I remember the sound of my mother screaming.
One memory leads to another. And another. And a photo unearthed from those days is not only the photo of that event but is also the thing that drags in another dozen memories, simply by whatever objects or people were inadvertently captured in the background.
There is the photo of me at my fifth birthday, smiling through child’s eyes four decades younger than the eyes I have now. But there is also the cake, barely in view, the cake I remember watching my mom make with such care. I remember feeling amazed that she could create such a thing. And in the background of the photo there is a houseplant: a monument to my mom’s never-ending love of ferns. And sitting beside me, looking rather bored, is some kid I don’t remember, a neighbor conscripted to help us celebrate my fifth birthday, since we were living so far from home without cousins or uncles to join us. I thought his shirt was incredible, with the stripes around the sleeves, the navy blue band around the collar.
“Wasn’t his name Hayward, or something like that?” Mom texts me. “LOL.”
“I don’t know,” I write back. “I see him, but I don’t even remember a person like him existing.”
There is the candle on the table, the table itself, the metal folding chair. There is the dark wood paneling on the walls.
And sometime around then, I remember the sound of my mother screaming. I ran through the trailer to the bathroom on the other side of the kitchen, wondering what fresh horror could bring such a sound from my mother’s lungs? When I arrived, I found her backing away from the bath tub, in which slithered some kind of reptile–a snake or a lizard, I can’t remember which, had found its way in and couldn’t get out.
I don’t remember what we did. I’m sure neither one of us touched it.
And this brings to mind the other times in my life when I heard my mother scream: when the car in front of us at an intersection pulled out in front of a semi and flew through the air; when a frying pan on the stove erupted into fire; when my younger sister Angie stopped breathing; when my mom was giving birth to my youngest sister back in the bedroom.
One memory leads to another.
Nearly twenty years after the lizard in the tub incident, soon after Maile and I were married and moved to Florida, I received a call at work from Mai.
“You have to come home. Now.” Her voice trembled.
“Why?” I asked.
“There is a lizard on the sliding door, and it’s inside the house.”