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Why did I do that? That’s not something I would do? Is it? These were the words running through her mind. Meet Chelsea. She just told off her best friends to impress her crush. And all over a stupid boy. Now her friends aren’t friends and her new boyfriend can’t do basic math. Chelsea was smart. Smart enough to know how stupid she was. Dumbest decision ever. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Seriously though, she was really smart. She acts like she’s not too bright because none of the jocks want a girlfriend who’s better than them at anything. She was popular but it wasn’t her. It was a synthetic copy of who she really was. I should just kill myself. There’s no point. I don’t have friends, I’m a jerk and my parents have no idea what’s even going on. She was serious too. It wasn’t just some lie that she was telling herself. She wanted to kill herself. She sits in the corner of her room on the ground. She sits with her knees pulled up close to her. She puts her head against her knees and begins to cry. Tears leave streaks on her face making tiny glares on her cheek. I can’t kill myself. I’m not brave enough. She sits there for an hour. The only two things being heard are her muffled cries and the gentle beat of rain on the window. There has to be another way out of here. I want out but I can’t kill myself. I don’t want to die but I will if that’s the price I have to pay. What if there were an alternative? An alternative to suicide? How would that work? Thoughts like these trail off in her mind until she begins to doze. She picks herself up before she falls asleep completely. She gets into her bed and is asleep before she hits the pillow.
A new life in a new place. A clean slate. None of this ever happened. Be who you want. Be who you really are. You know you want to...
What kind of a dream was that? It was a good dream. Just wish I could remember more about. She gets out of bed and takes a shower. How come I always forget the good stuff and remember the stuff that makes me cringe? An idea suddenly appears in her mind. She’s not sure what it is exactly. She finishes her shower, puts on clothes, and goes down stairs for breakfast. Her mother is in the kitchen. Her father is on a business trip.
“Good morning darling. You’re gonna be on your own today. I have to go to that shower for Kathy, remember?” said her mom.
“Alright. I’ll probably just go to the library and work on that history report,” Chelsea said. This was a lie. She did the report the day it was assigned. She had planned on acting like she was procrastinating. She had other plans for today. She’d be at the library but not for a report.
“That’s good,” said her mother, “Call me if you need me.”
She walks to the library. It’s close to her house. She walks in and goes straight to her favorite computer. It’s been a long time since she’s been here. She had not been since she adopted the whole “popular” thing. She used to know the place like the back of her hand. Evidently she still did. She starts a search on the computer. She does a subject search for “human brain.” She had a rough idea of what she wanted to do but she didn’t know exactly. It was a little scary. She felt so uncertain and confident at the same time, which made her feel uncomfortable. The emotions at work inside of her were going insane with another emotion, confusion. She picked what looked like a good book of information then went to go find it. She found it very quickly. It seemed to be the kind of thing she was looking for. She went over to a little booth that was empty and took the book with her. She knew what she wanted to know. She flipped to the chapter on memory. She sat and read the whole chapter. When she was done she closed the book and set it down on the table. She closed her eyes and thought about her feelings towards her life. Suddenly it made sense. Her dream, everything. She wanted to erase her own memory. Go someplace far away and start over. It was complicated but she knew she could do it. But why? Why spend so much time inventing something when I could just step into open traffic right now and end my life? She already knew the answer. She still wanted to live, but she couldn’t bare the memories of being so mean to all of those people. This would be worth it, she thought. She grabbed a few more books on the same topic and read them all afternoon. Around five o’clock she checked them out and took them home with her. She had plans for her project. Big plans.
Her mother was home before Chelsea was. “Hi sweetie! How’s the report coming along?”
“Pretty good.” lied Chelsea. “Still got some editing to do.”
“Sounds like you’re really working hard. Keep it up! Dinner in ten minutes.”
