My mother has her hair pulled back into a messy barrette. She is running a vacuum cleaner across the nude-colored carpet of our apartment. The shades are closed across a patio-door frame. The glass door is open but the screen is shut. Swinging in the breeze, the blinds allow strips of light to play across the wall.
My mother is looking annoyed, probably because I am dancing around her and the vacuum cleaner, playing with and subsequently getting tangled in the cord, inhibiting her from finishing her work and enjoying a tall glass of lemonade.
I am dancing, but something bothers me. Recently I began noticing that I was outgrowing all my clothes. I’m getting bigger, all the time. My parents and grandparents are all bigger than me, and also older. If we all keep growing bigger all the time, won’t we eventually run out of room? In my mind’s eye, I picture a neighborhood of houses where the roofs pop off because the people inside have grown to large for them. The giants in my imagination are of course humans, but they look more like muscular biceps with angry faces.
Mom finally finishes, and I ask, “Mom, if we all keep growing bigger, and people keep having more kids, won’t the world run out of room?” I am still dancing, twisting and turning, pretending to be a fairy.
She doesn’t pause, says only, “Well, no, we die, to make room for other people.”
I stop dancing, and get a sinking in my stomach. I don’t remember where I’ve heard it from, but I understand the meaning of die perfectly. Like some ancient and innate understanding from before I was born, some horrible thing forgotten during sleep and remembered only after a few waking moments of amnesia.
Mom takes the vacuum into her bedroom and turns it on again. I am three; this is my first memory.