1.You Can’t Remember Your Name
You find yourself in the dark one day, standing in the middle of the dusky ocean fog, and you can’t remember your name. It’s something random, like Luca or Jamie, but neither of those, and you’re maybe like ages fourteen through seventeen, and you think you might be a girl? But you could also just as easily be a boy, or maybe neither? Also, you can’t touch your pants. Every time you try, your hand is repelled like a magnet and there’s a sound like BRRZAP!
More on that problem later.
Here are some other things you can’t remember:
The town you live in.
The street you live on.
The name of the school you go to.
The names of any bands or celebrities.
Or clothing brands.
What the bottoms of shoes are called.
Your brother’s face.
And probably a lot of other stuff that you aren’t even aware of because you’ve already forgotten about it all entirely.
Honestly, the situation is starting to freak you out a little.
You’re standing in the middle of the dark ocean fog, looking out at more fog, and it’s like it just goes on forever. And that’s all there is. Just the swirling fog, and you, and the absence of your memory. You think, How did I get here? But you can’t remember.
What do you remember?
You need to remember something.
You stand in the fog, and you try to remember.
mem00168w: (a bright new beginning)
We’re driving to our new home on the coast. Mom’s got a job working as a night nurse, and she’s telling us all about it, how excited she is, how hopeful for a bright, new beginning. She’s doing that thing where she just talks and talks and talks. It’s really beautiful, the way her mouth moves. The sunlight is shining through the window and reflecting off a phone charging on the dashboard. I’m in the front seat and my brother, CJ, is stretched out in the back, snoring. This is maybe a year after the divorce.
We’re “relocating” to a little seaside tourist town with gray mansions stacked along the beach, two skate parks, five kite shops, and one supermarket. The rents are impossibly high, and the only place we can find is a mobile home eight miles up the coast. I’ve never lived in a mobile home park before. The homes aren’t mobile, and it isn’t a park. There’s the highway on one side and a gravel lot on the other, and there’s nowhere to go but the beach, which is usually windy, rainy, or both. Like, Thanks, I hate it.
There’s an old woman who lives in a yellow trailer by the gate. She’s basically the unofficial greeter. I don’t know her name, but in my head I have begun calling her “Muriel.” She has a shiny, pink coat and a cat that I’ve named “Goldfish,” and the two of them are usually out under the awning, Muriel in her metal chair and Goldfish on the ground underneath. She’s a curious, I’d even say judgmental, kind of cat, watching me like she’s deciding whether I’m worth the trouble of keeping around or not.
Pretty much every morning as I leave for school, I see Muriel and Goldfish, and Goldfish judges me, and Muriel smiles and waves. She has a really nice way of waving, just so utterly cheerful, stretching her arms up and twinkling her fingers, and sometimes Muriel’s wave is like the best thing that happens to me all day.
One afternoon I come home from school and there’s an ambulance by the gate with its lights on, and all the neighbors are outside, and a creepy old man I’ve never seen before puts his hand on my shoulder and tells me Muriel has fallen and broken her hip, and they are taking her away, and she smiles and gives me one last wave from the gurney, eyes sparkling, and that’s the last time I ever see her.
Goldfish shows up a few nights later, meowing outside our trailer. I open the door, and she just hops up the steps and marches in like a queen, heading straight for the kitchen like she owns the place. Mom is all for keeping her. She loves animals, and I do too, and so does CJ. The only reason we don’t have a cat or a dog now is our sweet, ancient Booper died of cancer a year ago, just before the divorce, and Mom still hasn’t really gotten over it.
But so here is Goldfish, and suddenly we have a cat. Or, at least, we are feeding a cat. Or I am feeding a cat. She’s pretty aloof, and in some weird way this makes her instantly part of the family. She eats our food, lets me pet her sometimes, but mostly she just wanders around outside. She’s always showing up in the randomest places: curled up on top of a mailbox, slinking out of a bush, crouched behind a paper bag. It’s like she’s still looking for her old spot under Muriel’s chair.
mem01171m (the van)
My brother is a total hoarder, or maybe he’s just messy, but either way he likes to live in filth and squalor. I don’t know where he gets them, but he’s always coming home with weird broken things. One day he’ll have a little kid’s bike with a missing chain, and the next day it will be a cracked djembe drum, and a week later the drum will be gone and he’ll have, like, an empty fish tank and a skateboard.
Not long after we move to the coast, CJ gets this little electronic keyboard, halfway between a toy and musical instrument, and it immediately becomes the most annoying thing in the entire universe. It has all these sound effects, lasers, bells, falling planes, air raid sirens and humans shouting, and when I’m around, CJ likes to mash them all together, and it sounds like the end of the world.
A month later, CJ ends up with a van. It’s a blue minivan, a total beater with a crushed bumper and missing rear window. Mom is aghast. But it’s too late. The title is in his name. She lectures him on responsibility, safety, and maintenance, and in the end she lets him keep it. It’s his first car, and it immediately fills with papers and trash. And the smell—like a wet dog rolled in a dead skunk and then shook all over the upholstery. I’m always trying to get CJ to clean it out or at least get an air freshener, because now this crappy hoarder van is how we get back and forth to high school.
It’s Thanksgiving, and Mom is working, and CJ and I are supposed to order a pizza with the money she left on the table, but we don’t really talk anymore and neither of us is hungry, so I’m just sitting in the living room looking at my phone, glancing out the window from time to time to see if Goldfish is going to show up . . . when I hear this distant song drifting down the hall.
I follow the song to CJ’s room and stand at his door listening. At first I think it’s music from a game or something, and I sort of like it—it’s interesting—this disco beat with a keyboard sound over it. It’s kind of happy, but then it gets sad, and right when I’ve had enough of the sadness, it gets dark, and then it turns triumphant, a crescendo of v...