All the Memories

All the Memories

Oh, there would be readers who’d easily give it a one or two stars. “She’s weak. I don’t like her.” “She’s a dishrag.” “She’s naïve and stupid.” When she wasn’t either of those. Any of those. Yes, he was an ass, a jerk, any adjective of despicable masculinity.

It was a brilliant book. Toni knew it was a brilliant book. Astounding for a debut. But she couldn’t be its editor. She couldn’t read beyond 50%. She stopped. She ached. She knew, without a doubt, everything the heroine was feeling. The incredulity. The denial. The ultimate despair. “Why can’t you love me?”

Toni drank a G&T before texting her colleague, Colleen. I’ve got the book for you. A real winner. I’m too close to the material. But it’s a winner.

Colleen: One of those?

Toni nodded. One of those.

She slept badly that night. She had that horrible recurring dream where she saw him walking down a street in the tree-lined neighborhood of her childhood, ran after him, only to have him disappear after taking a corner. When she turned the corner, he was but a speck. He was but a speck.

She woke in the morning, drank three cups of tea before heading to the nearby park where she liked to walk, think, take pictures of migrating birds. And, because she knew Andre would be there.

He was tossing seeds to birds, didn’t turn when the slaps of her sneakers drew nearer. “Is it time?” he asked.

“I need to get rid of the memories. I lost a really good book because—”

“No need for words. How many memories do you wish to lose?”

The cold around her felt comforting in a jarring, living way. She loved the iciness. The ultimate feeling of cold on her skin to remind her she was living.

Lose memories. Lose memories? The words echoed, mocking in a way she’d once heard an Englishman mock Americans. “You take pills for this. Pills for that. The easy way every time because there’s nothing worse than actually feeling.”

She saw an egret, so white against the murky brown lake. It bowed its head, extricated a fish, swallowed, lived.

She considered the memories she wanted to lose. The memories of him. His insensitivity. His callousness. His negligence. And, then there were the moments he introduced her to life, to herself, to a world she’d never known. All of these memories were entwined and to give up some was to give up all. All of the memories that made her, her.

“Do you see that snapping turtle?” Andre asked.

She nodded.

“He lives only in the moment.”

She’d thought he was going to say something profound, something she’d never heard before. She stopped, looked at Andre, who grinned at her with misshapen teeth and sparkling sapphire eyes.

“Thank you,” she said.

“No problem.”

He walked away. In a few yards he became a rectangle that completely disappeared.

She wasn’t surprised. Not much surprised her anymore, not even her inability to douse her memories in flames.

She texted Colleen. Do you mind if I change my mind?

Colleen: For you? Anything.


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