I like to say at age five I was born in a cab.
My mother and father had me when they were very young. I believe one was twenty, the other twenty-one. When they eventually got divorced, I was four, possibly five, years old. Immediately following their split my mother had custody of me, and she coached me to hate my father. If hate is too strong a word, then at the least I was extremely afraid.
One of literally maybe five memories I have from this time is simply standing on the street with my mother, she holding my hand, I think we were at church. Dressed up a bit. Nice bright day. Then from a distance a disembodied call of my name – “Patrice!” Then again, “Patrice!!” Then again, “PATRICE!!!” It was my father. And I was afraid. Each time my name was screamed down the street (maybe ten times that day), never with a face, just a voice, my body winced from fear. I could feel the adrenaline pump through my veins. My mother grabbed my hand, and we started running. I don’t know where, but I know we were running, and I knew the last thing that could happen to us was getting caught. It was like being in a horror movie, and my father was Jason. We ran for our lives, my mother and I, or so I thought. We ran like the movie would end way too early if we were caught. And so we weren’t.
But with this memory in mind, you could imagine my surprise when one day, not long after this incident, I would learn I was going to live with my father. And it wasn’t due to some evil spell or potion he concocted, or some crazy act of child terrorism (something I would become more familiar with later). No, surprisingly, it was my mother’s decision. The woman who held my hand as we frantically tried to escape the monster’s clutches, was now sending me directly to the evil lair. With little discussion, and the advance notice of a few minutes, I was told I would be leaving my mother that day. She was putting me in a cab, by myself, and sending me off to my father’s parent’s home, my grandparents’ home, my new home. I was going to live with the monster, and I was going by myself, and I would have to deal with it.
The subsequent cab ride is the place(?) of my birth. Going from my mother to the monster, the monster that wasn’t really a monster, but my father. The consciousness I know, that I remember now, that I regard as me was born during that cab ride. Anything else I know previous is cobbled together through intuition and family anecdotes. My accessible reservoir of memories begins after I exited that cab, that makeshift birth canal, to ring the bell of my grandparent’s home.
And though I have no authentic memory of the ride itself, I do remember getting out the cab and tentatively walking up the steps to the front door of 717 Commonwealth Avenue. And I remember another child about one or two houses down yelling at me, “Pinoccchio! Pinocchio’s here! What’s up Pinocchio??”
He knew me. But I didn’t know him. I didn’t think I knew him. I remember thinking, “Why is he calling me Pinocchio? My name’s not Pinocchio. Maybe it’s because they both start with a P. Ahhhh. That must be the reason.” Satisfied with my conclusion, I refocused on the task at hand, “Hmmm, I wonder which doorbell it is, the top one or the bottom one.”
I remember these thoughts. I remember them like they happened five minutes ago. Since I have developed some mild self-consciousness about my nose, I still wonder on occasion if the Pinocchio cry was a sly poke at the size of my snout. Upon getting out the cab, my young friend could not help but think of the long-nosed marionette as I followed my beak to the door of my grandparent’s house. You know how children are so brutally honest.
Anyways, I decided to ring both bells. And the door was opened. And …