Bleh! Could my parents be anymore oblivious!?! I told her I finished that project last week. I could probably tell her I shot JFK and get away with it. “Good for you sweetie! It’s good to have hobbies!” Makes me sick. She climbs the steps and turns down the hallway to her room. The pile of books dumps onto her bed as she unzips her backpack. The bed trembles like a California quake. If I’m serious about this thing, which I am, I’m gonna need some serious equipment and supplies. Chelsea paces around the house finding old dusty glasses that will be used as makeshift beakers. I don’t know how I’ll get some of this stuff I need. She found shampoo bottles that listed the chemicals she needed on the ingredients list. I knew you couldn’t trust the advertisements. ‘Now with extra volume! Also can be used to erase your own memories! Order now!’ She finds various other chemicals in other products that she can use to give life to the idea in her head. She takes everything she gathered and puts it all in a shoe box. She hides the box in the back of her underwear drawer. No one ever looks there. . . at least I hope they don’t. She couldn’t have anyone know about this. It was way too important and way too personal. I don’t want to think about it anymore. My weekend is half over already. I really don’t want to have to think about this at school on monday. She glances at the clock on her dresser. Only ten thirty! It seems like it’s four AM. Oh well. Maybe I’ll watch some late night comedy. She watches television for only three minutes before she’s asleep.
The next morning she wakes up at about eight. She’s up before her mom. She goes to the bathroom to take a shower and get herself ready for the day. After she’s changed clothes she goes to her room and opens the drawer with the shoe box in it. She finds the box all the way in the back exactly the way she left it. “What are you doing honey?”
Chelsea jumps a little. What do I do? I have the box in my hand!
“Oh, mom. You startled me.” said Chelsea.
“Sorry sweetie! What’s that in your hand?”
“Oh, you know. Just some old stuff from when I was little.”
“Can I see? You were so cute then.”
What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? Her mom starts to walk across the room from the door frame to where Chelsea is standing.
“Actually,” said Chelsea, “I think I grabbed the wrong box from the basement. Let me go find the other one. It'll just be a second.”
“Okay sweetie. It should be in the corner next to the Christmas decorations.”
Yes! I’m alive! She walks down to the basement. She decides to hide the box on the rafters so that no one stumbles upon while it’s down there. She gently places it on one of the larger beams. Then she goes to find the box with all her little kid stuff in it. I think I might miss this stuff when I erase all my memories. She takes the box upstairs to her mother. They sit and look at old toys and things. Chelsea feels like crying but she fights it off. If this idea works, this is going to be one of the last times I’ll ever think these thoughts about my childhood. At first she was upset. Her melancholy feelings quickly dispersed to be replaced with joy. She hated her childhood. She was an only child which meant that she was always lonely. I had no one to talk to. No one to share secrets with. Can’t wait to forget all about it. This was all true. Her parents were good people but with no parenting skills at all. Chelsea was the first child so they had no clue how to handle things. The worst part: she was still the only child. She suffered all for not. She might have done it to save the next child from the same fate. But there was no other child nor would there ever be. Her mom left to go sell some real estate. (She worked a lot of weekends.) Chelsea ran down to the box as soon as her mother slammed the front door shut. She went upstairs and gathered all her textbooks, beakers, and shampoo ingredients together. She worked the whole day long. No breaks except to go to the restroom. No distractions. A dog barks across the street. She doesn’t allow it to distract her. A house two blocks down lights on fire and burns to the ground. Did anyone die? Chelsea doesn’t know. She has no distractions. Her mother comes home. She doesn’t allow it to distract her. So tired. I think it’s worth it though. This thing should work though. I figured it just right to erase all of my memories (and therefore my personality) but not basic needs of life like talking, walking, and all my knowledge. I’ll remember stuff like that through basic instinct . . . at least I hope I will. What’s the worst that can happen? I become a babbling baby and have to go through school again . . . Let’s just focus on the positive. As she finishes her work, she releases a big sigh of relief. She looks at her work. A small capsule that is perfectly white. White like the clean slate it would turn her memories into.
“Come downstairs honey. We have to go pick up your father from the airport,” said her mom. Dang! I forgot about that. She picks up the pill and begins to slide it into her pocket when she decides against it. She needed to hide it better. She worked hard on it and it would be a shame to have the whole thing wasted. She finds a pink pen lying on her desk. She unscrews one end, removes the ink and any other mechanical devices inside of it. She places her creation inside. It had enough room to get it out again but it wasn’t too loose to make noise. Perfect fit. She slides the pen into her pocket. She runs down the stairs to her mother waiting for her at the bottom.
