Her memories come to her in waves and flashes.
Sometimes they startle her in the middle of the night.
She sits up in bed, sweat soaking the back of her t-shirt and lining her neck, underneath her brown hair.
Others, she slowly creeps into a vision, long-held in her muscle fibers without her conscious knowledge. It seeps in and around her and carries her heart to another lifetime and, although hers, it frequently feels otherwise.
The first type of memory—the sudden ones—bring flashes of trauma and grief. The latter, however, bring her pity for a little girl or an old friend and it often takes a moment for her to recognize that her sorrowful empathy is actually—strangely—self-directed.
Yet, memories are like old friends themselves. They greet almost-forgotten spaces of hidden light and joy. They bring snapshots of happiness from a former lover (our own younger selves).
She pulls the blanket tightly around her shivering shoulders; clasping the tattered pink ends together in one hand between her bony clavicles, which are slightly uneven from scoliosis and being broken more than once.
She looks out her window at the smoky, hovering fog and the evenly spaced raindrops; reaching out of her blanketed nest with one chilled hand for her warm coffee mug, the one with the chip out of the corner that says Mommy needs coffee. Give mommy some sugar.
She sips slowly; feeling the velvety, slightly nutty taste roll over her tongue and then smoothly down her throat, but she’s not really there, drinking her coffee.
Instead, she’s sitting on her best friend’s bed after a night out together. They’re talking and telling each other how much it means to have a friend you can share anything with. The best friendships are like this one, too—when you don’t actually need words to round out these self-explaining sentences.
And then she’s in her boyfriend’s arms and he’s telling her how beautiful she is and, remarkably, she believes him.
She’s lying on the couch, fatigued from not eating much of anything that day. And she’s in her boyfriend’s bedroom so skeletal that the flesh hangs off her buttocks—it’s the only time in her always-changing girlhood body that he’s ever found her unattractive.
And then she’s in the birthing room telling her midwife that she can’t do it, although she nearly has.
And she’s standing beside her grandmother’s coffin with her broken teenage heart spilling into the wooden box along with her tears and then she’s mourning another teenager’s death in a high-ceiling church full of natural light and the heaviness of a grief too profound to either purge or bear.
She pulls the tattered pink blanket closer to her neck and takes a drink of coffee. She knows that she needs to be there, in that room, for every swallow.
She needs to feel the nubbly texture of her washed-a-billion-times pink fleece blanket against her skin.
She needs to remember that life is fragile and, alternately, that she’s never as delicate as she fears.
She places the worn, loved mug on the cracked chocolate leather ottoman in front of her.
She feels her arm muscles contract to place her hand back into her lap and she settles into this temporary space of quiet and solitude; of trickling rain and translucent vapor hovering above dewy ground.
She feels the breath flow in and out of her stuffed-up nostrils and she waves good-bye to that wandering girl who stopped by for an early morning visit; to have coffee with her and then to leave her with the inherited insight that life both contorts and transforms into something entirely new so quickly—so quietly and without an advanced warning.
She waves good-bye to her and then she turns, taking one modest step at a time into the lifting fog of her brand new day.
Photo credit: Author’s own.