I will tell you what I remember.
I am in my mother’s house. I must be sixteen or so. My SAT is tomorrow, and I should be studying, but I am not — I am listening to death metal. I’ve lost track of the time, whiling away the hours by reading interview after interview as sheets of abrasive guitars and shouted vocals pour over me. In some world, perhaps I continue on this road forever; in this one, I abandon this music and other music like it when I enter college, first shrugging it off as childish compared to the folk I would get into and eventually moving away from music entirely as it tended to cloud my already over-active brain. But in this moment, I am happy, if overwhelmed. I glance at the clock and it is nearly 530AM. There is not enough time to sleep. I wind up nearly acing the SAT anyway. It doesn’t matter.
I am in the woods, sitting on a log. I cannot tell if it is the summer in this memory; I remember it being bright and green, but I also had my jacket on. I am a child, and my short legs do not reach the ground from my perch. Standing some few dozen feet away, my babysitter reads aloud from The Lord of the Rings. It is one of my father’s favorites, and he is too busy with work to properly introduce it to me himself, so that duty falls to my babysitter. She does an admirable job; in the setting of that forest in the park by my childhood home, I imagined the traipsing of the Fellowship, each shadow a stalking orc or Urak-Hai, every distant timber an ent. They are magical moments, suspended in a sunbeam, inexplicable.
I am 17. I am in my bedroom, before a family vacation, though to where I do not know. I am on top of my girlfriend. She is 19 or 20. We are both about to have sex for the first time. It lasts only a few minutes before my mother’s voice calls out from below that it’s time to go. I say to hold on; my father’s voice now joins, telling us to get a move on and it’s time to go. We stop, and on the car ride down (we drive separately), my girlfriend and I joke about whether that counted or not.
I am in my early 20s. I am holding the program from my father’s funeral in one hand and my acceptance letter to teach English in Japan in the other. It feels like a fresh start and I wanted then to face directly its cause, to bring together in image and memory the reason for this vast change in my life. It is melodramatic perhaps, but melodrama wedges into the memory, and that’s what matters more to me in this moment; to remember it. To sear it into my mind. Looking back like this, it feels silly and contrived, as I suspected it would, but I remembered it. I’m not sure what to take away from this.
I am a child, too young to have vivid thoughts. My father has returned from a business trip. I look up at him. He seems so tall, stretching up forever. He withdraws from behind his back a bag, which seems enormous to me, large enough to swallow me whole, and from it he withdraws a stuffed tiger, which he gives to me. He says it is to remember him by when he is away. I remember this later, but in this moment all I think of is the tiger, and how it is mine now, and how I treasure it.
I am young, and my mother and I sit at a long conference table. On one side of the room, windows climb from floor to ceiling, broken only by thick black mounting brackets. On the other, a whiteboard; on it, one can read half-erased buzzwords about recovery. An older woman than my mother sits at the head of the table and she is speaking to us, but I am not listening. She is telling my mother to divorce my father, I’ve decided, all because he is an alcoholic, and this makes me angry. I know what will happen if she does; my father, who is already only barely there, will drink himself to death in despair, and I will blame her for this. I am a child. The complexities do not strike me as hard as the bare truth of these likely events do. A cut — my mother crying, alone, in their bedroom. I am spying from outside the door. They stay together, until my father dies.
I am bleeding memories, images dripping like blood from wounds all over my body. Sweet slivers of time saved by my mind are torn free, rattled in front of my face and discarded, leaving me thinner and thinner. I can feel the disintegrating glare of white light beating into me like fists, like knives, ripping, tearing, destroying. I feel a dull throb and I wonder where my legs are. I cannot tell if I am sitting or if I am standing, if I walk or if I am slumped against a wall. I have a sensation of movement, halting, jolting, occasionally pausing; I presume the answer is all of the above, a motley assortment of movements and stillnesses.
I know I must keep moving.
It is something primal and simple in me.
I must not obey the light. I must not abandon myself to memory. I must keep moving.
But I cannot feel my legs, and I cannot feel my arms, and I cannot feel my body, and I know not where I am going.
This does not matter, however. I must keep moving.
I must keep moving.