“The obstetrician couldn’t stop the melting fast enough,” I tell the detective when he looks at the part of my head that’s missing. I knew he could see through any of the other stories I’ve told gawking strangers: my father trusted his fists to bang out the dents, my mother choked the city skyline inside her with all of her smoking, a tragic dodgeball accident in kindergarten. The detective opens the manilla folder on the desk, turns a page or two. He pauses and then looks up at me for a moment before licking his fingers and thumb before turning to the next page.
Grandma said that I was more special because of my design flaw. She would elbow Grandpa in the ribs whenever he clutched the small gold crucifix dangling around his neck in front of me. Grandpa waited until she was asleep to come into my bedroom. He stood over me and chanted until I fell asleep or the Latin gave him cottonmouth. After all, the cheapest alternative to plastic surgery is prayer.
“Not your first time here, is it,” the detective asks. I shake my head. Whenever a window broke, a television disappeared, a sliding glass door was pelted with eggs, a car tire or two was slit or punctured, the neighborhood watch led the police to me. The neighborhood watch kept sending the police over to our house until my grandparents took the hint and we moved somewhere else.
The detective gets to the last page in the manilla folder. He slides the page over to me, along with photos of a smoldering house taken at different angles. “Why did you do it,” he asks. I look down at the photos and the report that the fire chief put together. My shoulders want to shrug but I hush them.
My parents cut off all contact after they handed me over to my grandparents. Sometimes, we would get Christmas cards from them when they forgot they weren’t talking to us. It was always a photo with my mother and father wearing loud, cheerful sweaters. Eventually, we would see them holding a baby boy and then a baby boy and baby girl. We stopped getting the cards after my Grandma called to congratulate her son and his new wife.
The detective gets up. He leans forward on the desk, brings his face close enough to where I can smell the stale coffee on his breath. “Why did you do it?”
I found the last address my parents lived at in my Grandma’s address book after her body finally died. Grandpa died a couple of years before so he couldn’t stop me from looking. The “For Sale” sign staked in front of the house told me they didn’t live there anymore but I didn’t care.
I flinch as the detective brings his face even closer to mine. He grabs my jaw. A knock on the two way glass tells him to let go and back off. After the detective leaves, I look at the two way glass. “The obstetrician couldn’t stop the melting fast enough,” I yell in case whoever was watching didn’t hear me the first time.