A StoryApr 30 2013
This morning she lost her favorite color. It went away with without making any noise. She shrugged her shoulders, when she realized it was gone, on the plastic Adirondack chair on the porch.
The day when her friend stopped by after their run she made bubbly water, and settled in the exact same chair. Her friend sat cross-legged on the ground. They watched cars going by, their windows reflecting the platinum sun. The fuzz faded on her tongue. The day was as pink as their legs from the run.
Now that her memory went to that sunny day, it wanted to go further, to a time cloudy and soft like a smudged drawing. When she was a child she read the Brief History of the World, she couldn’t recall anything from that book, nor the math formulas, geometries or poems with their perfect rhymes. She had them. She lost them. But their shapes remained somewhere.
History was a neglected subject at school, and the only phrase that jumped out as she tried to think was “sheep fever”, a word that she underlined on her textbook, if she had underlined anything at all. She did not quite understand what history was. If they were just things from the past, how could she never have felt living in history? She was too shy to admit her confusion. Ignorance was an afterthought. She also didn’t admit having a crush on the most popular boy who had bright eyes and soft dimples on his face, who ran around, told jokes and had ears like a monkey, and who answered all the questions during math classes when she looked down at her hands, trying to search for an answer. She preferred memories to history. She collected moments and went back to them when she couldn’t catch the gaze of the boy. Those comforted her, even though she later learned about the mechanism of memory:
The more you go back the more untrue it becomes.
She stayed at her grandparents’ house for the summers. Her favorite book had a blue cover, from which she learned how to paper marché a bowl. She made flower pots out of canvas strips and pickled watermelon rind. One of those summer days she caught a butterfly in the yard. When it died she buried it next to the lettuce plant. A few weeks later she suddenly thought of the butterfly and went into the soil to find it. She couldn’t find any trace.
Her grandparents took her to the park often, where people sold kites and slinkies and ducklings in front of the gate. Once she saved up her money and brought two ducklings home. Her grandma shook her head as they prepared the styrofoam box together, “ducks are hard to keep around.” They died on the fifth day. As she carried them out she thought of a turtle she had buried when she was even younger. She was told that turtles lived a long life, but the one she kept in the freezer, wrapped around in newspapers and plastic bags as she looked for the its resting shade, did not.
At the park gate she begged her grandpa for an orange-colored slinky, which cost only one third of what the ducklings did. She could have afforded it herself, but that day she did not have any savings. Another time she had asked for money from her grandfather she told him it was for snacks after school. But instead of vanilla ice cream she bought fifty long plastic straws and wove them into stars.
She went back inside as her bare feet got cold. There she found her computer screen dark. “I’m going for a run,” her friend came downstairs and went out, her running shoes tied neatly. She said okay as she plugged her computer in and moved the mouse. Awake now, you little creature, she thought. For one moment she looked around in silence. Nothing had changed much in this house. Where her books used to occupy, a few boxes, keys and rubber bands piled.
On her screen she typed, ‘var’. She had just started to write a new function. In a few minutes she forgot about the sun and the chill outside. She could not leave the screen now that she was deep into constructing navigations.
She toggled her arrow keys back and forth the bracket:
The cursor moved back and forth. She tried to see if she had closed the brackets properly.
In a few hours, she thought as she continued typing, I’d be taking the train to the city again. She would be either telling or laughing at loud jokes and ask for her third beer. The fern in her room had probably died while she was gone. It would be the third plant she tried to keep alive on her window sill.
When her friend came back they made grilled sandwich together with sautéed apples and sausages from the shack down the road. She remembered making these when having others over for lunch. The smell of brown butter and the tart apples, they reminded her of grocery shopping. She had not gone for two weeks. The carrots in her fridge had probably gone too soft, too south.
On the car ride to the train station she called her manager, “I’ll get it done tomorrow. Need to make a few more changes.” Then in her mind she started to sketch out the changes. Outside the window she saw the same trees and land she’d seen many times before. “It will be blossoming everywhere in two weeks,” her friend said, “spring is fast.” When they got to the station she was given two bunches of asparagus, their tips still purple from youth. “Something for the road. I picked them on my run.”
“Thanks. I really…”
She said, finally, containing her words in an unspeakable language. Her friend smiled at her as if it made sense. Maybe it did. She knew that was an optimistic thought.
On the train she tried to remember what she had lost that morning. But all she could think of was her friend’s living room, which used to be hers, too, on a snowy day. Big flakes came from nowhere and disappeared on the ground into mounds of whiteness. When the night came around she would stop seeing the snowflakes, until a car passed by and threw a back light at the particles flowing in the air.