Image courtesy of Dean Farrell at
I am always amazed. The world around me is a continuous circular motion of nothing, at least as far as my experience proves. A small town gentleman among a neighborhood of trivial individuals… my family included… my mother with her constant cigarette smoking, oxygen tank and emphysema, uncle with his four hundred pounds, wheelchair and hypochondria, various first and second cousins bickering about who gets to read the tabloids… in a town where the cashiers are all overweight and unfriendly… all the stores have shelves upon shelves of artificially flavored muck… I tend to shut it off during my time of emptiness, when I am surrounded by nothing other than white blankness. It soothes.
Have I yearned? Do I hope for that which is the unreachable… the destiny I have yet to fulfill? I certainly do not want to become a mere biological example of my heredity… doing nothing more than saying I am Arnold Sherman, only child of Martha Sherman who does not know which man is my father… my growing up among my mother and her parents and her brother, all of whom have only read one book about pet care… mother reads one page, her brother another, they both take turns reading to my grandparents. Somehow, a group of people, known as cousins, come over. No one explains the connection. Supposedly, I have another uncle but nobody mentions him. So… my life story, if it ends there… is that really me… or should I expect more?
Mother no longer uses drugs, and uncle never did, but they suffer from the vice of stupidity, insisting they cannot eat certain foods because of their religious upbringing. I have never seen them pray to any diety so I am suspicious about whether or not they are telling the truth… not only about religion but about anything. Uncle’s stories about living in scuzzy neighborhoods in San Francisco seem more fictional than real. I wish I could write fiction like how he spouts lies. But his constant chatter permeates through to the bone where I feel less like Arnold Sherman and more like Bernard Sherman. When I occasionally get in trouble and steal a pint of whiskey, I brag and tell my friends what I did, but I insist on saying my name is Bernard Sherman.
When my friends know exactly Bernard is my uncle and Arnold is me, I attempt to trip them up by saying I am my uncle. They do not understand. They get weird. I tell them I could be somebody’s uncle so why not my own? If I could have an uncle and if I could be an uncle, why cannot the two combine? One can be a priest and a cook… or a cowboy and an architect… or a politician and a paint salesman… or a taxi driver and a ballet dancer… so why not an uncle and an uncle? Why cannot I be two uncles?
This all stems from my relative shyness about meeting quality people. My yearning is to meet a woman whom I don’t feel the need to run away from… like back in junior high school… when the girls would sit next to me during lunch time and steal my cookies. They were pretty but not pretty enough to steal my cookies. If the cookies had been oatmeal raisin, I would not have worried so much… but they were chocolate and peanut butter with caramel frosting and that is a sacred combination. I finally ran away from the girls so I could remain possessive about my sacred combination. Cookies became almost religion for me… except on days when the stores had sold out… then I visited my Archangel, a well made crab bisque.
Food should not be so extremely spiritual, I know, but my quest for connection makes me go to anything, especially what I put in my body, for solace and resolution. The things I touch are a part of my food… the food for my skin. I touch walls and chairs… and I touch sound and light… and I touch things in the future… I pretend to touch them and they become real. I believe I am on the verge of discovery.
Sometimes my discoveries come through subliminal trappings of the world around me. Every little noise I hear makes me try to find its meaning, whether it be a car horn honking or a toilet flushing. During those moments, I tend to revert to my childhood when, for a brief moment of a few months, I had a special friend, a next door neighbor named Susan.
At the age of age I was not quite aware of the sorts of feelings that come with puberty but there seemed something slightly less innocent about my curiosity towards Susan than towards my toy racing car collection. Perhaps it was caused by my observation of how Susan wore her clothes. At first, she dressed like any other typical little girl, wearing dresses showing cartoon figures, but one day she was wearing a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans. We went in my backyard and I had monkey bars to hang from. She hung on them for a few seconds and then asked if I was looking at her underwear. Her jeans were high waisted and no underwear was visible and I told her so. I had no idea why she asked me that. She dropped down and tucked in her shirt and said that now I could not see her underwear.
She was probably just teasing to see how I would react but I could care less… until she hung on the bars again and her shirt stretched from being tucked in. She asked again if I could see her underwear and I said no and she said good. She said haha and I sarcastically said oh darn it and she gave a mischievous grin and said she was going to continue wearing her shirt that way. I said fine. From that point on, for the few months she lived next door to me… she no longer wore dresses. She wore jeans and a tucked in shirt. I became intrigued, not so much because of her change in style but because of the suddenness of it and how she would also tuck in her sweaters and sweatshirts. And when she came to my house, she would point to her shirt or sweater or sweatshirt and say haha.
I later became intrigued in a more aroused way when I saw women who tucked in their shirts on a consistent basis, not because of the look itself but because of the consistency. I would think about Susan and how, on the last day we saw each other, she shook my hand for approximately one minute until her mother told her they had to leave. Susan let go and shrugged as if to apologize for not being able to shake my hand for a longer amount of time. It made me wonder exactly how long would she have continued to hold on, if not for the interruption? It made me realize that anything in life has its possibilities of being created… and any juxtaposition of time or circumstance either help it along or change it to something else entirely. After Susan’s family left, for reasons that made me very angry, I became able to imagine myself in empty white surroundings where conflict could not penetrate.
Susan’s family moved away because Susan’s mother was disgusted with how my uncle kept his place. My mother and I were living in his house, across the street from my grandparents. My grandparents did not want a single mother to stay with them but they at least visited us across the street. They would tell people that we were just friends, not relatives. But at least they visited… and the visits were relatively boring. Not much happened when they visited. And no more girls my age moved in my neighborhood anymore. And none of the women in the neighborhood wore tucked in shirts. It completely stopped after Susan’s family moved away.
My uncle’s place was infected with cockroaches and my mom tended to leave cigarette butts all over the floor. Our front yard was full of weeds, fallen leaves and the occasional candy bar wrapper. And my uncle, at four hundred pounds, would accidentally crash his wheelchair on the fence as he drove in the yard, making paint flake off. What finally angered Susan’s mother was when my uncle’s wheelchair ran out of power right outside her yard and he needed us to hook his wheelchair up to an extension cord until there was enough juice for him to move. As he sat by Susan’s family’s fence, cockroaches crawled out of his clothes and freaked out Susan’s mother. Susan’s father was a businessman who most of the time was out of state at business conventions and I may have met him once but I have no impression of him. The mother called the shots.
So… I wish I was my own uncle… I wish I could make a better world for myself than this white emptiness. But, for now, it will do. For now, here I will stand.