Hello, and welcome to an all new Secondary Sunday!
Today we’re focusing on your past… the distant one. I know we’ve said you’re not good at looking back and that things from that far back don’t affect your narrative. And we’re right about that.
This in no way affects your narrative, only your mental state which has been… troubled for the last couple of weeks.
No one’s judging you.
Even if it feels like they are.
So, today’s story is brought to you by your sketchy memory… the details might be a little off and you can’t fully convince yourself that what you remember is what truly happened. But that’s life for you.
I wish I could give you more details about this story and who I’m talking about but…
You’re Not Good at Names
Before we talk about her, I think we should talk about you. Not the you from right now, but the you from the past.
You probably don’t remember much about the person you used to be, who you thought you were, who others saw, and how you truly were inside. That’s not bad, don’t worry about it. No one every truly remembers every version they have been to others and to themselves.
Losing memories is an important part of growing up, and growing apart from who you once were but closer to who you will be.
Don’t be afraid to grow up.
In fact, after we’re done remembering her it’d be best if you forgot all about the past version of yourself.
It’s not hard if you focus.
So let’s focus….
You remember that you used to live far away from where you are now. It was noisier and wetter than it’s ever been in your home. You often find yourself missing this old home of yours, but you don’t know it.
Your room was smaller than most rooms are and you were never a messy person so it smelled almost clinical, or like one of those model houses Mrs. Fierro talks about with Jung-Shin whenever you go downstairs to pick up your monthly assigned stack of mail. You believe that there must be some truth to those articles going around about smell taking the longest to leave your consciousness, because if there’s one thing you remember from back then, it’s smell.
It’s not that you’ve forgotten everything in its entirety, it’s just that some memories seem to be lost in the haze of time and work and distractions.
You still remember sounds and some relevant faces.
You remember your parents, and your siblings, you remember your dog Palmer and that your neighbor Steve had only one arm and one eye.
You don’t remember where your old house was, or what color it was painted. You only remember your old school name because it’s printed in one of the many official documents they make you sign at the start of every semester.
You remember the muffled sounds of people talking through thinned walls and the constant hum of air conditioning in a house with no air conditioning.
What you do or don’t remember is not relevant in the long run. So let’s just focus on the things we need you to remember for now.
You need to remember that you weren’t always as tall as you are now. You hair wasn’t always as dark or as light as it is now. You used to have long fingers that would grasp onto things as if they had never been taught how to, like every second they ran the risk of slipping off your hands.
You had pudgy cheeks and a single dimple that formed whenever you smiled.
You often wore large clothes that you specifically bought in one of the thrift stores near your home. You didn’t need to buy in thrift stores, your family was fairly well off and your siblings all preferred to buy more standardized clothing. But you always felt most comfortable wearing the weight of other people’s stories.
Cotton and denim were often softer after they had already lived through someone else’s life.
I think you remember thinking how similar to that worn cotton fabric you were back then.
Deep down you always felt like you had already lived too many stories to be able to inhabit a single body.
That is so silly of you. Of course you can inhabit a single body, everybody does.
But that’s not the point right now.
The point is that you remember. Are you remembering?
You were a simple creature in simple clothes walking through a complicated world.
You need to know that. Please remember that.
We’re all simple and powerless creatures in the long run.
She was a bit like you, but also a bit like everyone else. You only remember her now because you’re feeling… nostalgic.
Today you looked at Daisy for a long stretch of time while she tried to give you back a blanket she had taken from your couch the other night. She had circles under her eyes and you both opened your mouth to speak at the same time… you both fell silent at the same time.
She thought it was just like one of those awkward scenes in movies. She smiled and shook her head to herself, used to not being noticed around the building and then said goodbye to you and moved back to her apartment.
You noticed all of this, but said nothing. You were used to not notice things.
And that’s how it started. The remembering.
You remember not noticing her as she drifted through the hallways. You remember seeing her from the corner of your eye as she talked to strangers.
You remember her, sitting by herself just outside of school grounds, humming under her breath and looking for something in her bag. You almost talked to her, but something stopped you.
She looked up at you and smiled.
She smiled in the way people smile out of politeness, because they’ve been taught to do it. There was no invitation in her eyes or relaxed stance. She was merely acknowledging your presence, a simple “I see you there” and nothing else.
You nodded your head, but didn’t smile. Unlike her, you had not been taught to smile at people upon sight and you thought it was a little weird to do it.
You walked into the building not once asking yourself why she didn’t go in even after the bell rang. By then you were used to noticing and keeping quiet.
You had been taught to be silent the same way she had been taught to always smile at people.
She remembers you.
She’s far away from where she was and where she’s always been. She is not the same person she used to be but she remembers all the versions she has been. She actually enjoys looking back at how things used to be: not simpler but easier.
She’s one of those people that never forgets.
She remembers the exact shade of pastel yellow the walls in her room used to be, and the smell of brand new books filling up slightly old shelves. She also remembers the vibrations of air conditioning through plaster walls and the thumping sound of distinct footsteps in a small house.
She was never a tidy person, so the smells she remembers most are those of thick perfume, day old laundry and too strong coffee.
