He had always been afraid of losing his memory. Not his mind, no — never that. Only his memory. He had seen a film once where everything turned out to be in the mind of the hero. None of it really existed. So if all of it, everything that had ever happened, happened only in his memory — where would it go if he forgot?
It was paranoia, probably. Maybe just a trick of the mind. The fragile ego of the male homo sapiens, determined to insist that it very much is the centre of the universe, yes, actually, thanks. There was no real reason to think that things would crumble away if he stopped remembering them. No evidence that if he forgot the name of his science partner from when he was 14 years old and doing that experiment he liked to tell anecdotes about, he would actually cease to exist.
But what if?
It was something that would haunt him by turns, particularly when he felt a change in the wind at his back. Or when he forgot. Forgetting, that was always the most painful part. That was when he would hunker down, staring himself down in the mirror, tearing his hair out to try and get those memories back. When he would torment himself with searches, internal and external, or try to ask his old friend Google for the answers. But that was cheating. Unless Google had forgotten too.
Really, it was her he was most afraid of forgetting. He knew in his head that she was gone already, too far gone, never coming back no matter how hard he wished. But that was not the same thing that he felt in his heart. It squeezed like a vice when he thought about forgetting her. He could not bear to imagine the way the world would be if there was no longer anyone who remembered the scent of her skin or the way her hair would curl when damp from the shower. Or the way she took her coffee.
The way she took her coffee. Milk, just a drop. And sugar. Two teaspoons. Or… was it three? Three was sweeter — but no, two — or was it?
He clenched his fists reflexively, stubby fingernails almost cutting into the palms of his hands with the force. He had to concentrate. Was it two teaspoons or three? It was important, so important that he remember. If he did not, the consequences — !
Of course, that was probably all in his mind. There was no way she would phase out of existence just because of his memory. She had existed whether he remembered or not — that was just paranoia.
But wait — was this not a road already travelled? Oh god, he was fractured and fracturing, little pieces cracking away and falling to the floor. He tried to catch them desperately, mind racing, thinking hard. Two or three? Two or three? Or four, now that he…? He clutched his head in despair, this question now more important than any other.
How could he even so much as dare to forget something like this? Something so crucial? How many times had he made tea for her, while she shuffled around their apartment in a pair of slippers and his t shirt, pushing her messy hair back behind one ear? How many times had they sat and sipped in front of the television, or on the breakfast table looking out over the city together? How many times had he done this?
Was it two or three?
He tried to remember anything, everything, that would help him hold her closer. He remembered that the lipstick she wore was called Cherry Dream. He remembered that the night they first met, they danced to a stupid pop song with lyrics about being in a club even though they were at a wedding. He remembered her closed eyes and barely parted lips as she slept, chest rising and falling peacefully. He remembered that she hated blueberries but ate strawberries by the box. He remembered everything, everything, everything!
“John,” she said, padding through to the kitchen behind him. “Are you making a cup of tea, love?”
“Yes,” he said, reaching for the sugar jar. “I’ve made you one too, don’t worry.”
And the car wrapped itself neatly around the tree, and the blood poured from her forehead, and he watched without looking away as she faded to black. And he remembered everything.
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