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My memory is a rich, cool, white marble palace where sweet remembrance laps at the edges of my heart. The halls are quiet and airy, lined with pictures and the fragments of my childhood.
My memory is never broken. When my soul is wrecked, my heart shattered, I retreat into the flawless rooms of the past. My voice echoes against the walls and is captured forever. I need not speak. My memory knows what my heart desires. The requested images are brought before my eyes, clear and vivid as the day they were born.
I touch them, first with my mind and then with my hands. They are smooth and warm, like the sleeve of a favorite shirt. Some are rough with shame, and some are wet with tears.
Sometimes they fade, crinkling their edges and washing into the dust. They cannot be drawn back, no matter how my heart pleads. I come and go as I please, entering the rooms that are most important to me at the time.
I know that not all of the rooms will be pleasant. This is why I dwell in memories. When I enter my past, I am able to right the wrongs and move on pass my mistakes. Some rooms, like the one I’ve entered now, are full of memories that have been buried in pain for years. I know that only by confronting the memories can I ease the suffering. This is what I must do today.
I see a twelve-year-old girl with her hands pulled up over her head, crying into her knees. I see an eight-year-old running, running…trying to outrun desperation. I see a four-year-old frantically stabbing the same buttons on her toy piano so the music of the Beatles will once again flood her head. As I watch, my hands shake and I finally melt into tears. I want to stay here and watch this same little girl until she is fourteen. I want to protect her, to whisper into her ear the secrets of life. But I cannot. I have so much left to do.
My feet glide against the floor as I move to another room. This one caresses me with a jarring melody as soon as I open the door, and the tears almost burst back through. I manage to contain them. The song is one of my childhood, a playful tune from a bright red Sesame Street radio. It changes quickly, merging into another, and another, until I can barely keep track of what I’ve heard. This time, I am not strong enough to hold back the tears. I leave the room quickly, head bowed.
The fourth room on the right, the one I’ve entered now, is full of people. They gather around me, each clamoring to be first. I do not speak, but my heart does. It pulls forth a small Japanese girl with spindly arms, and she gives me a tentative smile. Then she moves aside to let in a tall, sturdy, brown-haired girl who takes my outstretched hand. We exchange glances. Then the two fade away, leaving me with cold fingers and an empty heart.
Then some of the others step forward, speaking to me in gentle, soothing voices. They are all adults, eyes heavy with the burdens of time. I see a short, squat woman with a commanding voice and a strong presence. Her face is hard with age, but when she sees me, it softens into a tender smile. She leans forward and captures me in a warm embrace, whispering into my ear. I do not catch her words, but I sense hope in her voice. She moves back into the crowd, and others step forward. I catch the gazes of some. I notice uncles, cousins, teachers, even a cashier from a fast food restaurant. They are all gathered here, waiting my arrival. Then, as suddenly as they came, they disappear, moving swiftly out of my view.
My mind senses I am weary, and fetches the gentle canvas of the California shore, so that I may rest. I stretch out in a patch of ground dappled with drips of sunshine, and my heart sleeps for a moment. Then I am up again, eager to see the last sketches of my youth.
I stroll through the halls, heels clicking on the stone floor. I know exactly which room I want, and when I find it, I grasp the handle and enter. I know what I will find inside, and I am afraid. But there is another emotion stronger than my fear that rises up within me and refuses to die. I remember a comment someone made to me, mere days ago. Hang in there, my friend. You will be better someday. I force myself forward, into the suffocating shadows of the room.
In contrast to the other rooms I have seen, this one holds only a single person. When I enter, she is crouching on the floor, head bent downwards. But when she hears my footsteps, she rises and I can see that, except for one detail, she is my mirror image. We have the same mouth, the same nose, the same hair. But it is her eyes that capture my attention. Unlike mine, they are heavy with agony. The demons I see in her gaze are horrendous; they give me nightmares to this day.
She breaks her stare and turns away from me, walking back into the darkest corner of the room. I watch, knowing what will come next. The two of us wait in silence.
Suddenly, she is screaming, beating her fists against the wall as if trying to bring it down. Tears run down her face, pouring into her mouth and drenching her clothes. She rocks back and forth, throwing her head into the wall. I am overcome by a wave of guilt and sorrow. As much as I would like to help her, I cannot. I must merely stand and watch. I find myself screaming along with her, crying the same bitter tears. My head throbs and my hands go numb. I am on my knees, nails scratching against the floor, trying desperately to find a way out. I turn towards my double just as she begins to speak. I know the words. I hear myself saying them, despite my efforts to stop them. I can’t do this any more…I can’t fight any longer…
The room swirls and I find myself on my back on the floor, gasping for air. The girl is kneeling next to me, a small smile on her face. She takes my hand and leans down. Lips pressed against my ear, she murmurs something. You did it. You’re free. Now go conquer the world.
Then she’s gone. I’m alone in the room, knees shaking. I rise slowly to my feet and exit the room, closing the door behind me. As I head down the halls, I can’t help but consider what happened in that room. Did she mean what she said? Am I truly free? By facing that moment in time, did I rid myself of the horrors that had plagued me for years?
I leave my memory, stepping out into the world again. As I feel the warm sunshine on my shoulders, and hear the laughter of my friends, there is no doubt in my mind.
I am free.