She remembers the name of the school she attended not because it’s important to her life now but because her brain refuses to throw away any kind of memory.
Sometimes it’s exhausting, remembering everything. She really doesn’t need to remember what the best pop was fifteen years ago or the exact lyrics to every single song her little brother used to play non-stop in his room.
She doesn’t need to remember that the Biology teacher had been having an affair with the Music teacher around the same time that Mr. Ellis discovered he had prostate cancer.
She does like remembering how a long skirt felt when it brushed against her legs as she laid on her back yard and counted ladybugs. She likes remembering how warm it was back there. It’s not warm where she is and sometimes, as she’s bundled up in a fluffy jacket, she needs to think back to the old days to feel a little better about the biting cold.
She never wore long skirts to school. You remember her wearing soft, washed out colors similar to your own attire, but hers was newer, well kept and chosen carefully in a popular store.
If you had chosen to share the reason behind your preference she would have told you that carrying that much history around would scare her. She was already carrying around all of her memories, she didn’t need someone else’s.
Of course that you never told her because you never really talked to her. But you should know that the option was there.
You two could’ve been great friends, if you had only not missed your chance.
If you had only turned to ask her about the pen she had dropped at the beginning of the lesson all those years ago, instead of asking Brock, the guy who made you stop believing in friendship, you would’ve become friends.
Like all friends you would’ve fought, and cried, and laughed, and made mistakes. In some paths, you two even date -a huge mistake that almost costs you your friendship but that you two always manage to salvage. You would’ve been one of the few things she doesn’t mind remembering all of the time, and she would’ve been the one thing you would’ve never pushed away from your mind.
But you never talked.
You were a guy wearing other people’s stories walking around a town that was too small, too complicated and too forgetful to even think of looking backwards instead of onward. She was the girl that often talked to strangers and bought second hand jewelry even though all her clothes were expensive and carefully picked.
She was always there, in the far reaches of your vision… until she wasn’t.
You don’t remember how or when or why, but at some point you stopped seeing her.
She didn’t vanish or went away. She just because background noise the same way others were.
You stopped seeing her, even though she saw you.
She saw you looking away when others bumped into her on purpose, or when someone asked her out as a joke. She saw you laughing that time she was the punchline instead of the spectator.
She resented you, but she still smiled at you when she saw you outside of school.
She looked up and there you were, looking at her like she had never really left -she never did- and she smiled, because that’s the polite thing to do. Her hands were shaking inside her backpack and her legs were numb from how long she’d been there already looking for something she already knew she didn’t have.
She needed someone to talk to her and ask if she was okay.
But no one did.
She blamed the smile, and her parents for teaching her that. And the she stopped and blamed the people who walked on by, ignoring her until it was convenient to laugh at her.
She smiled at you that day, not like an invitation because she had nothing left to ask for or offer, but an acknowledgment “You’re there and I see you, and you’re doing nothing, just like everybody else.” She dropped her eyes and you carried on your way.
You notice she didn’t follow but you didn’t question it.
She took a deep breath, clenched her cold hands inside her bag and then prepared herself to go back to the grind of school life.
She thought that if she could forget it would all be better.
She knew people were idiots to her because they could afford it, because they would forget and she wouldn’t matter to them once they all grew up and apart from who they were at that moment. She knew she would never be able to grow apart from any version of herself and that they would always matter to her.
She knew you’d forget her as soon as you set foot inside the school.
She knew she would never be granted that level of kindness.
At that age she had already understood a simple truth that you are only now beginning to grasp: The world is unforgiving and unkind, and for some it is unforgettable.
But not for you.
You will forget, you are powerless to the passing of time.
After this is over, after you’ve stopped thinking about a girl in washed out colors and a boy keen on wearing someone else’s memories you will forget all about them.
Once this story is over you will wonder about your own silliness, about the innacuracy of thinking that you are too complex to inhabit your own body.
You will stop.
And then you will move on.
You will pet Mr. Fluffkins III and knock on Daisy’s door to ask her if she wants to watch a Doctor Who marathon with you. She will politely decline but still show up right after Rose and the Doctor have first held hands, the way she always does.
You will fall asleep on the couch.
Her phone will ring and she will wake up.
You will be awake too, but your consciousness is of no relevance to Daisy’s story.
You will see her look at her phone with half-moon eyes and blink tiredly once Mr. Fluffkins III jumps into your lap asking for cuddles.
Inexplicably, you will think back to a girl you barely met and don’t quite remember anymore. You will wonder where she is and what she is doing. You will feel a shiver run down your spine as you think of cold weather and ineffective jackets.
You will smile, and all thoughts about this girl will leave your mind.
You will smile and Daisy will apologize for being over so late. She will smile at you, a question about whether it’s okay for her to stay.
You will smile and offer her the guest room.
She will smile and set her phone down.
You will smile and continue to sleep on the couch even after she’s gone.
You will smile and a nameless girl wearing a fluffy jacket far away from where you are will smile with you. She will think about warm nights and quiet evenings, and the purring of a cat.
She will smile and carry on with her life.
You will smile and forget you ever met her.