I Was Born

The story of me

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I was born.

Of that I am fairly certain. Beyond that I have to rely on my faulty memory, stories told from people who may or may not have been there, and I fill in the rest with imagination. So you’ll have to forgive me if I get some things wrong.

I was born. The city was Los Angeles. The time of day was morning. The hospital is one your step-mother has seen countless times on her favorite soap opera in the 80s. I was in that hospital for six weeks, or three months depending on who I believe. I was born prematurely thanks to an errant ball chased by a child in front of my Uncle Charlie’s car with my mother in the passenger seat returning from a third trimester check up. He slammed on the breaks and the inertia slammed my mother into her seat-belt and caused me to deuce out several weeks before I was done cooking.

Uncle Charlie turned the car around and took mom right back. I’m guessing I didn’t cry out when I popped out. Hard to scream with collapsed lungs. I was told I was put in an incubator straight away. Hooked up to untold number of machinations to do my breathing and feeding.

Mom likes to say it’s the fault of the doctor that she never loved me. “He wouldn’t let me hold you because you were in that machine so I never bonded with you.” It’s a strange thing to grow up not wanted by your mother, but that’s a chapter later on in this story.

I stayed in the hospital for however long I stayed. Grandma came anytime she wasn’t working. Dad would come after school most days before finally dropping out of high school to be there full time. I’m guessing there was other family there in and out. I was a little busy and couldn’t keep up on everyone’s comings and goings. If it makes you feel better to imagine an entire hospital waiting room full of family members bringing tamales and horchata to sustain my dad and grandma, go ahead.

I’m told I was home in time for Christmas on Augusta Street.

I don’t remember that first Christmas.

I’m told I was a quiet baby with a large head. I’m told I walked by nine months. I don’t remember when they said I could talk, but dada was my first word.

I am also told that during that time on Augusta my dad joined the Army. He wanted to be a paratrooper. He was kicked out for lying about smoking weed. He shouldn’t have listened to his recruiter.

I am also told that while he was away my mom sent him a Dear John letter and that was the end of that.

I really don’t remember much about those first few years. I have photos of me in a bath with a toy I can’t recall. I’ve heard audio recordings my grandma took of me as I bathed where I ask her if I’m supposed to lotion my pee-pee and she howls with laughter. She never did answer the question. I have vague flashes of a dog big enough to ride. He seemed to love me.

I do remember a hideous yellow couch covered in plastic.

I am also told that I had an imaginary friend. Jaws. Yep, that Jaws. I don’t remember him being my friend, but I have seen old reel-to-reel video of me sitting on our porch on Augusta. I am clearly talking to someone sitting next to me. And I make damn sure everyone walks around the creature not visible to the camera. Some years later – I was about seven – I had a dream. I was with Dorothy and her entourage in pitch black night, a foot of water, and Jaws alongside us. The flying monkeys attacked and Jaws saved us all by himself.

I have an unhealthy lack of fear of sharks because of that dream.

One of the first crystal clear memories I do have is of being scared to death of my Uncle Robert – who is really a cousin, but in a chicano family anyone old enough to be a tia or tio is just that. I remember being convinced he was a werewolf and running into our duplex and hiding while my dad and Uncle Charlie laughed. Robert didn’t have a clue. As sweet as he is, I’m glad he never knew he scared me. He’s gentle and kind and the love of his life died some years ago. His heart hurts even now.

The movie of my early memories really start on the wall at the end of Augusta.

We lived on one side in a duplex my grandma owned. Dad and I lived in one dwelling with her, and she rented out the other. It paid for itself.

The other side of the wall was a Jewish cemetery. I played there a lot.

The wall between the two was the safest place I knew. Whenever there were monsters, I could climb to the other side and they couldn’t get me.

Uncle Werewolf could never get me if I climb the wall.

My dad and I were waiting for a bus on the other side of the cemetery when we saw a car shoot out of a gas station and get t-boned by another. A little girl flew out of the car and into the cemetery. She died. My dad picked me up and ran home with me to the safe side of the wall.

I don’t remember when we left Augusta. I was already thrown out of one school by the time we left. A kid took my tricycle so I kicked him. Hard. In the face. I remember thinking he looked funny as he screamed and his eye swelled. Time slowed and I couldn’t stop staring until a teacher snatched my collar and back to reality.

Later on in life dad told me I scared him that day. He told me I didn’t react at all when he came to get me. It wasn’t til he was whooping my backside with a belt that I reacted at all. And even after, I never expressed remorse.

I don’t remember Augusta much after that.

I don’t remember mom ever visiting Augusta.

Adorable me in a tub with a toy.
Adorable me in a tub with a toy.
©2024 Rudy Martinez