The Day We Shot the Bullfrog
That is, until the photo at left passed before my eyes.
Oh, yeeaaahhh … that.
When did it happen? It must’ve been during the 1960s. Who was holding the bullfrog? Was it me? Or an older boy? (As the arm seems to suggest. At the time I couldn’t have been older than 6 or 7.)
It was likely when the Family Project vacationed around the U.S., as the background shows: a white van, a speckled camper top above which recently deceased Jeremiah Q. Bullfrog is suspended. Also in the background are what seem to be lake cabins, so it could’ve been during a summer vacation in Michigan before we moved out East in the mid-1960s. I don’t know. It’s from “The Time Before the Diaries.”
So many questions. But it did happen. The photo is evidence.
Poor little guy. I felt sad for Mr. Bullfrog.
And I believe that I was the one who shot the bullfrog.
Ah, the vagaries of memory. That other side of life—the forgotten side.
What if everyone’s rock-solid “I remember…” was replaced with actual archival footage? Maybe even video that proved contrary to the “facts at hand”? Something like, “Body Cams for the Perpetually Forgetful.”
It brings to mind a print (at right) my late father cherished, mostly because the boy in the illustration looks a lot like he did in the late 1930s: “Nobody Loves Me.” Pop had happy memories of being a boy then. Its caption reads: “Nobody loves me. I’m going into the garden to eat worms. Yesterday I ate two smooth ones and one wooly one.”
Of course it’s ridiculous—it’s classically American ridiculous. Does the boy eat the worms because he enjoys them?
Hell, no. It’s because nobody loves him.
So, let’s all go to the garden and eat some goddamn worms.
My memory is shit, actually.
I wish I had a tenth of what these folks have. Or maybe not; it could be considered a freakish curse.
Keeping diaries and journals all these many years has helped me remember. When in doubt, I refer back to the exact date (or at least within a few days) that I think it happened.
I know I wronged my ex-girlfriend Sally, back in 1986 and ’87.
I’d started a corporate job in June 1985, met Sally in late summer of ’86, after I’d moved into my first apartment that April. I threw dinner parties and hosted movie-watching hangouts with coworkers. Sally and I worked in separate yet adjacent departments, she was around my age, nerdy with long, straw-colored hair, and freckles on her nose and chest. She liked to laugh and, I noted, appreciated my jokes.
An Aug. 6, 1986, journal entry records one such a movie-watching party on Friday night, Aug. 1. A quick recap: After the party, Sally stayed later than the others. She wanted to get to know me. I could sense that.
It got to be later and later, so she stayed over, but we didn’t have sex—we just made out all night. For this 26-year-old, it was extremely frustrating. The entry spells it out:
“I took a shower, got dressed, she floated around the apartment like a ghost. I made coffee and we stood out on the balcony, in the cool clear morning air. How awkward—? No, not much at least, but I could sense it in the distance, like a train. I suppose I was still ‘stoned’ by the renewed sexual vigor, the instant hugs and kisses…”
In December 1986, I wrote what still amounts to a cryptic journal entry:
“I know I’ve not gotten ’round to my Birthday party and the whole brief relationship with Sally at work. It’s important that that gets explained, because it’s the other side of the [girlfriend from high school/me] coin. I know I’ve told myself in the past that it’s easy to ascribe too much value to something: a person, an event…but sometimes these things move as if they had a will of their own, and I’m just there to watch as it bobs to the surface every now and then. But wanting love, returned love, unearned love. That’s approval, part of the ties with a family; even if it’s a family of two; me, and another, no doubt, no distrust.”
I know now I was rationalizing the situation to myself, probably to assuage guilty feelings. I treated Sally terribly. I tried to make it all about me, as I’m sure most of us do.
Then, it was 1987. One of those “bad years.”
Nothing written in the journal about what happened. No long, drawn-out intrigue; no heartbreak. Sally and I dated for a couple months, went to movies and dinners out, and of course had sex. I left the job in December 1992 and never saw Sal again.
In short, I didn’t care.
So, I shot the bullfrog.
What day was it? Any day we choose to forget.
Who is ‘we’? Anyone that is not me. But essentially that’s a lie. It’s me.
What is meant by “the Bullfrog”? Anything targeted for extermination. Followed by memory erasure.
How does one shoot it?