Issue #55, Spring 2015

Age, Formative

Found texts.

Rolf Potts

Age, Formative

Nine.

When I was nine years old I began taking piano lessons. When I was nine years old I got my own library card. When I was nine years old I was diagnosed with lupus. When I was nine years old my daddy ran away with a woman he met on a train. When I was nine years old my family joined a cult my uncle started. When I was nine years old I sang a solo at Madison Square Garden. When I was nine years old I made a peace treaty with the animals. When I was nine years old I wanted to kill myself because I was fat.

When I was nine years old my village was raided by Arab troops in the pay of Khartoum. When I was nine years old we took a trip to Disneyland, and I ended up stuck in the hotel with diarrhea. When I was nine years old I dreamed of becoming a model. When I was nine years old I would rip out photos from cat-themed calendars and try to sell them to strangers. When I was nine years old I received my first pair of shoes from a missionary pilot. When I was nine years old I fell from a swing and injured my spine. When I was nine years old my unemployed parents gave me money for the school book-fair.

I submitted my first poem to American Girl magazine when I was nine years old. I first heard of the Beatles when I was nine years old. I first had an orgasm when I was nine years old. I began work at the mill in Bradford when I was nine years old. I lost my sight when I was nine years old. My mother became my daughter when I was nine years old. My mother abandoned me when I was nine years old. I drank my first beer when I was nine years old. The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me when I was nine years old. I was sexually abused by my swim coach when I was nine years old. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was nine years old. I stayed home to watch the first woman go into space when I was nine years old, and it altered the course of my life.

Eight.

I ran my first 10K when I was eight years old. I was spit on by a white girl and called a nigger when I was eight years old. I got a Super 8 camera when I was eight years old. I gave my life to Jesus when I was eight years old. I stole pot from my father when I was eight years old. I shot my first spike buck when I was eight years old. I was diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was eight years old. I started racing in regattas when I was eight years old. I was taken to the temple and dedicated to the goddess when I was eight years old. I had spinal meningitis when I was eight years old. I was compulsively overeating when I was eight years old. I saved my little sister from drowning when I was eight years old. I got my period when I was eight years old.

When I was eight years old my mother died from complications during surgery. When I was eight years old I sold newspapers and worked as a bootblack. When I was eight years old my father gave me a pony for Christmas. When I was eight years old my sister decided I should be a bodybuilder. When I was eight years old soldiers from the junta came to my village and arrested people suspected of being in the resistance. When I was eight years old I was put into a gifted education program and had to attend a new school. When I was eight years old I was placed in a nurturing foster home. When I was eight years old I watched five cops attack my dad.

When I was eight years old I had saved up enough money to either buy a bicycle or a typewriter. When I was eight years old my city in Iraq was attacked by American bombers. When I was eight years old my mom bought me my first Harry Potter book. When I was eight years old my father forced sex on me for the first time. When I was eight years old I started BMX racing. When I was eight years old I had my first colonoscopy. When I was eight years old I started doing commercials for Nintendo. When I was eight years old I tried to kill myself. When I was eight years old my father was blacklisted for communist activities.

Seven.

My brother taught me how to play guitar when I was seven years old. My grandfather gave me a pocket Constitution when I was seven years old. I went to my first peyote meeting when I was seven years old. I started programming games in GW-BASIC when I was seven years old. I was diagnosed with autism when I was seven years old. I had an ischemic stroke when I was seven years old. I started getting high when I was seven years old. I began watching birds when I was seven years old. I took my first cruise from Genoa to New York when I was seven years old. I was inflicted with the pain of foot binding when I was seven years old. I tried to lose my virginity when I was seven years old. I started rapping when I was seven years old. I started playing the banjo when I was seven years old. I started smoking cigarettes when I was seven years old. I started dipping Copenhagen when I was seven years old. I stopped eating chicken when I was seven years old, after my family adopted three hens.

