December 09, 2003

The Guy who Saved my Ass from Communism

I don't remember being born a Communist, but here's what I do remember. I remember taking English "lessons" in kindergarten. I thought that I should learn English because my dad lived in America. I remember watching the train platform pass by, but I don't remember turning back. I remember arriving in West Germany, and my mom in a fur coat. I don't remember the name of the city. I remember climbing the spires of the cathedral in Cologne. I remember the iron stairs, and the handrails. I remember screaming when my mom tried to leave me, just to celebrate New Years'. I thought she was leaving for good again. I remember grandma holding me at the skylight that night, to watch the fireworks. I remember seeing my first McDonald's, and Woolworth's. I ate the best pizza I had tasted until 19 years later. I got a taste for the milk inside those little coffee creams. I remember playing in the daytime in the empty nightclub. I counted up to 10 in German. I remember the car accident right in front of my face, how we were scared to cross the street for a long time. I swore at the Lego instructions. I cursed the Germans for making them so difficult. I remember recording a tape in the living room, for my dad. And I remember shooting the BB gun at the christmas tree. I remember looking down on New York. The seatbelt sign was already on, but I saw a black square, and one white square line with a bent side, through the plane's rearmost window. Since I didn't know much about English grammar, I imagined that the place where we stayed was named Hotel Pull Push. I don't remember the cockroaches, but I inherited my mom's disgust at their presence. My memory became denser. I remember the immigrant house in New Jersey, the twin Polish kids, the huge airplanes overhead, the cicadas, learning that you should never help an American who has fallen in the street. I remember the cigarette burning the couch, the mouse speeding through the living room, the page of pornography, Andrzej failing to buy bus fare with a bill. I remember my English grammar improving. I wrote "No Parking Parking Buick". I remember the first cottage cheese, the shadow in the cellar, the scary housemates. I remember seeing McDonald's again, and Woolworth's again, and remarking to my mom that America "is just like Germany." My memory became much, much denser. Kindergarten, Spiderman, flypaper, cats, cigarettes, the ocean. My memory became much denser. But when my dad came to get me, I don't remember crossing the border. I only remember the snow through the windshield, and I remember stopping. My papers weren't straight. The next day, I guess, we must have driven into Canada.
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