A long time ago, in central Kentucky, a young woman and a young man had sex and then some months after that, I was born. I had a full head of hair, parted on the left, and the nurses liked to hold me and comb it for hours. It is my understanding that I didn’t cry and the doctors worried that I might not have anything to say.
I told my mother, “I want to be an astronaut,” and then “I want to be a real estate agent,” and then “I want to be a novelist.” Each time, she told me I would need to get a haircut. Now, I am an attorney and I cut my own hair with electric clippers in my bathroom and clean up the clippings with damp toilet paper off of the tile floor. Then I bathe in tepid tubwater and read and my knees get cold because my legs are too long for the small, clawfoot tub. In the old days, people were shorter.
My first experience with a computer was in the early 1980s. My parents bought me a Tandy TRS-80 and a book on how to program in BASIC. The computer plugged into the television. The thought of typing in 40 pages of code just to make a spreadsheet did not excite my young soul, so figured out how to make the television screen flash pink and green and the speakers emit a long, low fart. This made my brother and sisters clap with joy.
Later, I used Netscape to avoid work by reading about ghosts on Geocities. This was at a time when I worked at a community college in rural North Carolina. I sold cosmetology heads to cosmetology students who would return them when the hair fell out. I didn’t have the heart to throw the heads away, or the managerial drive to return them to the manufacturer, so they sat on my desk, a ziggurat of plastic faces more animated than my own. They kept me company as I traveled the Internet 1.0, seeking something more special than the life I’d found myself living.
I once asked one of the women I worked with, a wonderful seventy-eight year old woman named K., if she’d ever seen a ghost. It seemed logical to me that if anyone had, a seventy-eight year old woman who’d been married in a Piggly Wiggly in South Carolina during World War II had. ‘No, I reckon I ain’t,’ she said to me, immediately following this with, ‘When I was a girl, my sister and I would walk past this one house to church on Sunday and we’d see this girl in the window looking at us in a wedding dress and there weren’t no one lived in the house. I think she might have been dead.’
K. worked her whole life and always came in early. She supported two of her children still on the little I paid her. I wonder if she is still alive.
I have lived in the South my entire life, though once I was lost in Brooklyn at 5:23 in the morning, told by a friend to take a bus that never appeared. Instead, I followed a silent pilgrimage of sleepy employees to an underground train station and waited for a train that never came. Later, I recounted this to the people I worked with, their mouths agape at the thought of underground worlds and missing trains.
The experiences I have had as part of the Videogum community have been among the most meaningful of my simple days and the friends I have made are among the most dear. I am honored to get to serve you for the day and can only hope that what I have to say is worthy of your time and eyes.
What I am saying is this: I hope the doctors were wrong.