Everything is so clean here. There are television sets everywhere. One is often on while there is someone else in the house, even if they are not watching it actively. The floors on the ground floor are wood, and my stepmother wears hard-bottomed shoes. The almost but not quite rhythmic clump clump, muffled but still quite loud as I sit in the basement typing, stirs up the stale muck in my memory. Ghosts of old nights come back. The ghost-me is shorter, shorter than my parents, shorter even than the furniture. I can touch the top of the kitchen table, the one my father built himself from raw pieces of wood, if I stretch. Clump clump. My mother is walking across the kitchen tile towards the door. Her perfume is indelibly maternal, but it doesn't smell good at all. She is wearing too much. The smell is unmistakable: my parents are going out for the evening. There is some babysitter, one whom I don't particularly dislike. He does his algebra homework instead of paying much attention to us. The ghost-me marvels at what it would be like to be as old as 15, to be in high school, to be laboring at such heady tasks! My uncle --- I suppose I should say ex-uncle, since Stanton and Aunt Chris split even long before my parents did --- tried to explain what algebra was to me once, but it was an occult mystery to me.
Still the blunt sound of heels-against-tile echoed in my ears painfully. Why? I couldn't explain why it should hurt. It wasn't anything so banal as associating it with being abandoned. I was old enough to have outgrown that. What was it? It was, I think, the sound of discomfort, uf uncomfortably distorted movement. Even today my mother thumps around in bare feet, landing all of her weight on her heel. I've often tried --- took pleasure, even, in trying --- to walk as quietly as possible. To ascend a flight of stairs by catching each step just so with one point on the outer edge of my sneaker, letting the brunt of the deceleration spread smoothly over the sole of my foot. And as an invisible consequence of the pursuit of silence, the motion becomes free, painless, and fluid, without obstacle, interruption, discontinuity.
What an irritation, to hear the robotic click-stomping of the roving saturday-night portable sororities! Even on the concrete sidewalks, with a weaker resonance than wood or tile, even across the street, even with the dissipation of the sound that being outdoors affords, what a silly thing to hear. Even if it is far too diminished to actually bother me, it's at the very least unattractive. Rather show me a woman with comfortable shoes, and a midnight gait! Let her spend her moments of secret pleasure spinning in circles, in cheap cotton socks on a slippery wood floor. Let her lovingly feel singly the springs in her toes, old friends.
And I wonder some times like these that I share with my father half of the stuff that builds brains, with all its foggy corners and recipes for sexual attraction: did the smell of my mother's perfume smell good to him, or did he, like me, simply never find it the appopriate moment to state his distaste?