“Let’s go,” says Chelsea.
“And we’re going out to dinner before we pick up your father.” says her mom.
My last meal as Chelsea. Better make it a good one.
“Can we go to that pizza place I really like?”
“Sure sweetie.” replies her mom.
That was some good pizza. They were in the car pulling into the parking lot at the airport. They get out of the car, walk inside, and check the flight plan screen. The word “delayed” appears in red letters across from her father’s flight.
“Oh darn, it says he’s delayed by at least fifteen minutes,” said her mom.
“Let’s go check out this bookstore over here,” said Chelsea. They look in there for awhile. Chelsea almost decides to buy some book by Ridley Pearson, but decides against it.
“I’m gonna go to the bathroom. Be back in a sec,” said her mother. Yes! This is my chance.
“Okay,” responds Chelsea in the most boring voice she can muster. Her mother walks to the bathroom. As soon as she’s out of her sight, Chelsea speed walks over to the door they came in through. She hesitates at first. It all seems so surreal. She doesn't really believe It’s happening, but at the same time she knows that it is happening. I think I have enough money for a bus ride. I’ll just get on a bus and get off when I’ve gone as far as I can. That’s what I’ll do. And she does just that. She finds a bus that’s going a long distance. She sits down near the front. She falls asleep quickly. I did it. I did it! I di. . . I. Lights out
I’m falling! Help! I’m falling! She slept with the window as her pillow. When she awoke the moving trees startled her.
“Excuse me sir, where are we?” She asks the bus driver after she is fully awake.
“Twenty minutes outside Seattle. I was hoping you’d wake up before we got there. I didn’t want to be the one to wake you up. You looked so happy.”
Seattle! I fall asleep in Missouri and I wake up in Seattle! She was speechless. She didn’t expect to get this far. It was just now hitting her. She was alone. She had actually gotten on the bus and away from her parents. She looks out the window the rest of the way to Seattle. The bus pulls into the city and she gets out. It’s a little cold but not too cold. As the bus pulls away she feels like running after it. It was such a big city and she was so small. She checks her pocket for her pen. It’s still there. Where to now? It’s still pretty early in the morning. There’s not really anything for me to do here. I’ll take my capsule soon and then I’ll forget everything I saw here. She walks aimlessly until she finds a sculpture park near the coast. She wanders over to a particularly interesting piece. She stares at it for a few minutes. She circles it to see it from all the angles. Every few steps around it she takes she sees it as something else. At first it looks like a pile of cans, then a bird, and then two buildings after some kind of disaster. Wow. That’s all she could think of. Wow. It was kind of like what she was about to do. In some aspects she was fixing the problem and starting over. In others she was killing herself. And to some it was just pointless. So which was it? New life, death, or living the same life only slightly different. She had no idea. She walked over to the sculpture and lay on the ground underneath it. Now it doesn’t look like anything. She finds the pen in her pocket and pulls it out slowly. She closes her eyes. Without seeing it, she unscrews the tip and pulls out her little white capsule. Goodbye. Into her mouth goes the pill. It disappears down her throat before she can even tell herself not to do it. Goodbye indeed.
Whoa. Ouch! I hit my head on . . . well . . . what is it? It’s big and red and it looks kind of like a bird. I must have dozed off while I was . . . what was I doing again? Where am I? Who am I? I know who I am. Right? I live in . . . My age is . . . Oh no! I don’t know! I’ll try and figure out where I am. That’ll give me some clues. I stand up then stumble and fall to the ground. A boy walks over and helps me up. He looks rather young, about eighteen.
“You alright?” he says.
“Um, yeah I think so. Do I know you?” I say.
“I don’t think we’ve met before. My name’s Peter.”
“Hello Peter. Thanks for helping me. I was a little dizzy but I think I’m okay now.”
