A dancing bear for East Orange was what I was. Fridays I’d score goals on the fucked-up soccer field. Saturdays I’d recite cantos from The Divine Comedy in my great-aunt’s garden to an audience of drunks. I masturbated crouched under the bathroom sink, wads like chewed-up bubble gum on its curved marble underside. I shared the bed with two newborn brothers and recited my name to lull them to sleep. Once I found a worm in our laundry. I tried to stick it up my older sister’s nose and my mother caught me and threw the worm into the toilet. This happened twice.
The first time I met a prostitute I was sixteen. She shook my hand, then wiped her fingers on her mini-skirt. I imagined reading the first time I had sex. Then I actually read from a book the second time I had sex, the first time I was able to come. William Carlos Williams’ Paterson.
Harvard was the only college my parents had ever heard of, so it was the only college I ever wanted to go to. I applied to Harvard and then a few weeks later I opened the letter, having known since I got out of bed that morning it’d be a rejection. I began smoking more, doing steroids, spent whole days down the shore. My dad got sick. There were problems with his liver. His whole face turned yellow. Some days it looked green. I stopped smoking but did more steroids and had more sex.
I got engaged to a girl I met at a roller-rink. She worked at a hair salon, until her doctor put her on bedrest. Pregnant. My mom and sister helped a little bit but not enough. Anyway, what they really had to offer I didn’t want. I started sending stories out for publication and sold popcorn at the movie theater underneath our apartment. Every Sunday night they would show a Fellini. I could hear them all from my concession stand, but my Italian was slipping away from me and I couldn’t understand what most of it meant. I’d forgotten Dante. Most of the people I’d performed for were dead.
I didn’t want to go anywhere else if Harvard wouldn’t have me. By the time I would’ve been driving to I don’t know Rutgers in my dead dad’s tiny Chevy, my fiancé was in labor.
Bike horns and beach balls. My son slid out like a seal.
Michael Mungiello is from New Jersey. His work is published or forthcoming in Nanoism, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Short Fiction Break, and Construction Literary Magazine.