What I Can Remember

3 min
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I never wanted to grow from this. I came into your office brimming with resentment. You know that. My mother’s tears drove me there after she scraped the truth off my tongue. It wasn’t fair. Two tender limbs were taken from me: my innocence and my perception of that innocence. I knew it was bad, but it wasn’t until my mother’s howls of pain punched our green kitchen walls that I began to cry with her. I came here out of guilt- not out of hope. I wanted to appease my mother. She needed to reaffirm her role as a protector for her own sanity, and I wanted to give that to her. Therapy felt insulting initially. You pressed for progress, but I wanted to sink to the bottom of my thoughts. I felt like I would be committing an injustice against my own experience if I attempted to grow from this. There was no possibility, in my eyes, that anything good or constructive or meaningful could be extracted from the absolute hell I was quietly burning in. You were slow and calm, and although my numb demeanor never cracked, I was grateful for you.

So, I finally decided to share what I can remember. It’s been roughly three years since it happened, and I’ve accepted growth as a decent side effect of life. This memory is not one I can articulate beautifully. Nothing about it is beautiful. This memory has taken time to write, and it still doesn’t do my mind justice. It’s broken and blurred, and I can’t uncover the darkest parts. But we can be patient together.

So, I wrote this. I wrote it to her. I wrote it for her. But I think you’re the one who deserves to read it.

I was on the street. I was on the sidewalk. I just left the library, and I was on the sidewalk. Concrete with dried gum splotches- and I was on the sidewalk. Baseball practice was cancelled, and that was disappointing. But I was excited about my book. I liked the smell of it. It smelled faintly like the patterned blanket my grandparents kept on their couch. I looked up at the dark midday sky. I looked down at my blanket-scented book. I looked across the street, and there you were. There you were. Scuffed boots on gum-covered concrete. Long legs attached. I looked across the street, and you had your eyes on me. Green. You looked into my green eyes, and I looked into yours. I saw passion- no, violence- no, hunger. Maybe I saw it all. The distinction mixed sloppily in my head- but I was on the sidewalk.

I was on the street, on the sidewalk- eyes on you. You were on the street, on the sidewalk- eyes through me. Lit cigarette between your rosy lips. I walked- smelly book pressed tight to my chest. I passed the shops that lined the road that separated us. A thrift store. A pharmacy. I stopped keeping track. Rain dripped in unison with my light steps. I looked across the street. Grin on your face. Fantasy lined your gums. I looked across the street- my stomach dipped into itself in time with the turn of my neck. I did not understand why, but my heart beat like it knew something my head didn’t. I continued to walk. Rain poured in unison with my unbalanced stride. I tucked my book into my coat. Red hair crossed the street.

You approached me. Your flaming hair and icy teeth met me in that afternoon storm. I’d never seen anyone possess that type of vibrancy before. Such sharp contrast. The reddest hair I had ever known. The whitest teeth I had ever seen. Surprising, for a smoker. Lost. You claimed to be lost. But you knew everything. In all your superior years to me- you knew everything. All I knew was where I was. I did not know where I was going. I thought you were the most alluring woman I had ever seen. Maybe that is why I felt compelled to help. I fell blind to the unusualness of your request, but I think parts of my body were trying to warn me. I took pride that you chose me- a city boy. I grew an ego.

I blamed your cheekbones. Carved out of glass and kissed with vicious desire- the upturn of your lips raised your cheekbones to graze the skin under your eyes. I blamed your cheekbones- the cheekbones that enticed me into helping you find your friend’s apartment. You led me down the street.

We were in the alley. We were covered in the darkness, covered in the rain, covered by the thunder. I cannot remember your face in that alley- and I thank God for that. I do remember the lips on my body as a stream of red slid down my head. I do remember the texture of the ground as it hit the wetness of my back. I do remember the hand on my mouth and the hand on my zipper - and I hate God for that. I hate the screams that hid inside of me. I both thank and resent the thunder that screamed for me when I could not.

I remember the library. I remember the street. I remember the sidewalk where I met you. I remember the book that I never returned- pages stained. I remember the length of your hair- the shade of green in your eyes. I remember the road that separated us- the crosswalk that connected us. I remember the charm of your voice, but I cannot remember the sound. I remember everything and nothing about this moment. I can’t discern what I created to replace the darkest shades of this memory, but I have learned to trust it.

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