One of the most powerful, most cogent memories I have as a child, from my childhood, as I look back at it all, now, as an old man, was that I never saw any sign of genuine affection between my parents. My mother was a nasty, provocative woman who would forces kisses on me and my sister and, for others to see, she’d plant a kiss on my father’s cheek. He’d wince. I think, to him, it must have felt like a slap. I know that was how her kisses felt to me, like her slaps across my face.
I eventually came to feel sorry about my sister, Ruthie. She was globular, with that cherubic chubbiness that little girls get as they approach adolescence and we teased her mercilously. I remember my father teasing her: Chubby Bubby… He thought it was funny. Our family friend, Aku Rintala… a man whom I later learned was manic… mostly manic… and a sarcastic alcoholic, if there ever was one. He could have easily passed for Irish, except that he was Finnish and Jewish, but not a good example of either… except that he was rich.
“Who the hell is this guy?” someone yells out.
I better explain or none of this will make sense. I am sorry that I have not introduced myself. I do have a tendency to go on a bit even if to myself. I am Chaim Goldberg, the guy with the red hair, now silvering and all of me aging… aged. You have, by now, read my tales, of my life, my memoirs. Kaleidoscope, and Gyroscope, and this tale, Intrascope. …. Finally. When I started writing novels, this one was the one I wanted to write all along.
This is the tale that haunted me since my Bris… just eight days after my birthday, December the first, nine-teen hundred and forty-seven. God, it is smoky in here. Everyone smokes!
We are watching a movie on a Bell and Howell eight millimeter projector in a dark room in my home in Israel. Everyone smokes in the movie. It is so damn smoky in the movie that it is hard to see what the hell is going on. That was my childhood… hard to see what was going on.
I wrote my other books, they are real, I wrote in the voice of the third person. I wrote them in the third person because I needed the literary distance, that objectivity, to say what needed to be said, then. But now, I step from my pages as me, Chaim Goldberg… and I want to tell you the story of my childhood.
I am an old man now and it took so long to tell this story because the story was so painful and I was so ashamed. Heck, I sucked cocks when I was a kid. Maybe if you are a woman, that is a good and a correct thing to do, but not as a boy, not in the 1950’s when we were so terrified of Commies and homos, when you get pushed, as in head-pushing, to suck cocks. I am not sure I can go on… I unscrew a pill bottle.
Watch the film and I’ll narrate. My father’s name was Arthur; mom, Evalyn. I know my father loved me because he took 8mm videos of me. Here, look at my Bris… ooopsss. Stand back. I peed! Everyone clapped. It’s in black and white, as was everything in those days in New York. I came into this troubled world at three-thirty in the morning, a Monday, just before dawn, as a wriggling, soaked, little boy. This is all in the movie. Look at it as I narrate. I want to push away all of the cigarette smoke. My mother must have taken these pictures at the bris because my father is making silly with his cigarette and his silly…with his wire-rimmed glasses.
Here’s the part of my birth… not in the delivery room, but afterward. Then see my father pan around the hospital room. That’s me, all swaddled up in that snuggly baby-boy blankie, with my hat, my first yarmulke! It wasn’t, I just say that, maybe to entertain. I do not know why he stopped to film the kidney basin, there it is eighteen seconds on the kidney basin and just a passing shot, maybe four seconds on me. But I knew that he loved me then.
You can see it in the film, even in the harsh lighting of the filming, you can tell that he loved me. He did! Goddammit.
Then, not the next Saturday, because eight days had not passed, but then on the fourteenth, that was the day of my bris. We lived in the Bronx in my Dad’s parents’ home. I was brand new on that date, uncluttered by guilt… over the required eight days. I had survived long enough for a bris.
They don’t circumcise just anybody. The boy must attain eight healthy days and not appear likely to die, not red, not feverish, all of that. I screamed my guts out. I was not going to die! Not me, not then. And it has to be a good moile, a skilled moile. If there is a choice between a revered old moile whose skills are not that good and a new moile, not that experienced or old, but with good skills, Halachic law requires the skilled moile. You can see that my moile was about fifty, with a great beard, not yet white, and schoene punum, he smiled for the camera just before… yaaaahhhh!
No wonder I became a surgeon!
Oey…here I am naked before everyone… Looking back I think the cock-sucking eventually took its toll. Getting raped will do that.
I have to hide and so I am reverting to my third person… Chaim Goldberg.