The Bukowski Agency - Mistakes to Run With - Excerpt
Mistakes to Run With

a memoir by Yasuko Thanh


THE ACCIDENT STILL seems like a game to me, with all the excitement of rides on the midway, complete with police lights and the noise of their sirens. The boy had been calling the police station for days, telling them he had dynamite in his car and if they didn’t stop harassing him he’d blow himself up. Perhaps they saw something of themselves in his bravado, lost in youth. Perhaps their simultaneous envy of and contempt for his brazenness made them dismiss his threats as just the kind of talk that boys from inner-city high schools cultivate among each other. His girlfriend also called and warned them. His father called, too, said, “He’s being pushed to the edge. He’ll do it.”

No one listened.

The police drew a tighter circle around him, even as he was yelling, “If you come any closer, I’ll blow myself the fuck up.”

I imagine him believing it would never come to this. I imagine him a moment earlier, before the crash, steering a doomed 1966 Plymouth Fury, removing the crucifix from the rear-view mirror and slipping it over his head, driving with his knees, reciting a Hail Mary, streetlights stringing by like rosary beads.

While he waved his dynamite and his girlfriend screamed, “Lethimgobabydon’tdoit” (in real life she arrived after the explosion, saw his body on the pavement half-blanketed by a tarp), the police lassoed him.

What happened next I wrote in my diary.

I kept a diary throughout my childhood. I kept dead bees in a jar, too.

Both for their calm, which could be savoured.

When he exploded, I told my brother how his parts were raining down on us.

(Newspaper accounts would make note of the 1966 Plymouth Fury being split in half. The windshield flew the length of an Olympic swimming pool. A skylight was pierced by falling debris a football field away. Seventeen windows were smashed in nearby houses. And people felt the blast over a two-kilometre radius.)

My brother looked like he was about to cry.

“Right now,” I hissed. “Guts like snakes.”

If it weren’t for this record, there are days I’d say it never happened. Some of the words in my diary are misspelled.

I ran in my pyjamas through the long grass, looking for body parts. I wanted, needed, to see how the pieces fit.

The boy was like the moth that flies toward the light, and my father is like the light. Someone once said that every action of ours is evil for someone else. What happened to the boy was technically no one’s fault, but that does not preclude looking at who made the boy feel trapped, and the ends to which people will go to recover what has been denied. The palpable innocence connected to the colour of that night, see-saws in the dark, the texture of an apple tree against orange flames reaching into the sky, its peeling paint, a long-ago June day with summer stretching out like a lake bed—this imagined beauty creates our idiosyncratic illusion of freedom, a concrete means to think about the sine qua non of good and evil, to realize that when confronted by a dead end, anyone might be capable of anything.





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