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By Heather Scott

When I mistakenly opened the door, the bright lights engulfed me, leaving only a sliver of shadow behind my body. It was the quality of light used on movie sets or to beckon people in fatal accidents down a long hallway. Two bedside lamps were on, an overhead chandelier was illuminated, and the bright sunlight of high noon was streaming through the window…all combined to create an agonizingly bright reflection off their alabaster skin. I was standing on the threshold of my parents' bedroom and on the bed -- without the benefit of a concealing blanket or a forgiving shadow in sight -- my parents were having sex…doggy-style.

When he was clothed, and standing, my father obsessively turned off lights. It was his last bastion of control in a house full of insurgents -- tighter lighting restrictions followed every indiscretion. When he caught my oldest brother, Jack, smoking he implemented the "one light per room" rule. After my brother, Rob, came home with his ear pierced, light usage in the house became as controlled as a prison camp's. When I turned sixteen he entered a preemptive stage -- the mere prospect of wrongdoing was enough to warrant blackout conditions. I couldn't read in my bedroom without my dad entering and, without a word of explanation, turning off every switch until the room resembled a religious ceremony where only the manuscript in front of me was illuminated. And yet, to have sex -- something parents should do in the dark -- he preferred the subtle ambiance of a police searchlight.

I had been standing in the doorway for anywhere between one to thirty minutes when I noticed a distinct and piercing noise. It was a tone that I had previously only heard on a nature program coming from a baby animal as predators tore it from the comfort of its lair and ate it alive. It was a steady and high-pitched squeal, not a sound traditionally associated with joy and comfort, rather a manifestation of pure terror mixed with the realization that the home as a sanctuary was a myth. The most disconcerting aspect of the cry was that, without opening my lips or moving my mouth, it was coming from me. I had been making the noise since I entered the room. Without it I probably could have silently closed the door and walked away. Instead, there we were -- my parents were naked on their hands and knees, eyes locked with their only daughter, watching her squeak in the doorway.

The ample lighting afforded unfettered eye contact between my mom, my dad, and me. And back again, eye contact between my mom, my dad, and me -- while they were having sex…doggy-style. Actually, they had stopped having sex; they were just in the position to have sex…doggy-style. The three of us were motionless, frozen in a tableau reenactment of one of the seamier Greek tragedies…with eye contact. I was eighteen and eye contact was not something I was accustomed to -- especially at home. This episode would do little to help this condition. It was two months past my thirtieth birthday before I found out what color my mom's eyes were.

Time was passing, but at an incredibly slow rate - nano-seconds dragged into minutes and minutes were too long to comprehend. With each tick of the clock, the situation became weirder and weirder as we all began to question, "Why doesn't she just close the door?" and "Will she ever stop making that noise?" Evidently, I had gone into a low level of shock. Unfortunately, the two shock symptoms that I would have welcomed, unconsciousness and an out of body experience, eluded me.

The one logical thought I had was, at that moment, I could have asked for, or told my parents, anything. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to have a checkbook on them. And to blurt out "Now I'm definitely gay," seemed a bit over the top (yet, I had no problem screaming like a dying animal). Instead, I eventually closed the door, went to the kitchen, and wondered how I was ever going to erase that image from my memory. I feared that my naked parents would become a fixed hologram in my vision; a vision that I would carry around like a phantom limb for the rest of my life.

I thought about scouring the Yellow Pages for a professional to help me with the psychosis that would no doubt ensue from the incident. Technically, I could bill the sessions to my parents -- and that seemed appealing. But my mind was a sewer that I was not willing to dredge. The phrase "Doggy-style" could only be repeated a finite amount of times before the conversation turned on me.

I wanted to run out the front door and down the street, and practice my scream in the open. But I couldn't leave. I would silently put this memory away in the family-file, sandwiched between "Rob had a boyhood crush on Paul, our mover" and "Jack took disco lessons for four years, through middle school and into high school." They would go under the heading "We know too much about each other" because that, combined with a genetic predisposition for grotesquely long thin toes, is what truly defines our family.

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