When I was seven years old I put on shows for everyone at my grandpa’s funeral. When I was seven years old I began to work in the cotton fields. When I was seven years old I learned to cook with my Children’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. When I was seven years old my heart began to fail. When I was seven years old my father went to jail. When I was seven years old they removed my right eye. When I was seven years old I saw the ocean for the first time. When I was seven years old I was adopted by my parents. When I was seven years old I had my first Internet boyfriend. When I was seven years old I had my fourth hernia. When I was seven years old I got my first insulin pump, which was purple.

When I was seven years old I went to a sleepover and I was the only Indian girl there. When I was seven years old I watched paramedics perform CPR on my mom. When I was seven years old we lost all of our money. When I was seven years old I received a Casio keyboard from Santa Claus. When I was seven years old I was raped by the woman who lived next door. When I was seven years old my family made me an ant farm. When I was seven years old I made a subconscious decision to believe in miracles. When I was seven years old the hired men who worked for my dad taught me how to drive a truck. When I was seven years old I saw my first public execution, but I thought my life in North Korea was normal.

Six.

When I was six years old my father hit my mother in the head with a shoe. When I was six years old I contracted polio. When I was six years old I was forced to marry an older man. When I was six years old I started telling all of my friends how Jesus walked on water. When I was six years old I had picked off half my eyelashes. When I was six years old my family was sent to a detention camp in France. When I was six years old I went with my family to visit a butterfly museum. When I was six years old I accompanied my aunts to a shrine in the holy city of Qom. When I was six years old I went into a grand mal seizure in the back seat of the car. When I was six years old I felt like a princess. When I was six years old I learned, by the talk around me, that I was a slave.

When I was six years old my nanny recorded a UFO during my birthday party. When I was six years old I began to watch the nightly news with my dad. When I was six years old a German bomb went off just outside our backyard. When I was six years old I took care of our cow and goat. When I was six years old my mother died in a fire. When I was six years old I lost my father in a bicycle accident. When I was six years old I had rheumatoid arthritis in my body. When I was six years old I sprinkled sugar on my head, wished myself invisible, and walked into the boys’ bathroom at school. When I was six years old I was humiliated every day for being hairy.

My parents divorced when I was six years old. My family moved to the United States from Poland when I was six years old. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) married me when I was six years old. My mother kidnapped me when I was six years old. I stopped talking when I was six years old. I caught my first trout on a fly when I was six years old. I discovered I had a big penis when I was six years old. I had surgery for intussusception when I was six years old. I realized I was gay when I was six years old. I started hunting with my dad when I was six years old. I learned to play chess when I was six years old. I lost my virginity when I was six years old. I began losing my hair when I was six years old. I began learning English when I was six years old. I was raped when I was six years old, and I got infected with HIV/AIDS.

Five.

When I was five years old my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I was five years old a millionaire pedophile adopted me from Russia. When I was five years old my father decided to take his family to the Everglades and stake a claim on an offshore island. When I was five years old my baby sitter was a goat. When I was five years old I made Barbie slap Ken. When I was five years old I wanted to be the voice on the radio. When I was five years old I worried that the Nazis would come through my window to kill me and my family. When I was five years old I started singing in church. When I was five years old my father told me a science fiction story every night. When I was five years old I had cancer. When I was five years old I saw an insect that had been eaten by ants, and nothing but the shell remained.

I met the man I call my dad when I was five years old. I started running away when I was five years old. I learned to surf when I was five years old. I fell in love with dinosaurs when I was five years old. I started collecting stamps when I was five years old. My stepfather committed suicide when I was five years old. My parents gave me a magic chest when I was five years old. I started racing on a Honda XR50 when I was five years old. I started playing soccer when I was five years old. I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when I was five years old. Allah converted me to Islam when I was five years old. I started watching Meet the Press when I was five years old.

Four.

When I was four years old my mother owned some tenements in the Bronx. When I was four years old I was brought from Boston to this my native town. When I was four years old my grandfather drove me around Birmingham, saying, “This is where all the niggers and the coons and the jungle bunnies live.” When I was four years old I started my cheerleading career. When I was four years old my then-stepfather took to beating me. When I was four years old I found a shivering baby bunny all alone under a bush. When I was four years old I was molested, first by a neighbor then a member of the family. When I was four years old I knelt down on the floorboard of my dad’s truck and asked Jesus to forgive me. When I was four years old my mother stopped the car a few miles from our house and made me find my own way home.

