I Suck At This Job
Asking directly for money is a hazardous working condition for me.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father excoriating me over a gift someone had given me. I can’t pinpoint exactly how old I was, but I couldn’t have been more than 6, since the incident took place in the small rental house my family occupied in Austin, Texas, in the mid-1970s.
This is what had transpired: A girl lived across the street who was my frequent playmate. She was three years older, and because of this I worshiped every square inch of ground on which she stood. Also because of this, I’m sure she didn’t appreciate my company nearly as much as I appreciated hers, but she was generally patient and generous with me, lending me her knotted yarn bracelets and so on. One day, after a few hours of playtime at my house, she told me she had to leave because her mother was taking her shopping at the mall.
“Can you bring me something?” I asked.
By which I mean I apparently asked. I have no recollection of the actual moment, only a piercing and indelible knowledge that the moment occurred. I do remember the neighbor girl returning to my house some hours later and presenting with me a small coloring book; the kind of thing that was probably eight pages long and cost 25 cents. I think it might have had an Easter theme, since I recall a yellow cover with a bunny or egg illustration. In my memory, my mother wasn’t home and my father was in enough of a supervisory role to notice that I had something new in my possession and ask where I’d gotten it.
Maybe I said something like, “She went to the mall and I asked her to bring me something.” Or maybe the other girl, with her three years of seniority, managed to convey something more precise. In any case, my father entered a state that seemed to skip right over anger and go straight to something like panic.