Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.
—GABRIEL GARCíA MáRQUEZ
In writing this book, I’ve endeavored to be as factual as possible, turning to journals, letters, scrapbooks, photo albums, report cards, recipes, articles, and other records of my personal and familial history. But in instances where I could not substantiate a physical or emotional detail, I turned to memory, knowing full well that it is revisionist and that each time we remember something, we alter it slightly, massaging our perspective and layering it with new understanding in order to make meaning in the present.
Wild Game does not pretend to tell the whole story—years have been compressed into sentences, friends and lovers edited out, details scrubbed. Time has scat
tered particulars. What follows in these pages are recollections, interpretations, and renderings of moments that shaped my life, all subject to perspective, persuasion, and longing. I am aware that others may recall things differently and have their own versions of events. I’ve tried to be careful in telling a story that includes other people who may remember or have experienced things differently.
I have changed the names of everyone in the book except for my parents, Malabar and Paul, and myself.
A buried truth, that’s all a lie really is.
Cape Cod is a place where buried things surface and disappear again: wooden lobster pots, the vertebrae of humpback whales, chunks of frosted sea glass. One day there’s nothing; the next, the cyclical forces of nature—erosion, wind, and tide—unearth something that has been there all along. A day later, it’s gone.
A few years ago, my brother discovered the bow of a shipwreck looming from a sandbar. He managed to excavate an ample wedge of hull before the tide came in and thwarted his efforts. The following day, he returned to the same spot at the same tide, but all traces of the ship had vanished. Had he not saved that waterlogged slab of wood, knotted and beautifully gnarled, and left it to dry on his lawn, he might have imagined he’d dreamed the whole thing.
Blink, and you’ll miss your treasure.
Blink again, and you’ll realize that the truth you thought was safely hidden has materialized, some ungainly part of it revealed under new conditions. We all know the adage that one lie begets the next. Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it.
For years and years, my job was to pile on sand—fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls, whatever the moment necessitated—in an effort to keep my mother’s secret buried.