Red Wreck Watches PBS
Red Wreck is a wreck. She has been for many years, unnoticed since early girlhood when she was a little throb and pulse no bigger than a Chihuahua’s bulbous eye. Alone, she watches daytime talk shows featuring bad kids who are brought out on stage to be put in their place by a huge man in camouflage who can take them away to a camp where they will lie on their bellies holding golf balls in their mouths for being disrespectful. These men have nothing on Red Wreck’s father, who so terrified her that she would take down the shelves from inside a cabinet to make herself a secret hiding hole to ride out his tantrums. Once he was winded, heavy, exhausted breaths shuddering the house, she would emerge to get him a nice cold glass of milk that he would drink in one long gulp before collapsing into his chair to stare at her. Blood now a rapid rush, Red Wreck changes channels, settling on PBS. She likes the ancient history shows the best, calls her vagina, “The Pharaoh’s Tomb,” fondly and without irony. Today there is a documentary about the Nazca Lines. On the reddish floor of the Peruvian Desert ancient geoglyphs of birds, animals, insects, and not-quite-human figures stretch for almost miles. Red Wreck’s father did a lot of drugs. From boyhood up he smoked marijuana, and before prescription pills were a popular high, he raided the medicine cabinets and bedside tables of his rickety aunts and cousins and the decrepit woman on the street of no blood relation, who everyone called Granny. From ten onward, there is not a photograph of him, where he doesn’t look freshly concussed. The documentary is full of theories: alien technology, early hot air balloons, exquisite mathematicians. Watching, Red Wreck thinks of distance functioning like height. Look back, she instructs. How much more do you see now? How has your understanding changed? With the distance of years, do the events of your life fall into patterns? From these patterns, can you glean understanding? She asks herself, “Of what?” and can imagine only two possible answers: everything—or—nothing. She tests each, but finds neither satisfactory.