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Memory Etched on Soul

Autofiction…moments in the face of mortality.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Some moments, I carve into my soul. You taught me that. To save things for days where there is little to hang onto.

Here, walking, step, step, step. Up the mountain. Reflecting sunlight on the mineral. The rock. In the wet spots raspberries. Willow. Follow the slopes, down, down, to the sound of the river. The water is clear and sends shattered light down onto the silt underneath. The wind stirring the tiny hairs on my arms, drifting over my legs, my bare skin. Feet sinking into black earth ground down from mountaintops, pulled down by snow. The cold burning the bony places on my feet, ankles, deeper, deeper. A gasping plunge. Tendons rebelling. Skin red and prickled. Alive. Breath reaching into me. Staggering back up to the grass, to find a place without thorns or thistles, sweet and rich to lie in and touch the sun.

I’ll save this one. Because life is bound to bring you moments where it’s better to plunge into a frozen spring than, say, lie in bed.

The children are playing in the high grass. They searched all spring to find a field high enough to hide them. Now they run and their hair drifts up in the wheat, the angel hair, the rogue flowers that come up under it all, the cotton of the poplars floating on the breeze. They fall, disappear into a sea of life tossing on the wind. Butterflies lifting off. Grasshoppers springing for the life in them. The laughter coursing up through the waves and waves of unending plenty. Until they emerge, lifting from the soil. To bring the tops of their heads to the level of the grasses gone to seed.

Tattoo this into the skin of my being.

I will carry it with me even when I no longer know who I am. A memory on repeat, below consciousness, bellow the flicker of an eyelash. Beneath heart rates sketched out in mountainous lines.

Your memories too… while we’re at it.

The dust, the rhythm of your feet striking the ground. Again. Again. You reach a bute, atop a sandy trail — the umbrella of the pines gives way. Agave, something rushing away underfoot. Sage, the perfume of it on the breeze as the morning heats up. The crashing waves calling to you from below the cliffs, the spray they send up rising to meet you. Even here.

The slippery railroad tie steps down, down, down. The wood tries to stop the erosion, but the sea and the spray blasts everything. The cliffs rise red and multicolored and sand-blasted into spires and spirals reaching. Now you are running on the beach. A galaxy of multicolored and tiny clams come up for air in the surf, half-hidden in the sand. Dolphins. They are running alongside you in the waves. Playing. You’ve never seen them this close — they swim in the crests before they crash. You run along the wet packed sand, leaping a bit when a wave comes close. Up the beach, into the mist.

When you are finished, you wipe your brow. Feel the salted air and the perspiration on your cooling arms. You sigh, open your eyes, flickering a bit. Until you see the pale blue of your reality. The reflection of the windows, a screen, the humming and hissing of the machinery that breathes for you, the tube that passes down your nose, throat, and to your belly to feed you. You feel the pull and sharp of the perfusion under your skin. The monitors of your temperature in the cold, cold air meant to preserve you.

Murmurs from the medical staff — that could be mistaken for beachgoers, for breakers, for gulls. For dolphins dodging the surf.

And you decide.

The run on the beach. It has always been the run. Better to take another lap, another 10K. Time to start again. And you are heading up the hill, sand shifting underfoot. To the umbrella of the pines, to the cliffs, to the horizon empty and blue and the hissing and whispering of the waves below. Something scurrying from underfoot — into the buckwheat.

You taught me everything. After your accident. Coma, then hospitals, then rehab. Your only dream was to go ‘wireless,’ then to walk on two feet. Wavering, like a creature new to land. You taught me then — the importance of memory. Engrained beyond blood loss, beneath the ravages of an oxygen-starved brain, under the traumas we stack up — medically induced or inevitable. Accidental. A run, up the path, to the cliffs, then back down to the sea. Endless reliving.



Imprinted moments.

Not in my brain — too fragile, too easily lost, a mind.

I etch them on my soul. Here. Here.

Nurses sail overhead — somewhere behind the masks and the reflections of the face shields…the wave upon wave of dancing gauze and the ripple of surfaces. Calling me back. Luring me. The way they try to save me is something my body wants to fight. The tubes, the breathless feeling.

I see their eyes behind the mist rising from the surf. See them swimming sidelong in the waves before they crash. Or, at times, I wonder if it might be waves of wheat. If I might see a splash of butterflies rise to the surface, drifting about their ongoing dance. But I can’t stay. The dust and the surf and the silt are calling me. The children are disappearing under the waves of life and into the wild sound of their laughter.

I am memory etched on soul.

Author’s note. Once upon a time, someone I love was in a terrible accident and they found resilience through replaying memories in a kind of living loop. And so, I suppose, I’ve made a habit of saving bits and pieces of everyday life — to replay again. Again. If the time ever comes… Here, it has wound itself into autofiction.

Thanks for reading.

© 2020 Trisha Traughber



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