Whenever I think of my childhood home, I remember a perpetual cold starkness. How it resembled a 1950’s furniture showroom with oddly shaped pieces constructed of shiny chrome, teak, and blond painted wood. There were few accessories adorning our living room, where I think I sat maybe ten times in ten years, other than a throw pillow or two, and a twisted driftwood lamp topped with a translucent rectangular shaped shade. Our couch, curvy and blood red was covered in thick plastic that always stuck to my thighs in summer. There were no photos in shiny frames and no books.Though I kept several piled high on the rickety pink stand in my bedroom, books were rarely on display in this home in which I lived until I left for college at seventeen. If a book and its jacket didn’t match the color décor, it simply would not make it to a shelf. Shelves, in general, my mother believed, invited dust and clutter. There was, however, a curved bamboo bar with three matching barstools and a mirrored cabinet in our family den, one step down from the kitchen, where we usually ate our meals, and if we were especially well-behaved, were permitted to watch television while doing so. Above the well-stocked bar, what I’d always thought would have been the perfect place for a built-in bookcase, was a collection of amber and rose-colored bottles of liquor stacked, side by side, a single spotlight on the ceiling highlighting their presence.
Yet, my father, who enjoyed reading, on occasion, before bedtime, kept a few books on top of his night table, though they were mostly pastel-colored anthologies published by Reader’s Digest. Printed in a jumbo typeface, they were condensed versions of the classics like: For Whom the Bell Tolls or The Sound and the Fury, as well as more contemporary best-selling novels. Whenever I attempted to read one of these abbreviated versions, I always felt cheated, and couldn’t help wondering what portion of the plot had been eliminated in order to reduce the text. But inside my father’s night table, tucked away in back of the chrome trimmed wooden drawer was where he kept what my friends and I referred to as the “dirty” books. Some displayed bold, blood red covers of half-naked women, or men in dark pin-striped suits, pistols drawn, while standing beside these half-naked women, or men with their faces buried in the bosoms of these women, whose bodies arched backwards over fancy French upholstered chairs. Among this eclectic mix of strange appealing reads, I was to find my favorite book of this very impressionable time of my life. It was entitled Peyton Place,written by a woman named Grace Metalious. Whenever I was left alone, I quickly grasped more and more of that enticing, erotic, and often disturbing read, becoming guiltily immersed in the very complicated array of characters─ characters whose shameful secrets became the foundation of an addictive world for small town scandal. After I read some chapters, I wondered if anything like that actually went on in our sleepy little suburb, and I might have quietly begun searching for clues. But I became fearful I’d get caught reading what most referred to as forbidden for children material and would dog-ear the pages so I could return to them over and over again. I didn’t understand then why I enjoyed these specific pages as much as I did, or why I felt so sinful reading them. All I knew was just like whenever I ate Breyer’s chocolate ice cream with hot fudge, I wasn’t able to stop.