember the wood siding vividly. The paint the color of Russian salad dressing* chipped here and there. The chain-link fence ran parallel with the sidewalk on one side. My parents sometimes watched me bike up and down the sidewalk from the yard.
The house was a corner house in a long line of similarly paint-chipped homes. It’s the military’s version of Levittown. Actually, I’m sure Levittown homes were inspired by the sameness of military barracks. You know, to establish camaraderie and morale (on top of being cheap and easy to build) but don’t quote me on that.
The structure of this house, a corner house on a military base, isn’t special. They’ve been replaced by sturdier, concrete-drywall buildings, and the street doesn’t really exist any more, but that’s not why I keep going back to it in the memory vault. It’s a place that haunts me for reasons perhaps a psychotherapist can elucidate.
On a beautiful weekend day, I rode my bicycle up and down the sidewalk along the house. It was a red bike with rickety balancing wheel attachments.
I came up on a woman who was walking in front of me. I remember distinctly a voice in my head. It posed a question, a curiosity to find out what would happen if I dinked her heel.
You’re probably thinking, WTF?! It’s okay if you did. I think that often when that memory pops into my mind. (Is it residual guilt?)
I got as close as I could get, stealthily so she couldn’t hear the racket of the wheel attachments. DINK
HOLY SH*T! I just ran over her heel.
I don’t know why I was shocked but I remember feeling it. As though I couldn’t believe I went with my own dare.
The woman skipped forward and turned to me. Her eyes were wide, focused on me. I opened my mouth but dad’s voice broke the moment.
“I’m so sorry!” he said as he walked towards the fence. He was raking freshly cut grass.
The woman regained her composure. Did she say something back? I don’t remember. She disappeared.
By then I was off my bike. Left it lying on it’s side like it was contaminated with eadly bacteria. Head down, I sniffled and avoided eye contact with dad.
“I don’t know what happened there but you need to be more careful,” or something to that effect, he said over my head.
I just nodded in understanding. And fear. I remember the fear.
The second incident was even more unnerving for different reasons.
Grandma was visiting. She needed to be picked up from the base entrance. You needed an escort to get on base if you didn’t have military i.d. Dad had the car ready to go while mom gathered her things. My brother and I were racing each other to pass the time.
From the front door to the car door, who can run the fastest? Siblings do as siblings does. We were lined up by the front door. I gave my brother a head start of two steps. Just as I stepped off to launch myself towards the family SUV my brain sent a distress signal. PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!!!
My left foot was covered in a watery bright red. The bottom lip of the metal screen door caught the back of my foot and sliced it open. A few centimeters higher and to the left it would’ve severed my Achilles’ tendon.
*Russian salad dressing is totally an American creation.