If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you probably want to know is where I was born, and whether or not I am from around here or not. Well, I’m not. I’m from Long Island, or lawnguyland, if you have the accent, which I don’t. Well, maybe I do a little, on a few words. Anyway, I haven’t lived there for 15 years, and I don’t plan on going back. I’d rather gouge my eyes out with rusty spoons than sit in traffic on the Long Island Expressway to get back to my hometown. I didn’t know I hated it that much at the time, although by the time I was a sophomore in High School I did realize that I didn’t identify with most of the other students—they were rich and stuckup. Most of them got brand new sportscars for their 16th birthdays. My family wasn’t poor, or even close to poor, but we lived in Dix Hills, a somewhat swanky part of Long Island, and I often felt poor compared to the kids I went to school with. The thing is, though, I wasn’t jealous of them at all. I didn’t know it then but I guess I sort of hated them—they seemed to be missing something important, and obsessed with all the wrong things: popularity, money, material things, even college—it wasn’t a question of “are you going to an Ivy League school?” It was “which Ivy League school are you going to?” They weren’t really out of my league, or my family’s league. My older sister was one of them: 2cd in her graduating class, 1600 on her SATs, dual degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business—all top notch, by any standard. I just didn’t care about any of that. And I wasn’t my sister. Now that I have the years to distance myself from my childhood I see some things clearly, and other things are even more mysterious now. My sister, for example. I realize that I didn’t really know her at all. At the time, I wouldn’t have said that, but it is true. For example, I have no idea if she was happy or not. I mean, I have no idea what it was like to be her. I feel like I know her better now, when she lives across the country in a big house in San Francisco, and I hardly ever see her. I knew my brother then, but we kept our lives separate. I was the older brother and I didn’t think it was cool to hang out with my little brother and his friends. Today I would say that he is my best friend
—after my wife, of course. I could regret not being closer to him back then, but maybe if we were friends then we wouldn’t be as close now. I do believe that the events of your life happen for a reason, that there is a logic to it all, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. They are all pieces of a puzzle. If there was one piece to the puzzle that I couldn’t get to fit, and really needed to, it was my parent’s divorce. I was in fifth or sixth grade when my parents sat the three of down in living room for “a talk.” I don’t really remember it (I have a terrible memory of distant events), but I do remember being totally confused. Why would my parents want to split up? I had never seen them fight, or even raise their voices to each other, ever. They always seemed so…stable, solid, dependable, and…happy, I guess. Now here they were, telling us they couldn’t be together, and crying. It was the first, but not the last, time that I saw my father cry. I never forgot that they said to us, “one day, when you are older, we can explain it to you.” For a very long time, consciously or unconsciously, I needed to know the answer. I needed an explanation. It made me question my own relationships: I wanted to know, what makes a relationship, even one that seems to be going well, suddenly fall apart? How can anyone ever feel secure and safe if things can fall apart with no warning? Years later, my mother came to visit me when I was in college. We went out to eat at a local diner, and in the middle of the meal I suddenly asked her, with no leadin whatsoever: “So, Mom, why did you and dad get a divorce? You said you would be able to tell me when I was older, so…now I am.” She practically choked on her food, and she set down her fork. The silence that followed was the most uncomfortable I had ever felt in her presence. I felt like I had hurt her; it felt like my question was malicious. I turned my head and looked first at the minijukebox and then out the window at the traffic passing on route 347, and then I changed the subject. It would be many years before I ever brought it up again.