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The story before I was born was my father was a prick. So my father becoming a prick had nothing to do with me. This is just the story I was told. And since this story of my father isn't of me, I won't vouch--I won't verify. I won't stand behind these words. I won't testify for any stories of fathers before I was born, so all I will vouch for is the repeating: my father was a prick.

Before I was born, the story goes, my mother was made of paper. Not real paper--not actual pulp and fibers pressed to a sheet. But paper in the figurative sense. Paper as a metaphor. Philosophical paper. As in: my mother was thin and translucent. As in: my mother could tear and flutter. And I mean these words, too, as figures, metaphors, and philosophies. What I mean is, my mother was like paper--my mother was papery. Or so goes the story. Or so went the story I was told. All I can vouch for is she was papery after my birth.

As I have already said from the start: my father was a prick. Why papery women are attracted to pricks is a question for some other story. But as a papery woman, my mother was typical: she married my father, who was a prick. She married my father, and got knocked up, and became the target for his screaming. Not then she got knocked up--not then she became his target. This is important--this isn't a sequence. The marriage, knocking-up, and screaming were simultaneous. More or less. Undoubtedly not to the actual minute. Undoubtedly not if splitting hairs. Undoubtedly not scientifically. But for all practical purposes, for all judgments of the actual world, these three things all happened together at once.

At the time, my mother wasn't knocked up with me. My mother was knocked up with my sister. Of course, at the time, neither my father nor my mother (nor myself) knew the difference between my sister and me. Or my sister and I. There was only the knocking-up. A tribulation for my mother (as you might guess) but a tribulation for my father, too. Her knocking-up was a threat. Her knocking-up was genetic. Her knocking-up was my father's and my father wasn't in favor. He was a prick and pricks aren't famous for shouldering obligation. Which begs the question of marriage--why my father as a prick would ever decide to get married. But it should be noted my papery mother shouldered my father's obligation as well. So this could make the reason: my father got married to sustain the prickness in himself. To share his prickness with others. To spread his prickness wealth, so to speak. It's impossible, after all, for a prick by his lonesome to make any kind of prick at all.

So: my sister came first. She was, as the story goes, an angel. I won't vouch for this, since I've heard this frequently told about any offspring. But I have no information to contradict what I've been told--and this was the story told even by my father. Who no one disputes was a prick. So maybe she was. My mother said so, too, and it's these two testimonies together which make up the bulk of my sister's story.

We never met, my sister and I. Or me and my sister. Which isn't accurate, of course. Of course, we met--my sister was only one year older. Or maybe a little bit more--I no longer remember how far we were apart. By how many months. In actual fact, I may have never actually learned her birthday. But what I mean to say is we were just kids. We were just babies. Or maybe toddlers. So I don't remember what she looked like or how she acted. Or any stories involving me and her together. Or she and I. At the time I was too young to develop memories along these lines. When it comes to my one-time sister, my brain now draws a blank. My sister--who was christened Virginia--might as well have been a stranger to me.

And as to why we never met (be it metaphorically or actually): the story goes, my sister had achieved the age of toddling. Meaning I was just before that age when she toddled out the door. And slammed her head. We lived in a house (and this I can vouch for, this I remember) that had a stoop of cement, steps of concrete, aggregate pavers running out to the sidewalk. And here it was she slammed her head. Internal bleeding--they opened her skull. They relieved the hematoma, induced a coma, all the neurological things like that. All the things that they--the neurological they--do whenever toddlers crack open their skulls.

It was my father who screamed at my mother who was supposed to be watching whom. It was my father who screamed at my mother who held the blame for the hematomas of angels. It was my father who screamed responsibility. What did you expect? My father was a prick. And she didn't scream back, so goes the story--my mother was like paper. She blew in the wind of my father's screams with no intention of self, no direction of self: no discretion and no power. What did you expect? My mother was a doormat. My mother was a pushover. She was a pansy. She was a pussy, if you'll pardon my expression in French.

Needless to say--and I say needless because I've already said we've never met, my sister and I, or me and my sister--Virginia didn't live past the hematoma. She was brain-dead, they declared. Post-declaration, they pulled the plug. Or whatever they do. (I imagine there's more involved than yanking out a six-foot extension cord.)

After that, my father, who was a prick, became, as I remember, a screamer who screamed over and over that together we'd ruined his life. By together he meant my mother and me. Or my mother and I. Or myself and my mother. Or his wife and his only son. He used to scream I should have been the one. To die, he meant. To be declared a lost cause due to brain-death. Used to, I say, because he no longer screams it. My father's gotten past the screaming. Nowadays, he just says it. He only says it out loud and leaves it alone like that.

Although he might not even do that anymore. He might no longer even say it. Let's just say my father and I (or me and my father, or in fact the three of us as a family) haven't spoken together for some while.

And this is the whole of my story. This is how my whole story goes. This is me. This is my selfsame story--this is my history of me. This spells out how I am a product of a prick and a papery woman. A combination that's less than stellar, which is something I can vouch for.
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Author:Lum, Elmo
Publication:New Orleans Review
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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