She knows all of it happened. It’s just been a while, 10 or 25 years, and memories grow thinner as time passes. So thin sometimes you cannot see them for what they were.
It’s just one of the hundred, thousand, million things about life; you forget the things that made you. When did she learn to bury someone’s mistakes with justification? When did she learn to dream those things she does so vividly? When did she learn to doubt herself?
Memories are fickle things. Minds like to fill in the holes. How can we trust the things we remember when these two things are true?
It was a large kitchen. There was a table next to the wall phone, next to the backdoor. That door had a window in it and light poured through it and onto the floor at the feet of her mother, who was doing the dishes. There were jelly letters stuck to that window, they said, “We Love Cassandra” and her name was not Cassandra, so she said to her mother, “You love her more than me.”
That’s not true, the mother said.
The door says it, she said back.
The mother was flustered, as she abandoned the dishes and said something about how the girl was right, it’s unfair that it doesn't say both their names, and then she peeled all the jelly letters from the window. They were red and blue, and they said “We Love Cassandra” and she peeled them away and threw them in the garbage.
Pain can appear so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and it did in that moment when the girl realized what she’d done. She wasn’t expecting that, didn’t want that, not really, but look at what she’s did. She writes about it, and her eyes fill up and the blur of tears makes the white screen of the computer so much brighter.
She’d known they loved her just the same and look what she did anyway.
A song comes on. She’s in the backseat of her parent’s car outside the movie theatre.
Her parents were together back then, they were for many years, and then they weren’t for many years, but the theatre’s still there. She remembers being invited to that theatre once by a friend, the theatre with the name like a city that doesn’t exist. When she heard its name she thought it must be an incredible place. Immense and made of lights, and steel, and green things, grass or trees or otherwise, with towers of silver and glass rising up above it all. She couldn’t go there, that time she was invited, and it felt like she was missing out on something big or important, until another day sometime later, when she found out it was only a movie theatre.
Then that day in the parking lot of that theatre, some time after the first time, she heard its name and the time she found out what it was, she yells out “Don’t turn off the car!” She likes this song, and her father lets the car run, lets the song play and she sings “The Reason” by Hoobastank, like it’s the most important threading of lyrics that had ever crept through her ears and into her heart, and she remembers that. She does not remember the movie they saw that day in the theatre named like a city, but she remembers how that song felt in that car.
She remembers the song ending. Her father turned the car off, and she looked out through the window, just before she opened the door and for the first time, like a fist being thrown into her stomach, she realized she didn’t know who she was. That was first time, it would not be the last.
Yellow cars are like sunshine. Not to some, but they are to her. She never sees that yellow car on the road anywhere anymore, her own car is white now. But she thinks of that car and the road leading out of the city, and she smiles.
Then she wonders if all of that was as great as she remembers.
She doesn’t want to write about her, not again. She’s already written about her a million times.
The problem is that she remembers there were good times. It’s like a rave of images in her mind, bright flashes that capture countless single moments filled with laughter, joy, and love. But for some reason now, when those images flash bright and vivid, there is no memory of joy or laughter. It’s just a hollow ache. What did we say about memories? They’re fickle. Why? Because they change.
Memories are not to be trusted.
She use to be afraid of dying. She’d lie awake in her bed at night and cry, thinking about the inevitable end that none can escape. It was not infrequent, despite her being little more than a child.
Then one day, or maybe one week, or one year, she stopped believing in God. Then, she stopped fearing death.
She doesn’t think it’s supposed to work that way. But that’s what she remembers.
They’ say in seven years, we become new people, because every cell in your body has been replaced by a new one. But it’s been more than seven years now and there’s still that scar that just won’t heal, and in quiet moments, she still thinks of her and it starts to bleed again.
Something’s not adding up.
Didn’t she say, she didn’t want to write about her again? She knows it was love, that’s why it won’t and will not ever go away. The past doesn’t keep real love, memories don’t let it go, that’s the real reason they say loves forever. It doesn’t mean you’ll always be together, it just means you can’t cut it out.
But she’s not writing about that. She doesn’t want to. Not again. Leave it the fuck alone.
She likes being alone, she’s good at it. She’s enjoys doing things on her own.
The greatest thing about it, is that it’s not a lie. She has become fiercely independent, but it took a lot to get there. The only thing that was ever powerful enough to rival that independence was the loneliness that came before it. But that mountain is in her past and, once again, she loves being alone.
It’s okay if it's forever, she thinks.
She thinks, I’ll be okay with that.
And the memories of the loneliness are far enough away that she believes it.
Knowledge and Whispers
You hear them say a lot of things your whole life.
They say 'you’ll find the love of your life one day.' They say 'you can save money if your smart.' They say 'by thirty, you’ll have your life figured out and be a proper adult.' They say 'that you, in fact, are smart.' They say 'going to college will get you a job and secure your future.' They say 'they can help you out of your debt for a small fee.' They say 'freedom of speech is a right.'
She’s learning that ‘they’ are just adult Easter Bunnies, adult Santa Clauses.
‘They’ are just something to believe in.
Happy Ever After
Once upon a time, she almost married a man. She knew he wasn’t what she needed, she wasn’t what he needed, they weren’t what they needed. But yet she thought, 'it’s okay. I don’t need the grand, beautiful love, I don’t need the burning passion, I will settle for this if I can write.' All she wanted was to write. To make novels and publish them, to build worlds. That was the love she needed.
Back then, she thought to the god she still believed; I will trade love to write, to be a writer, to be a novelist. When she left the man she thought, 'that’s okay, I want to write.' When she sits home alone she thinks, 'that’s okay I want to write.'
But when her manager asks her what 'she wants to be when she grows up,' she doesn’t say what her heart is screaming. I want to be a writer. Why does it feel like such a lofty thing to say?
She's been alone for two years now.
Maybe she’s made the trade with the god. Maybe he said, "Okay, I’ll make that deal" and took love to let her write. Maybe she has what she wants waiting for her if she’d only step forward and take it.
That’s the thing about memories though. Sometimes we forget how to walk.