Intangible Memories

I still have the pocket watch you gave me. I remember laughing at it, calling it “antique” and “old-timey.” I’m listening to it now, its steady rhythm the only thing tethering me to reality.

Tick…tick…tick…tick… Eventually the sound is the only thing in the entire room that matters. Like the beat of my heart, sometimes it’s barely perceptible, but sometimes, it thunders in my ears. A constant reminder of what we used to be. A reminder of your thoughtfulness. And a reminder of your absence. My eyes glazed over, thinking about the memories of when you were still here, alive and well.

Tick…tick…tick… My eyes were exhausted, no tears left to shed but wanting to cry more. Knees hugged up to my chest, head resting on them for support, wanting to make myself as small as possible. Anything to forget you. Anything to remember you. You never liked being in photos. From the day I met you to the very end, I had not a single picture of you. And now, when I think of us, your face is fuzzy, as if the moment had been filmed and captured by a bad quality camera. I had originally pushed the thought of you away because I thought it would be painful. But now, I’d do anything to remember. Were your eyes gray or a dull blue? Did you have short, practical nails or did you frequently forget to cut them? What did your laugh sound like? Did your eyes crinkle when you laughed? Was the necklace you always wore made of silver or gold?

Tick…tick… I couldn’t remember, I couldn’t remember. Only glimpses of certain moments remain in my memory, and even those are fading. If I couldn’t remember anything of you, would you still have existed? Would what we had still have existed? I would have nothing, nothing at all. Only the knowledge of your absence. Frustration pricked my eyes, but they remained dry. How could I cry for someone I couldn’t even remember?

Tick… The pocket watch glinted in the sliver of the sun’s rays that passed through the window. Picking it up, I noticed that the clock hands were stuck, perpetually repeating the 34th second. I was empty. I had nothing left of you. Memories deserted me and even the one, tangible item you left me had malfunctioned. Its steadiness used to reassure me, knowing that time always continued. Until it too, took its final, shuddering breath, and stopped.

Day 11: Caught

She clenches her teeth as she grips the tree branch tightly, watching the scene below her unfold. The familiar chestnut brown hair, crooked smile, and mesmerizing gaze…lingering on another girl as he stoops down and hands her a dandelion, and she giggles obnoxiously.

She rips the necklace off and drops it into the grass below. The silver chain disappears in a sea of green, dropping just below his feet. He looks up.

Day 10: Peas and Paisleys

He hated peas. He’d always hated them, always would.

He poked at them with his fork, watching the peas roll around lonelily on his plate.

The table was silent. His mother took a short sip of water before standing up and pushing in her chair at an angle that wrinkled the edges of the tablecloth. The legs of his chair screeched indignantly as he hopped out of his seat. She shot him a razor-edged look.

“You are not to leave this table until you clean that plate,” she demanded, voice crisp like the sound of the first burst of fireworks on the fourth of July.

At this point, the boy’s father stood up, fork clinking on the china.

His eyes widened, flitting carefully from one face to another, almost excited by the commotion.

“For Christ’s sake, he’s barely five, cut him some slack.”

His mother scoffs, “Is it wrong to teach him some manners?”

“Not when you’re acting like a control freak.” His father picked up his plate and dumped it into the sink and his mother followed suit, stalking after him. The boy swung his ankles under the table, tilting his head a little.

The hard slaps of bare feet on the kitchen tile were muffled by carpet as the two moved further and further away.

“So I’m the control freak? When you can’t be trusted to even order a pizza?!”

“Oh please, if I ordered a pizza, you’d be screaming about how the anchovies are on the wrong side. You literally buy all our shoes, you insist on buying the same brand of groceries every week, you won’t even let our son play with Jack Hughes from Class B3 because you saw him picking his nose at the Christmas party!! Jesus Christ, you insisted that the curtains my Nana embroidered had to be given to charity because the godforsaken paisleys were too big.

“Well. the last time I checked, I wouldn’t have to be like this if you were even a milligram more responsible!! You aren’t even at home on the weekends, I’m the only thing holding this family together.”

The fork scratched the plate unpleasantly, pushing the peas to one side, as if clumping them together would make them smaller. He slumped in his chair, rubbing his elbows against the lacquered table.

