Alan doesn't remember much about his father.
He remembers he was tall, with very wide shoulders that Alan used to ride around on. He especially liked riding around in the rain.
His father had his eyes, too. Dark brown and wide. He didn't remember that, but the picture on the mantle told him.
His father wore a uniform.
It was heavy and itchy. Alan had once asked to wear it, when he was five. His father had ruffled his hair and dropped the huge cap on his head. It fell over his eyes.
The jacket, his father had said, was bulletproof. It was made so nothing could get him through the armor.
Alan liked calling it armor. It made him think of the tough soldiers in his video games. He liked to think that when his father left, he was fighting ferocious aliens in another galaxy.
One time his father didn't come back.
When Alan whined that his father was late, his mom slapped him.
That was the beginning of the end.
He remembered his mother. She was tall and thin, and she had freckles and frizzy black hair. She always wore sneakers, no matter what, and when his feet got big enough they shared shoes.
She used to love gardening.
He remembered, when he was little, helping her water the garden. For Alan, that meant pouring as much water as possible into the muddy hole he had dug and splashing around.
His mother would only laugh and wipe the flecks of dirt from her dress, but his father would join in.
There was a ceremony in a big building with windows made of rainbows. A choir sang and his mom wept and he couldn't understand why.
His cheeks were pinched and he was squished against bosoms until his face ached to match his chest.
He remembered, a few days after the ceremony, his mom sitting in the garden and staring at the flowers. It was autumn, and many were starting to sleep.
He sat next to her in the grass.
She had glared at him coldly, and stood up. He'd never forget the anger lurking in the corners of her vision.
"Alan" she said. "I'm going out. Behave"
She wore heels that night.
For a long time, he thought she had vanished along with his father. He wanted to vanish, too. Just disappear and get rid of that horrible ache in his chest.
She came home with someone who was not his father.
The next morning he heard yelling and screaming and doors slamming. He hid under the covers and missed the bus.
His mother came upstairs to check on him. She placed a hand, for once absent of dirt or pollen, against his forehead.
"I'm sick" he said.
For a moment she looked like the mom he once knew.
"Of course, baby. Get some sleep" she said, kissing his forehead.
Her breath smelled strange, and foreign. Alan closed his eyes and willed it away.
That smell became a part of his life.
One job, two jobs, three.
Sirens and lights. A court.
The gavel slammed against the wooden base, ringing in his head and in his nightmares for years after.
The judge spoke.
"Camp Green Lake"