If I could lose one memory what would it be?
Does that seem like a bizarre question to ask myself as I sit here, beside this road, bleeding out?
Maybe such philosophical ramblings are common from the minds of dying men.
We need to know what we’ve left behind, what we’ve done.
So we’ll think we’ve mattered.
Gods know I’ve done things I regret. I’ve smelt the cordite on my clothes and had blood under my fingernails. No man’s sleep survives the war.
I’ve had wives scream, and weep and leave.
I’ve had daughters refuse to see me.
And sons spit my name.
I know I deserved their punishments.
All this pain, felt by so many over such a great and tired land- we try to forget.
I’ve begged the gods at shrines before.
Taken hoodoo brews that made me forget my name and place in time for a spell.
And of course the cliché solace of the bottle.
The forgetting becomes all consuming and defining. The question of forgetting, you see, becomes the question of “can I live with myself?”
And that leads to you to introspection and obsessions like lead weights on a diver’s leg.
I remember when I was a boy. Our cat was playing with a mouse.
I shewed it away and picked up the mouse. It was calm or maybe frozen from fear, black eyes of animal innocence.
It had a gash running down it’s abdomen that you could just see through the fur.
I knew I had to kill it to save it from pain.
So I tried to break it’s neck but succeeded only in pushing it’s guts from it’s belly.
It convulsed (like many humans that I would later see).
I crushed it’s head with a rock, cried until my grandfather told me to stop and never forgot it.
I realised that we don’t lose the pain when we live in the past, it just expands and takes everything good from the other memories.
After trying to forget, I tried to atone. So I dropped the drink and potions, and took my apologies to the houses that would hear me.
But that isn’t atonement. Maybe this counts toward that.
Have I been a ‘good’ man? Does it make this more meaningful or less painful if I think I was? If it does maybe it would be good to forget.
The thing I would forget would be her with another man. Then I could’ve forgiven her- loved her again. I wouldn’t have been so hard on her and our children.
I can see patterns, they engulf each other then divide; mayflies, mitosing cells, spiral galaxies.
An infinite number of coalescing possibilities in life and love, and yet just one loaned to me for a little while. The debt that can’t be forgotten.
Thanks for reading. This was an entry for Motivation Mondays, the flash fiction competition. The prompt this week was “If I could [erase/change/forget] one memory…” You should get involved, or at least check the other entrants.
What are your thoughts? What would you have done differently? I don’t bite, promise.