“I’m not home on the weekends because I have to stay overtime just to put food on the table. I work my arse off -”

“Oh, you poor darling, working your arse off,” her voice dripped dangerously with unadulterated venom, “I beg to differ. By the way, how is Shirley doing? The one who sits in the cubicle approximately five inches away from you??”

“Shirley O’Donoghue has nothing to do with this.”

He counted his peas, wondering how long it would take for them to spontaneously decompose into air particles.

“Oh? But she has everything to do with this. Don’t think that I didn’t see how her tacky manicured nails were all over you at the company banquet last year.”

Minutes marched past like matchbox soldiers, until there were no more peas to count, so the boy began to count words, but he forgot what came after seventy-two and decided to just listen. Voices crescendoed progressively, ear-splitting, poisonous, aggressive, cacophonous, and then suddenly died down to a tension-ridden silence.

A single pea slid across the table and dropped onto the ground. As he leaned over to scoop it up, an idea sneakily weaseled itself into his mind, and he tiptoed into the kitchen,carefully balancing the peas on his plate. He scraped them into the trashcan, hiding them under a layer of neatly placed napkins before disposing his plate into the sink.

“I’m done with my food!”

No one answered him.

Day 9: Tasteful

To my dearest friend:

We met years ago at that fateful lunch table, when you asked, “Can I sit here?” and I answered, “Go away!” but you sat down anyways. Our friendship was stoic until one day you gave me a stale mayonnaise sandwich and my heart softened. From that day onwards, it was dry potato chips, grainy applesauce, slimy fish sticks. But soon the day came when we could share half-eaten pudding cups and I knew that I could fully trust you.

And it has finally come to this day, the final milestone of our friendship: garlic flavored chewing gum. It has been the most considerate and functional present I have ever received. Because of your pure thoughtfulness, I can live my life without fear of unwanted flirting, prolonged conversation, and uncomfortable situations. Thank you for your courageous actions. Even though, to this day, we still eat lunch alone, I’d still rather have you than all the friends in the world.

Day 8: I don’t Know

“I don’t know.”

A deathly silence filled the room. All of them stared, open mouthed, at our teacher. Her face had turned almost purple with rage. Fred turned an unimaginable shade of white as he realized what he had just said.“Are you telling me you didn’t read the book? Or do your homework?”

Fred wordlessly shook his head no, trying hard to avoid her stare.

“Fred, can you tell me what evaporation is?”

“I don’t know.”

“Fred, do you want to tell me why you didn’t read last night?”

“I don’t know.”

“Fred, do you know anything?”

Fred was, by that point, completely pale. “I…don’t know.”

The teacher glared at him for a moment longer before slamming her book closed. “Okay. That’s fine with me. I guess you all want a pop quiz, don’t you?”

By now, the rest of the class had caught on that Fred’s stupidity would have lasting repercussions on their grades and were quickly flipping through their books.

“Get out a sheet of paper and clear your desks.”

Half an hour later as the class filed out of the room for their lunch period, most of them giving Fred dirty looks. I turned to my friend.

“Fred, did you really need to spoil everyone’s appetite like that? Why the heck did you do that?”

Fred stared at the floor, hoping to disappear and escape his questioning. Unfortunately, he was not so lucky.

“I don’t know…”

Day 7: A Kind-Of Serious Letter

This has been going on for some time now. I know I should’ve said something sooner, but I just couldn’t force the words out of my mouth. I hope it’s not too late, because I’ve decided to tell you now.

It started a few years ago, an innocent, seemingly harmless seed. I never thought it would come to this, so I just turned my eyes away. But soon, deep eye bags began carrying your sleepless nights, you lost control of yourself, and your addiction took over your entire life; you became your addiction. You longer even looked at me, you could no longer face me as yourself, and any words you spoke were just mindless blabberings, blind whispers. I can’t describe it as anything except an obsession. You ceased to be human. Soon, you slowly lost your mind, along with your friends and family members’ support, making you even more dependent. But I was there. And I’m here now.

For the sake of everyone, please. Please stop binge-watching on Netflix.

Day 6: Garden Treasures

It was a slow summer day and your Nana asked you to help her with backyard gardening. You shrugged, because you had nothing better to do. It definitely beat hibernating in the dark corners of the messy dungeon that was your bedroom.

