For the forgotten, thanks for the memories.
For Maria, whether you know it or not, this story is because of you. Grazie mille.
I’ve walked this road for hours
To the white hills and the oceans
I search for solace in this toxic land of sin
asking alexandria, dear insanity
I shave, sir. I have a driver’s license, I have won a couple of fist fights; I saved a life, I’ve lain with a woman, I’ve been hustled at pool, I’ve defied my father’s wishes, I have broken hearts and I have been heartbroken, so by all the markers of this society, I am a grown man
dr. clark edison, bones season 3 episode 13,
“My memory,” I replied, “is perfect. I remember everything from when I first had the consciousness to understand that this was recollection. I cannot remember being born; perhaps the brain is simply not developed enough to understand the event. But I remember dying. I remember the moment when it stops.”
Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
KILLING MY GOD
Birth isn’t just one thing, never just one moment. No, I refuse to believe anything else, ignore everything contrary. Birth is a process, a state of being, a transition from one thing to another. Now that, that is an idea I can get behind. We don’t get born, we become.
My earliest memory was of my birth, of my becoming, my startling transition from before to after. I woke up to noise and pollution. People were staring, pointing, taking pictures. It goes without saying, I was born famous. My first impression of the world around me was of filth.
The way I hear it told, I was born a king, a child offered to the skies by a heap of rubbish and other similar discarded toys, like me, broken, unwanted. They held me up proudly, exposed to the world beneath us, the world that had so callously discarded us. I didn’t mind then. It didn’t occur to me to mind anything then.
My clothes were tattered, torn in different places, whether by accident or by design I don’t remember. I remember blood, blotches of red and pink against my tattered shirt. Every joint in my body ached, making any slight movement torture. As such, I couldn’t really investigate the extent of the damage to my person. The flies buzzed all over me, a slight nuisance over the deafening morbid curiosity of the throng gathered to witness my coronation. I moved, sitting upright and they gasped, matching the stab of pain that ran through my body. For a long extended moment, I said nothing, and neither did they. We remained in an impasse, them staring at me while I looked back, unblinking, unaware.
It took a while but finally somebody broke through the crowd. She was clothed in white, head to toe, her hair covered. The ground beneath her feet seemed tainted by her very presence, not that she seemed to mind. She got close enough to me and offered her hand. In response, I stared back at her, incomprehensive. I tilted my head to the side, an unconscious gesture. In response she opened her mouth and said something, I don’t remember what. A part of me was pretty sure I should understand her, get what she was saying yet for some reason I didn’t. I tilted my head some more and she smiled in reply, her hand still outstretched towards me.
I don’t remember what prompted me to stand up, or whatever made me think it was a good idea to begin with. Maybe it was her smile, brilliant and inviting. Maybe it was the crowd beneath us, staring, their silence screaming at me. I don’t suppose it matters what it was. I was on my feet before I knew what it was I was doing, before I fully understood the consequences of my own actions. I stood for a fraction of a second before teetering over. One moment the ground, my kindred souls among them, was rushing towards me, the next I was in her arms. The last thing I remembered before passing out was how unfortunate it was her clothes were no longer white.
I woke up for the second time in my life in yet another strange environment. The rooms were white; clean to the point I could swear I saw my reflection on it. I was lying on something soft and comfortable, the most comfort I had felt in my young life as it was. I looked around, my eyes still heavy from something I am sure they had given me. I had no point of comparison so I couldn’t be certain how big the room was. There was a chair beside the bed. The woman from the before was seated there, book in hand (yes, I knew what a book was), attention completely held by it. She looked up the moment I twitched, her book forgotten. There was worry and concern in her face, and for a moment another image threatened to superimpose itself on hers. Only for a moment.
“Are you okay?”
This time I heard her speak. I understood her, every word she was saying. I didn’t have a threshold on which to gauge what okay felt like so I nodded. I was better than I had been before.
“The doctors said you fainted because you hadn’t eaten for days. Do you remember what happened?”
I tried. I swear to God I tried. Memory is easy. All you have to do is close your eyes and it all comes rushing in. All I got was a headache. I let out a groan as I shook my head.
“I am sorry but I have to ask. Your name. Do you know your name?”
This time the headache sent me spiralling back into the darkness.
I dreamt. I know I dreamt but what it was I don’t remember, not even now. I know it was important though because the headaches follow every time I try to remember. I woke up to the sound of a camera shutter going off. She isn’t there. I know even before I open my eyes and it scares me. For a moment I can’t breathe, I am gasping for breath, clawing against the constraints of my hospital gown. The machine I am hooked on starts going crazy and for a moment I am sure I am going to die. For a moment I remember. Just for a moment and then it is gone.
She swept into the room like an avenging angel. She saw me first, thrashing on my bed. Even in my state I could see the agony etched on her face. Ignoring the intruder she heads towards me, her hand finding mine and all is well again.
The camera shutters, more rapid now, are in the background like white noise. My brain registers it, barely like an echo, unimportant, irrelevant. Then she stands up, turning away from me.
“You are going to hand me that camera and you are going to leave. Now.”
Her voice is calm, soft even.