The flavors of memory are different for everyone. When I find something to be sweet, I also taste the salt. The sting lingers a little too long on the sides of my mouth, but I keep going over it. Again and again with my tongue, I try to find the original richness of the first bite. I will never have all the flavors again.
What I’m left with is something vaguely familiar and dreamy. A summer afternoon in Maine. The lake water is cold and when I jump in, an electrical current flows through my body. When I swim up to the surface, my eyelashes are heavy with the purity of fresh water. The sun hits each drop, warming my face and clearing my vision. I can see the forest of pine trees and a handmade wooden dock that extends out to me.
On it lies my mother in her black and white striped one piece. My aunt is lying next to her. Together they look like the same person with their hair pulled back into high pony tails and the orange tanning oil glistening against their skin. “Prime Sunning Weather,” they call it. Together they read murder mystery paperbacks with bubbled letters that rise right out of the front cover. Adult books. Something I won’t get my hands on until much later.
“Mom!” I shout from the lake. “Mom! Let’s play the Questions game!”
It’s my favorite.
“If you had to write a book, what would the title be?” I call out to her, but she looks farther away than I know she is.
She stares far out into the lake and smiles slightly. My sisters are nowhere to be found. In a few years they will have relationships and homes of their own. They will no longer come to the lake. A few years after that, none of us will.
“Drifting away,” Mom says. I can feel the sting that I will taste years later.
My curtains are worn out, but they keep dancing. A full blooming yellow, they are optimistic. Light and soft. Old, but alive. I open my window and they breathe, expanding material outward. Their shadows scatter for the corners. Gray is a wall flower that’s never painted on fabric.
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The neon blue light of the bus tints the aisle, lighting up everyone’s face until they look like ghosts. I study the unmoving mouths of the passengers as they claim various blue and white plastic seats. No one talks much on the night line.
I watch as an old woman pushing a shopping cart sits in the seat across from me. She’s chewing something, but she never swallows. Her cheekbones are sharp and one eye is wandering across the left side of her vision. I can’t look at her. She’ll talk to me.
That’s what happens when you’re nice to people. If you smile, they sit next to you. If you nod when they talk, they’ll never stop. Headphones and long jackets. I want my hair to cover my face.
I look down at my hands. My fingernails are light blue to match my sweater. My mp3 player with the missing battery cover is jammed into one of my many coat pockets. From the look of the dangling white cord in front of me, I could have an ipod. I’m not going to end up homeless, I keep chanting in the back of my head as I try not to look at the woman. Just because I don’t smile at her, doesn’t mean that this will someday happen to me.
The thoughts are drowned out by a rustling sound. I can feel a light warmth on the top of my scalp. I shake my head. The warmth grows. I can feel it clinging onto each strand as I try to shake the feeling. Immediately I turn to face the person behind me.
Eye crinkles and white hair. This man is just as old as the woman across from me. His eyes are dead and far off. I can smell alcohol on his breath. His hands are shaking and I can see strands of my hair wrapped around his little finger. They stick straight out in four static lines.
“Excuse me,” I look around the bus for anyone to help me. How could someone think this is okay? The woman with the lazy eye is staring in two different directions. One eye looks to the left. One eye is rummaging through her shopping cart. I am just as invisible as I never wanted to be.
The rigidity is hard to melt away. Cold. Brittle. I feel like she’ll snap without me. My heat, the warmth that comes over me, will curl over time. I wait for morning when she’ll reach for me. Needing me. Sharp, pointed, jagged and cut, I make her hard edges soft. When she looks in the mirror I know what her expectation is. Perfection. The kind of control that’s kept just under a flame. The kind I can not give her.
Before there was red, there was orange. It stretched its presence into an elastic yellow band and shot straight out.Into living room rugs and 70’s furniture, orange sat waiting for the intensity of red. A color that was too young to ignore.
When orange died out, the world turned to fire. Flames spanned the earth in sparks. Bursts. Short, quick, explosions that colored the air.Before there was red, there was containment. A living room full of muted ambitions. Tired, but comfortable, it sat in its favorite chair and contemplated the change.
I hope this doesn’t come across in the wrong way. You are a beautiful dish in your own right and I admire your sturdiness. It is clear that you’re a very accommodating plate and will always hold as much as you can. However, I’ve been talking it over with the group and we’re not sure if you would make the right impression for our annual family dinner.
Your resume is quite impressive and it’s not that we don’t appreciate your thrift store past, it’s just that we find you might have a difficult time relating to the others. This place setting is reserved for someone with more experience in the fine dining atmosphere.
Your hard edge must have served a good purpose for you in previous jobs, but we feel that the chip on your side can not easily be mended. I understand your last dinner party overlooked this aspect, but unfortunately this is a more formal setting.
In addition to the manners in which our table uphold, you also seem unfit in the looks department. While you were once, I’m sure, a beautiful, bright blue, you appear to have faded throughout the years. The decorative design that tattoos your whole body is a bit much for our usual look and to be quite frank, your complexion is not what should necessarily be showcased for this particular event.
For this years dinner we would really prefer all of our table to be matching. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but we will not be needing your services at this time. If you are still looking for a place come June, perhaps a summer picnic outside would better fit your needs.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.