She was humming to a tune that sounded vaguely familiar yet from a different century. Your hands sweated inside of the thick meshed gloves as you dug through the chunky dirt. It occurred to you, in the back of your mind, that this dirt was probably the product of  overfed worms. Just as you were speculating this fact of life, your shoveling was met with a stubborn rock underneath the soil. The sweltering sun blistered with the heat of noon and, irritated, you scraped through the dirt with your hands to find the source of your frustration. You did a double-take. And a triple take.  

Because underneath a thin layer of dust, was a nugget of gold the size of your fist, gleaming innocently.

Before you could do anything else, you blacked out. Probably heat stroke.

Day 5: Clandestine Imperfection

My palms sweat as I entered the classroom, faking confidence. I try my best not to glance at the board. A girl congratulated me on first rank again. Under my breath, I let out a shaky sigh at the weight lifted from my shoulders and smiled radiantly, thanking her. She turns and walks away, but not before I notice the ugly smirk that appears. And despite the happiness plastered on my face, I tremble inside, like a building before it collapses. I manage to keep myself intact.

I’m never alone. People line up to do homework with me, clamor to eat lunch with me, and argue about taking me out on weekends, but I don’t have real friends. I never had real friends. Everything, everyone just puts up a false front around me. They act so friendly, complimenting my every aspect, every action, but I know that behind my back they think I’m just a plastic mannequin.

I stare across the room at a girl sitting in the corner, wearing a baggy sweatshirt and jeans that are a few inches shorter than what’s considered “in” right now. I know that she gets the lowest marks in our class on every single exam and stammers when the teacher calls on her. She eats with her only friend in the hallways behind the cafeteria.

But still, I secretly yearn to live like her, carefree.

Everyone looks at me and thinks that I’m perfect. But truth is, there is nothing ‘perfect’ about me or my life. I stay up twice as late studying, wake up an hour earlier to fix my hair and outfit, and spend hours smiling in front of the mirror. If they knew, they’d call me vain, but it’s all from pressure. Pressure to be perfect.

Because no matter how hard I try to tell myself that I’m living life to the fullest, I can’t, because it’s a lie. For once, I wish that I was unnoticeable, a shadow lurking in the background. To me, nothing is perfect.

Day 4: Imperceptible Perfection

I get out of my seat and make my way hesitantly towards the chalkboard, just like all the other students who are eagerly running towards the rankings posted at the front of the classroom. The only difference is, I’m not at all eager to see the results, because I already know how everything will turn out. And as I near the cluster of people, everything is confirmed, my eyes zooming in towards the bottom of the paper. No one even notices my presence. I shrug it off and return casually back to my desk, trying to hold back my frustration. Told you, a small voice in the back of my mind chides. My friend gives me a dejected pat on the back, but I laugh it off awkwardly, soft enough so that no one else will hear.

My gaze is attracted to the door by the sudden ripple of silence. She walks- no, saunters in. Everything about her is perfect. Everything about her is always perfect. Perfect hair, perfect wardrobe, perfect nails, perfect smile, perfect manners, perfect grades. She has crowds of friends and that charisma that attracts strangers. I’m sure the whole city knows her name.

Sometimes I envy her and wonder what it’s like to be her.

I am the worst student of the class, the only A’s on my report card are the ones in my name. I don’t try to dress well. I try not to talk unless I’m talked to. I am like an outcast, no one glances at me twice, like I’m just a part of the scenery. I only have one friend, but I know that just one good friend is enough for me. It’s depressing, but it’s also interestingly liberating to not be noticed. To me, everything is perfect.

Day 3: Blood Ties

He pressed the gauze against his arm and waited as the nurse applied the medical tape.

“Alright, you’re all good to go, you can go wait with your family outside,” the nurse said.

He played Temple Run. She messaged her friends, I’m so bored. Their dad read the complimentary newspaper. Their mom straightened her dress twice. The nurse came out looking nervous.

“Good evening, I have the results of your family’s blood test. Mrs. Harper is experiencing an influx in cholesterol, which is quite normal for your age. Other than that, everyone is healthy…and it appears that Mrs. Harper has two children and…Mr. Harper has one.”