On Memory

How do you know what will become a memory? A single moment, sitting at the corner seat of a wooden table in the downstairs classroom of library, your papers spread across the desk, handwriting liquid and frantic. How do you know that in six months you will still remember this? Remember how the bright winter sun peeked through the small second floor window in just a way that you could see it from your seat, your professor’s cologne, like evergreen trees and cigar smoke, the way your hand was tired from writing and rested on the edge of a page, smudged with ink. Or that one time when you were five, peeking from behind the fort you made with the headboard of your bed and that soft, yellow blanket, at the children walking home from elementary school. That moment so insignificant, but you remember it somehow. The way the light fell in lines from the window blinds, the sketch of the tree you taped to the back of the headboard, the diary you hid in the air vent. You think of a person, and suddenly your mind drifts to exact places: waiting in line for the theme park’s biggest roller-coaster, your high school crush’s hands warm on your waist; sitting at the kitchen table at eleven at night with your mother, sharing a bowl of chicken and rice and laughing; that one time you stubbed your toe on those jagged rocks and your father carried you and put your foot in a bowl of ice water to stop the blood; your sister accepting an academic honor award in eighth grade and you standing next to her, feeling so small for the first time. You remember these moments. Some stand out more than others for reasons you’ll never understand, like fragments of summer: chasing fireflies in your backyard, listening to a Britney Spears soundtrack while being driven through the backroads of a Michigan small town, the one time your neighbor called your cousin gay in the middle of the corner cul-de-sac. You remember all the times you felt loved: the first piece of jewelry you were ever given, a silver heart necklace with miniature diamonds, wrapped in a tiny red box; French toast and hot scrambled eggs made before a big game; the first drunken ‘I love you’ in a crowded bar when nothing else seemed to be real but his hands on your cheeks and his eyes meeting yours. You remember the good, long after its gone, long after you wish you could forget. But you still feel that polyester blanket on your skin, or an arm tucked under your ribcage until you fell asleep. You remember faces: the girl with the strawberry blonde pigtails who moved away in fourth grade, the boy with the gum collection in his closet, the baby at the daycare with the blue marble eyes who fell asleep in your arms, the woman who stood in the center of the crosswalk in a yellow vest, stopping traffic so you could skip across to school. And of these moments, how do you know what will linger? Days, weeks, years, what will remain? In this moment, as you walk to class, your tiny converse making tracks in the snow, are you making a memory? Will you remember, months from now, the way the winter air felt refreshing on your face, or how that five minute walk would be the only time of that day where your mind wasn’t clouded by deadlines and obligations? What of these insignificant pieces of each day will you cling to? Will you put to paper months later, perhaps not even knowing why or what they mean, only that they exist.