When I was four years old I wanted to look like the model from the shampoo commercials. When I was four years old I had a cyst the size of a tennis ball on my left lung. When I was four years old I began collecting seeds. When I was four years old my father started sniffing cocaine. When I was four years old I declared that I wanted to be a doctor. When I was four years old my dad shot me up with heroin and I overdosed. When I was four years old I was burned on both my legs and I was in the hospital for three months. When I was four years old I told my mother I wanted to be a girl. When I was four years old soldiers came to our village and shot people and burned our homes. When I was four years old I had to share a cabin with three other girls, and they all knew how to swim. When I was four years old I wanted to be music.

Three.

When I was three years old I told a reporter, “It’s the thing that pumps the love through your body.” When I was three years old I started making candy with my grandmother. When I was three years old my sister helped me knock out my teeth. When I was three years old my mom brought me to my aunt’s house and never came back to get me. When I was three years old my dad cut my drumsticks in half so I could hold them to play. When I was three years old I talked with the angels and fairies without anyone else knowing. When I was three years old my father murdered my mother. When I was three years old my mother took me to a psychologist because I would not speak. When I was three years old I thought winter would never end and I could never go outside again. When I was three years old I said out loud, “I will never die.”

I started singing when I was three years old. I started dancing when I was three years old. I started playing the piano when I was three years old. I started gymnastics when I was three years old. I started skating when I was three years old. I started skiing when I was three years old. I started snowboarding when I was three years old. I started golfing when I was three years old. I started barrel racing when I was three years old. I started reading when I was three years old. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was three years old. I had open-heart surgery when I was three years old. My father got out of prison when I was three years old. I can’t remember when I was three years old, but that doesn’t mean I never was three years old.

Two.

My mom was institutionalized when I was two years old. My dad got me a bikini when I was two years old. My parents played Miles Davis for me when I was two years old. I learned how to write my Chinese name when I was two years old. I almost drowned when I was two years old. I figured out “It’s A Small World” on the piano when I was two years old. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was two years old. I was diagnosed with JRA when I was two years old. I had my right kidney removed when I was two years old. I climbed up the ladder onto the roof when I was two years old. I started wearing glasses when I was two years old. I started on stage when I was two years old, so my earliest memories are of applause and hard work.

When I was two years old my aunt let me ride her Tennessee walking horse. When I was two years old I left Congo for Belgium because of the war in my homeland. When I was two years old I was living in a care center for HIV-infected people. When I was two years old I was kidnapped. When I was two years old I was repeatedly hit on the head with hammer. When I was two years old my father moved our family to the city of Basra. When I was two years old I saw the musical Cats and fell in love with it. When I was two years old I wanted to be a dog.

One.

When I was one year old my mother would chew whatever food she had and give it to me. When I was one year old my father cut me with a sharp blade because I would not stop crying. When I was one year old my parents moved to Watertown, South Dakota. When I was one year old my parents took me to Barrackville, West Virginia. When I was one year old I was adopted and brought to New Jersey. When I was one year old I was diagnosed with juvenile onset diabetes. When I was one year old I was baptized. When I was one year old a Pekinese bit me in the face. When I was one year old I made my first drawing. When I was one year old I drank some bleach. When I was one year old I put a June bug in my mouth.

Begin.

When I was born I was pulled out by a plunger-thingy. When I was born I got my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, both arms, and one of my ankles. When I was born the first voice I uttered was crying, as all others do. When I was born I had a cleft ear. When I was born I had bright blonde hair, but it got darker. When I was born I had purple eyes. When I was born I was put in a crib in a broom cupboard with a cloth over the top. When I was born I became the visible corner of a folded map.

Author Bio

Rolf Potts

Rolf Potts is the author of two books, Marco Polo Didn't Go There and Vagabonding. His essays and reportage have appeared in venues... read more

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