11 September 2011

I Tried to Cut Off My Cousin's Penis

by Diane Carlisle

I consider them milestones in my growth as a person and as a writer. I hope you stick around to read them.

I tried to cut off my cousin's penis.

When my sister and I were four and five, our cousin was only three. I'm not sure why mom and Aunt Sachi decided the children needed to bathe together. They were probably hoping to conserve time and maybe save a little on the hot water. After we were all undressed, the adults left us alone while the water filled in the tub. I imagine they left to find some towels. When my aunt came back in and screamed, we all jumped out of our respective skins.

My aunt grabbed the scissors from my sister's hand and I quickly let go of my cousin's penis. It just wasn't normal hanging there like that. Obviously there was something wrong with him; he was so unlike me and my sister.

By the look on my aunt's face, I could tell she was horrified. Did she not know that the thing was there? For God's sake, she was his mother. You’d think she’d seen it before!

I almost died at the age of five.

My sister and I, along with another friend who was four, took a long hike to a common dam in Iwakuni, Japan. When I think back, I wonder where my parents were because the dam seemed a good mile away from home.

We hopped into one of many Nishiki fishing boats docked along a concrete landing surrounded by sand and small rocks. One of the other kids at the dam placed the anchor into the boat while we played ship captain and crew. We were so enchanted and immersed in our role-play that we didn't realize we were floating until the boat started rocking back and forth. By then, we were in the middle of the dam and none of us knew how to swim.

I remember standing up in the boat and crying while my sister yelled for me to sit down. My carrying on was making the boat rock more and to the point we almost tipped over.

As only five and six year olds might do in a situation like this, we sat as still as we could, because by golly the boat stopped rocking. Then an old Japanese man jogging along the dam saw us, swam out and rescued us. I say old, but he was the same age as I am now, but to a five year old, that's pretty old.

My parents found out about this little adventure of ours two weeks later when our rescuer ran into us in a Japanese super market. My mother was full-blooded Japanese and understood every word the man said. My sister and I just looked at each other and then at our mom and the old man. I remember I was fascinated by how fast they spoke in the Japanese language. We watched this foreign exchange back and forth until my mother had a look on her face that told me I wouldn't see the light of day for a very long time, and I didn't.

I dabbled in mirror writing in first grade.

It frightened my mother. She thought I had some sort of learning disability. I wrote a whole page using words that I created backwards and upside down. My first grade teacher finally called a conference with my parents but I had no idea why they made such a big fuss over it.

When we got home I held my paper up in the mirror and showed my mom that it was perfectly fine if you looked at it in the mirror. She made me stop doing that because the teacher couldn’t be bothered with having to use a mirror to read my writing and so I suffered many years having to suppress my inner muse.

I used to write in numbers.

Weird, I know, but it sort of looked like this on paper:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8...

When I reached 100, I wrote it down in bold with an exclamation point, like so:

...97, 98, 99, 100!

I wrote numbers in this manner when I was bored and every time I reached another milestone like 200 and 300, I would also bold them and top it off with an exclamation point. Can you say OCD? I won't tell you what happened at numbers 1,000 and 10,000. I'll just say they all got their own special decorations.

I gave birth to my first child in a Japanese baby clinic.

My husband was stationed in Iwakuni, Japan in 1988, the year I gave birth to my son. I had to be driven to a local baby clinic when my water broke and put me in labor almost three weeks early. I didn't speak Japanese and the Japanese mid-wives didn't speak English. I also wasn't in a position to afford a translator. To say the least, my experience was an eye-opener, because I'd never had an enema either. I quickly discovered that no words are needed in a humble situation.

After I delivered my son, I realized I was in culture shock. I was starving by the time they brought my first meal to me. I lifted the silver dome cover of the large serving tray. Interesting as it was, the display didn't look very appetizing to me. There before me was a tightly packed bed of rice and lying across the top was a large broiled fish, a whole fish, teeth and all. I sent my husband to the military base to buy me a pizza. I came to understand why different genres are written the way they are written. To each their own!

So, anything from your past you’d like to share? I’m having a rather reflective day today and it’s a shame I have to go back to work in the morning.


  1. Not from my past, but my daughter's. My mirror writing was limited to my name, but my daughter did me one better. In grade three, she switched from a co-operative school to a regular class, and the teacher was horrified to find a writing sample that included a whole paragraph of mirror writing. When she showed it to her dad and I, we had a hard time not busting our guts laughing at the look on the teacher's face. We never considered it a learning disability--we left-handers know that all the right-handers write backwards anyhow!

  2. Right on, Ruth! I'm with you guys. It's not a learning disability. It's a talent. :)

  3. Oh man, I had to be careful with that posting title, because I'm actually reading this at work! Ha ha, titles really do capture the reader's attention, that's for sure and that title of your post caught mine!

    Hmmm...something I'm reflective about is when I was younger, much younger, one of my brother's played on this basketball team and one day when I was there, another little girl came up to me and sat next to me, and started having her snack - a bag of crackers (I did not have a snack that day, mind you). And she ATE THEM right IN FRONT of me. Chomping away, like we were never taught to share in Kindergarden.

    So, the next time we went. I asked for crackers to bring to the game. And found that little girl. And promptly ate MY CRACKERS right in front of HER.


  4. Too funny, Nicole. Why is it that particular age is the age we remember things that were just shocking enough that we'd remember years later (for me it's years).

    This one kid took my lunch box because we had identical boxes and by the time the teacher discovered the mix up, the kid ate all my sandwich and was halfway finished with my Twinkies. Talk about upset. I was stuck with a tomato sandwich.

    He probably loved my mother's meatloaf sandwich, he wolfed it down in 5 minutes!

  5. Hi, love the comparison of genres to cuisine! Simple, yet so true!

  6. Yes, Vanna, the unveiling of the fish with its teeth and eyes bugging out would be "Suspense/Horror" lol

  7. I ordered a fish like that accidentally once. Grossed me out and I headed to McDonald's where I slowly ordered what I wanted all proud of being able to pronounce everything on the foreign menu.
    Then she repeated back to me, "You mean, you want a Big Mac, Fries and a coke?" By the way, did your brother develop any weird sexual hangups about almost losing his penis? That is hilarious!

  8. Desert, it was my cousin, but til this day I don't think he's been too disturbed by it. My aunt was though, she talks about it whenever we visit. lol


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