eighteen, remembering

Memory, I think, is a funny thing: curving and whispering at the edges, fading into nothingness, and in the still white cold of the hospital room where I am sitting, the rim of the metal folding chair pressing into my bare legs, your breath and mine heavy as it falls, there are lifetimes worth of memories that blur at the fading edges of my consciousness, and I wish I could remember.

Memory is a love letter, don’t you think? You are so very large in life, even if memories have long since faded, and I am left with nothing but reality. If I close my eyes, I can see you again, and you are wearing the leather coat that you liked so much, with the neatly folded lapels and the dark panels that gleam in the low light of evenings together. In life you were vain, you were loud, you were witty and quick and you could put anything into words, you could make anyone feel, and what I am trying to tell you is that I remember, because soon that will be all I have left.

Ten years old, and you are gone: I can hear your voice over the telephone, muted, squeezed into thinness and distance. Fifteen years old, and all I have is the memory of you — the sharpness of your soap in the mornings, the richness of your leather jacket, the quiet deliberation of your words, because you say nothing without first considering it, turning it over in your mind, carefully, cautiously, as though words are stones dropping into cool still waters at the edges of the lake, where the waters fawn at the gravelled shore. But memory is a funny thing, and there are two of you: the one I remember, and the one that is almost gone, but not quite.

But at the edges, where clarity turns to almost-but-not-yet-gone:
The summer days, when you tell me stories, the sun along my arms, the hem of my dress brushing patterns along my knees, the sky that curves up and along the horizon, blue, clear, unending, glassy, when I am young and nothing is lost yet.

Eighteen years old: I am sitting here now, my legs are crossed and my eyelids are heavy and gritty, and I am drifting somewhere between awake and asleep, and I think that memory is a funny thing, that what I remember might not be quite true, that I have let my memories delve into dreams where it never rains.

Eighteen years old: there are grey hairs threading black, and there are lines spanning your eyes and mouth, as though your face is a map and age has cut rivers across your consciousness. I am eighteen and you are no longer young, and we have memories that have faded and passed into immortality.

I think we — you and I, and the crevice that winds itself between us — have passed into myth, because there was once something, but time and wistfulness have made it into something that it never was.

It is nighttime and you are so very still and small, and the tears press at my eyes, and I wish that I could slip again into memory, because memory is a lie —
Maybe I am a coward, because I would prefer the lie, but the truth is stifling and stark and bright white as a hospital room that screams of antiseptic and clinical precision, and I want to close my eyes and seep into five years once more, instead of eighteen, alone, afraid, and waiting, where my world is nothing but a flat cold plane of truth.

Emily Ebbers (2015)

Major: Political Science. Minor: Spanish.

Emily is a freshman Political Science major who hopes to go onto law school after graduating.

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