1. Eighth grade, January, home with the flu, no doubt missing everything exciting while everyone at school forgets about me. I’m in my bed, pale gray light through the window, sucking cherry zinc lozenges, unable to do anything more strenuous than spend hours looking at my little brother’s Where’s Waldo books until my eyes cross. That Sting song about his father dying and putting a boat in the river is somehow on loop on the radio next to my bed. These all combine to form my idea of a very mild hell.
2. The lemony, oily taste of the wooden arm of the antique chair in the living room after my mother has polished the furniture in preparation for company coming over. I am very small, and obsessed with biting the end of its curled arm. My mother catches me every time and says, “Get that out of your mouth!” Then she puts on the Flight of the Bumblebee album for me to run around the room in circles to until I collapse facedown in the freshly vacuumed carpet, sufficiently exhausted for early bedtime. There are tiny teethmarks on the chair to this day.
3. The only good part about the closing shift at the pool concession stand is that you’re the last one there and you can swim alone after you lock up, which is of course against the rules. My T-shirt and jean shorts are tinged with sweat and hot dog water, and scrubbing the congealed fake cheese from the nacho pot makes me gag every time, but letting the screen door slam behind me and walking outside into the dark to smell the still-sunwarm pool deck sprayed down with bleach makes it all worth it. The bike ride home is uphill and totally silent, no one out to notice I’m in just swimsuit and sneakers. I fall asleep with wet hair waiting to be pulled into a damp, chlorinated ponytail for the opening shift the next morning.