Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Thief of Memory came in the night and crept on caterpillar legs into my bedroom. With a sound like a whisper being torn in half he crept onto the bed and perched on my chest. He weighed less than nothing. His face was the face of a kewpie doll or a grasshopper or a flat black square with blinking lights. I can’t recall which.

"Oh ho!," He said in a voice that roared and resounded about my apartment. "I didn't expect to find you awake." He smiled, or maybe he didn't.

"Yeah," I explained, "too many dates after dinner." I tried to shrug to show that I knew it was a silly thing to do, but I found myself unable to move at all.

He smiled a large toothed smile, his tongue lolling about. Or maybe he just winked. "There's a lot of sugar in those. They're much better at breakfast., especially with cream cheese and honey."

I took offense to receiving gustatory advice from this monster. "Look, can we just get on with it?"

The Thief of Memory frowned, or maybe his lights blinked. "Since you're awake I'll grant you a boon: think of one memory and remember every detail of it you can and maybe I'll let you keep that one." His jaw dropped open like a snakes and a large slimy tongue licked about my ear. "Just don't think 'Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man.'"

I was mountain biking with my step-dad and best friend when I was seventeen. It was a humid August afternoon in Michigan. Mosquitoes were thick in the shade and sweat soaked my hair. The trail we were on was narrow and dusty. It used to be train tracks, but they'd been pulled up and turned into this. Ten miles down and ten miles back, that was the plan. I fought to keep up with the others, who were more athletic than I. On the ten mile trip back to our truck my friend spotted a series of small hills just off the path. The hills were sandy and taller than me, but not by much. We took turns riding up and down them, savoring this break from the straight and narrow path. I stood at the top of the tallest hill, feeling a touch of vertigo and fear. But the others had sailed down it without a problem, so I tried too.

I inched forward until gravity gripped me and pulled me yelling down. I screamed with joy and felt the adrenaline burn through my blood. But then my front tire hit a rock and then some deep sand. Before I knew what was happening I was sprawled face first in a mud puddle. My mouth tasted of blood and I realized I was crying. My shoulder was sore and my arm was twisted too far around. I had mud in my nose and eyes and mosquitoes were already feasting on my neck.

My friend and step-dad both laughed and rode down the path. They hadn't realized what happened.

I stood and tried to pick up my bike, but my right arm wasn't moving right. I felt bone scraping deep in my shoulder. Using my left hand I picked up my right shoulder and lifted until I felt my collarbone sliding back into place. It was hard to ride the bike that way--left-handed--but I made do. I only fell off twice. After a few miles the others realized I wasn't behind them and they came back to find me covered in mud and blood and gritting my teeth as I rode down the trail.

"Why'd you save that one?"

I thought about it and said, "I can make new happy memories easily. Forgetting how good hot buttered toast tastes, or the feeling of sleeping in a lover's arms or the pleasure of reading a really good book--all of these things I can do again, and I plan to. In fact, by taking these memories from me you've allowed me to experience the joy of them for the first time again." I nodded at the monster on my chest, " And I thank you for that."

The Thief of Memory grumbled and frowned. "That's a first."

"But the bad memories and the really painful ones, those are the ones I learned from and those are the ones I don't want to repeat. That I don't want to forget."

The Thief laughed and the rolls of his caterpillar shook and swam. He sounded like bowling balls rolling down stairs, like glass boxes being dropped from a great height. "You will always make more bad memories, too, you foolish thing. You will make them until the end." And the Thief slinked off my bed and out the door, laughing all the way.

And then I fell asleep.

Written by Morgan Johnson
Submitted on 5 March 2007

1 comment:

booker said...

What a cool idea! I love the way you can't remember the details of the thief followed by the vividness of mountain biking day. And I like the logic. Well told. Awesome.