I did what I said I would have to do, and went away. It was forty minutes and not nearly long enough, but it was a start. It was enough to bring back all these things that I have managed to not think about in months.
Partly it was the pack of gum that did it. I was reading and looking for a piece of candy, and I found a plastic bag in a drawer with an unopened pack of Big Red gum inside it. I’ve had that gum for three years and never opened it. I didn’t even want it to begin with. I was just waiting for my plane and I bought it so I would not think of you.
Did you know that? That I would do something so absurd and ineffectual?
I opened it today though, and I read a book that wasn’t about you and didn’t have any of my creatures as narrators (my, but I am impressionable, aren’t I?), and I had a fleeting and unrelated sense of gladness that I wore a dark shirt today and it wouldn’t show up if my back bled like it had when I got out of the shower today and accidentally scratched the scab off the scratch marks I hadn’t been aware I had.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I had those marks.
I remember when, years ago, Maryland and I talked about how we would mentally hurt and hurt and hurt ourselves and eventually couldn’t stop because in some twisted way, we enjoyed being hurt…
The cinnamon taste was like that. It was so strong that it hurt my mouth. I kept pressing it flat between my gum and my inner lip because it hurt so much, and it amused me a little bit then, to think that I bought it in the first place so that for a moment I would do something other than think of you.
And I went for a walk alone today.
That was what I did, and in so doing was overwhelmed by the repository of memories that I apparently still keep, despite my lack of time to pour over them.
I remember biking all those years ago, and the thick smell of so many rotting cherries in that orchard, and the time we found that partial skeleton, the bones so picked clean that there were not even flies or bees hovering around it.
I remember all the evenings where it was so warm and sticky outside and how much I hated it and how much I need it now so that I can remember things like the damp feel of the sleeping bags and the thump of the bass maybe two hundred yards away and the smell of blood and dirt and graham cracker. I need to remember the way the pages felt when I turned them, and the way his hair curled around his neck the first time I ever saw him and knew beyond doubting that I was one of them.
I remember the way it was in the cool night hours in the house, too, when I would read by candlelight while it stormed, and drink from glasses so dark red they look black (I am using one right now, in fact).
I remember walking and…what? All the walks I’ve taken.
I could smell the memories of them in the humid air made sweet with the respiration of so many plants.
I remember the walks with the camp songs and the ones on the train tracks and the ones around the near-deserted festival grounds and the ones with people I barely knew, like Amy who wanted to talk about her brother, and Sam who wanted to talk about how doomed we all were…and I remember the walks that changed something…the one where she and I ventured into that tunnel, and the one he and I took in the cold moonlight, and the one where we crunched leaves that smelled so excitingly dead and I pretended to hang myself.
It got me thinking about the small details of my memory scenes that I want to access and can’t. I can remember her pretending to kiss me, but I don’t remember the feel of her hand on my cheek—it seems like such an alien idea that I can’t even imagine what that memory would feel like if I could recall it.
And I can recall so many of his words and the way they sound when he says them—I find myself mimicking them often enough to know I remember—but there was a particular word that I wanted to remember…wanted to isolate that sound and hang onto it…but I can’t. It’s like the audio to my memory distorts for the smallest of moments, and I can imagine what it might’ve sounded like, but I know I’m not getting an accurate playback.
I hate it when my memories do this. When they seem like things that didn’t really happen.
But there are the other ones that come back with such bizarre, fleeting clarity that when they pass, I feel like I was just in that moment, and have skipped over the intervening time with sickening, mind-bending speed. It’s wrong. So, so wrong.
Around my right eye, the skin looks thinner and purpler than usual, and when I looked at my face, it was like looking at someone else’s face. It was mine, but something seemed off about it… It’s bad when I see myself and feel a resistance in my mind that refuses to acknowledge that the reflection is mine. I don’t know why though. I just…I don’t know what I look like.
It’s the eyes, I suppose. The pupils were bigger than usual, and the brown-red and brown-green colours of the iris more distinct. These are the things I always notice about my reflection when it’s not just me looking out. I never saw anything but me there until I was in my twenties, but now I see him all the time and can’t help but worry about how many other people can see him or have seen him, and what they make of it.
At least this is all relatively old insanity. You won’t need to worry about me unless I bring in something new.