“No problem. I uh, never caught your name,” he says.
“I uh, I’m . . . I don’t really know. I can’t really remember anything before now. Like at all.” My voice stutters a little. I had to tell him though. Who else did I know? He gave me a look of shock. Then It slowly changed to one of concern and wonder.
“Well,” he said, “I guess I should help you figure that out. Right now you’re in a sculpture park in Seattle, Washington, United States. Ring any bells?”
“No bells,” I say. He looks frustrated. Not at me, but the whole situation. He wanted to help, he just didn’t know how. It’s not like you prepare for a situation like this or anything.
“Well, do you have anything in your pockets or anything like that?” he asks me. I hadn’t thought about that. I reach into my pockets at the same time. There was nothing on the left but I felt something in the right one. I pull it out. It was a black ball point pen. No writing on it, no logo, nothing. I hand it to him. He takes it and smiles at how hopeless this whole thing is.
“This pen feels a little too light to me,” he says. He unscrews the end only to find the thing entirely empty. It didn’t have any ink in it. Why would it be like that? I had no idea. I wouldn’t have even thought to check for that.
“What does that mean?” I ask Peter.
“Not sure. Let’s go for a walk and see if you remember anything.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me. It’s not like I have anything better to do.” The last comment makes him laugh. I follow him as we leave the sculpture park.
“I think we need to come up with a name for you,” he says to me, “What should I call you?” I’m not sure what to say to this.
“I guess we just need to make one up. What do you think my name should be?” I wanted to know what he would say to this. I had no real ideas for a name. There are a lot of names to choose from.
“Well, I guess you kind of seem like Sarah. No never mind. That name doesn’t suit you. How about . . . no.” I think he must have seen something because he suddenly had an idea.
“Poppy. What do you think about that name?” I thought it was a pretty good name. It sounded different but still normal enough to fit in and not stand out too much. Actually, it was perfect.
“I like it a lot. Call me Poppy. Good idea Peter.” Now I saw his source of inspiration. A street vendor over by the fish market was selling flowers. He had sign listing the different types of flowers he offered. Near the end it read “Poppies.” I didn’t care. It was the perfect name.
“Cool he said. I was hoping you would like it,” he says as we start to turn a corner, “So, Poppy, what do you want to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know. What is there to do around here?”
“Well, it’s almost noon and I know of a really good restaurant. It overlooks the dock and you can watch the tugboats come and go.” It sounded amazing.
“That sounds wonderful. Let’s go,” I say.
The restaurant is just as beautiful as Peter described it and then some. We were seated in a booth right by a window that looks out on the ocean.
“You’re going to need to help me order,” I say, “I don’t really know what I like and don’t like.”
“Oh yeah. Um, try the fried shrimp. It’s pretty much the best I’ve ever had. I think you’ll like it.”
“That sounds nice.” We talk while we wait for our food. And as we eat our food. And as we walk along the pier when we’re finished. We watched the sunset and we laughed until it hurt. It was a good day. A day that will forever be a fond memory.
We decide to go back to Peter’s apartment. He has an extra room he’s willing to let me stay in for as long as I like.
“There it is,” he says to me as he points across the street, “Fourth floor, second from the left.”
“It looks beautiful. Like nothing really matters except that its there.”
The crosswalk sign goes white and we start to walk across. A bus swerves. The same bus Chelsea was on before she was Poppy. Poppy screams as the bus careens towards-
Find a quarter. Flip it.
Heads: The bus hits Poppy. She dies in the hospital the next day. There is no funeral. No one knew her except Peter. He cries for days. He spirals into a manic depression. If only he could know more about her. Where she came from and who she really was.
Tails: The bus hits Peter. He lives but suffers severe amnesia. He forgets everything. Poppy helps him and takes him to a little restaurant by the dock where you can watch the tugboats. “Order the fried shrimp,” she says.
Lands on its side: They both die. Together. No one knew them. They only knew each other for a day. A day that they would never forget. Yet, somehow they died happy. A smile on the face of a dead person is rare. Almost as rare as a coin landing on its side.