I was 11, when I saw my first UFO

I just finished watching the documentary, Curse of the Man Who Sees UFOS and all I can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

I was around 11 when I first started seeing UFOS.

We had just moved into a shitty shoebox of a house, 800 square feet, no air conditioning, wall heaters that were likely to burn the house down than keep us warm. That winter, we slept in our clothes, wrapped inside sleeping bag, under bedcovers. We kept a plastic cup on by the tub to scoop up cockroaches as they floated up from beneath the bathmat when we took baths. I remember killing a rat the size of a small cat in the kitchen. Our neighbors were a religious family. The oldest brother and sister used to sneak inside the tent my sister and I had in the backyard and make out in it. Further down the road, there were addicts and sex workers. Fights and gunshots were common.

And that was just the chaos outside.

Inside, my family was starting down a very dark road. Mom and Dad started using pot and drinking heavily. They were bankrupt, I later learned. Working 40 hours a week but making barely enough to cover costs of living. There were lots of Hamburger Helper dinners and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch. Poverty is like cancer, make no doubts about that. It’ll destroy everything.

And then there was me, on the brink of puberty. In the midst of a biological chaos of my own. I started my period, got breasts, all while my parents were smoking pot and fucking in the front room and I tried my best to keep my little sister from watching it.

I was a very lonely kid. Anxious, nervous, constant stomachaches.

And that’s when I started seeing the lights in the skies.

I stole money (that’s another story for another time) and used the stash of quarters to buy UFO magazines from Tradewinds, a convenience store/fish and bait shop down the road. I loved those pulpy pieces of trash. I didn’t just read them. I devoured them. They were my Bible. Back then, I still had a child’s belief that books were sacred. If it were printed, that made it true.

And, God, did I need it to be true.

The Space Brothers. That’s what I called them. They were just lights in the skies. Just lights. I never saw metallic ships or anything like that. Just lights. I remember watching them zig zag across the night sky like Junebugs on a string. I remember once, telling everyone to start acting crazy to see what it would do. The light actually stopped, as if confused to our antics and when I pointed and shouted, “LOOK!” it zoomed away.

Oh, yeah. It wasn’t just me. My sister and my cousin who stayed with us sometimes also saw them. Or at least, they said they did. I don’t know if they remember it the same way. More than likely, they saw them because I saw them.

Then, they bled over to other parts of my life. I started seeing the lights other places.

The school district I was zoned for sucked so we lied and used a family member’s address so I could keep attending school where I had been going before the move. That also meant I had to have a babysitter and catch a bus to go to school.

Every morning, as I would climb onto the bus, I’d look over my left shoulder and look up into the sky. There was a light. It made me feel important, protected, not alone.

As time went on, I would still see the Space Brothers. Usually when I was somewhere and felt out of my element, like on a date that wasn’t going well or out with people that I didn’t really connect with, I could look up and there they’d be. A light in the sky. My own cosmic posse.

I don’t remember when I stopped seeing them. Perhaps, when I stopped needing them. Or, more likely, these invisible compadres took on other forms, other obsessions that tried to fill the lonely hole inside of me.

I don’t know.

But, what I do know is that, for the grace of God, I am not a middle aged, beer bellied, cackling, white haired man, on a documentary, screaming at the sky, looking for friends.


I have a cat named Mushashi. He is, in a word, nuts.

When we got him, he was maybe 8 weeks old. There were two of them. Beautiful, fluff balls. White and black Himalayan kittens with huge blue eyes. We only meant to adopt one kitten but when we saw how attached he was to his sister, Yasuko, we knew we couldn’t separate them. She was fierce; I didn’t worry about her at all. But, Mushi…I could tell he was different. He needed her. I don’t know what happened to him in those first few weeks of life that made him such a cautious, scared kitten but, whatever it was, the damage was deep.

Those first weeks, I never saw hide or hair of him. He ate, drank and went to the litter box like a ninja.

Eventually, he’d pop out of whatever dimensional rift he hid inside to play with his sister. But only in secret. The moment he was spotted, POOF! Back into the shadows.

He is eight now. He is still the King of the Introverts and spends 20 hours of his day in my daughter’s room under her blankets. But whenever my Shy Boy appears at my feet, meowing for a scratch behind the ears, it is a treat as much for me as it is for him.

This morning, while sitting at my desk trying to conjure up words, he burst into my office, chasing a sock. He tossed the black raggedy thing up in the air and caught it in mid flight. Falling to the ground, he’d clutch it to his tummy with his claws, his tail wagging in triumph. He’d jump up, pushing the sock away and the chase began again.

He didn’t notice me so I froze, kept silent and just watched him. It was glorious to see him so free, so alert, so CAT. I wanted desperately to say something, tell him how wonderful it was to see him so happy and just how so goddamn cute he was!

But I didn’t. I knew I couldn’t. It would break the spell.

And then I wondered if this is how God must feel sometimes. Desperately wishing to connect but knowing that if one word was uttered, the spell would break and everything would turn to dust.

That must be incredibly lonely.