When I was held under the suspicion of a stolen watch, I had a stocky build, my skin was negroid, my eyes were maroon. The year was 1933. I sat on the bus bench, my feet curled beneath me, praying sweet-baby-Jesus, sweet-sweet-baby, Jesus-please-save-me, clutching the pocket watch my mistress had given me in my left hand and with my right hand plucking my eye-lashes, one by one, and dropping them in a tiny pile onto the lap of my apron.
When I was a mental-case, I was American, my eyes were blue, my build was slim, my hair was parted precisely down the middle, my cowlicks rising on either side as if cleaved by the hand of God, the one half of me wanting to pet pretty girls, the other half wanting to strangle them until their tongues swelled. It was 1946 and the starched hats of the nurses bobbed around me like white caps in the ocean.
When I was a molester of girls, my eyes were blue and my eyebrows met in the middle. It was 1950 and my complexion was fair. I was American and slender. I sat in my cell, dreaming of cotton panties blowing on a clothesline. My teeth jutted forward, all the better to eat them, all the children, lined up in a row, like bite-sized accidents softening on the road.
When I was a window peeper I was Finnish with light brown hair and blue eyes. I was medium complected and it was 1940. I told myself it would be the very last time I'd look at her, I just had to see her in the light of the candles, one more time and then I would enlist in the Navy. I climbed the familiar tree by her window and peered in, quivering, counting each brush stroke of her hair, holding my breath as she removed her bra and stepped into her nightgown.
When I was an attempted sodomist, my hair was black and kinky and my eyes were maroon, it was 1934 and I was a Negro. I sat in my cell remembering the sweet skin of my girlfriend, the way her hair floated around her shoulders when we went skinny dipping, her legs arching between mine, her teeth glittering just before the dogs, the spotlights and the gloved hands jerked her out of the water. Now I carry her in my heart like a submerged city.
When I stole scrap iron from the B & O Railroad, I was 17, my complexion was fair and my eyes were blue. The year was 1937 and I was Polish. I plucked mussels from the bulkhead and ate them raw. I spent my nights in the train yard and turned continuously in my sleep as I dreamt of chicken casserole and hot biscuits. A conductor spotted me the first time I tried to take a piece of railroad track. The next morning hundreds of jellyfish washed up on shore.