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.