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Reminiscence This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Memories are funny things. Sometimes they sprawl like dogs on a warm day inside my head, happy and soft, usually content to be left alone, but leaping when I call to them. Other times they drip like silver paint into every crevice and curve of my brain and it is a long time before the clean-up is complete and I can go about every day adventures without the constant drip-drip-drip of some worrisome thought.  Mostly though, my memories are a library, a dark room where I can go and run my hands over the pages of each recollection; pick through to my favourites and watch them play, loop after loop of moments gathered over seventeen years of living. The library does not have an ending, but sometimes, if I concentrate hard enough, I can just make out the remnants of a beginning, a soft, elastic memory that fades in and out like a radio station too far from a signal. I close my eyes and let the pages of this memory flutter under my fingers.
It is summertime and the small town where my family has lived for the last three years is hot and dusty. More than ten hours to the capital city, more than five to the nearest coast, we are way out west and I know no better than the shade of the back yard and the biting heat of the black bitumen, the swarming of red ants and the matching hats my dad bought for my sister and I, each with our names embroidered on the front (I still quietly believe this was for the benefit of my parents- we didn’t need to remember our own names).
The days and months and years meld into a long, winding thread of fuzzy imagery. I am sitting on the front steps, painting each step with the precision of an artist, stroke of water after stroke of water, each streak evaporating before I have finished the next. I am curled into my parent’s bed and in my mind everything is painted yellowy-gold, except for the five heads of black hair cradled among the blankets and pillows, with a sixth quietly waiting to join the family soon. I am playing with my siblings, fighting, crying, laughing, running away, and coming back.
One day my sister is chasing me. I am deathly afraid of stickers and here she is, hounding me up the back steps, stickers in hand. My four year old heart is pounding and I am terrified but equally elated by this life and death game. We dash through the kitchen and into the living room, and I have to choose an escape route; the front door or our bedroom door. I choose the latter and skitter across the carpet, not yet realising my foolish mistake in choosing a closed off room. My sister is gaining on me and I make for the bed, thinking only of the security the bed has always offered before. I notice my parents outside talking beside the red tractor; hear a whisper of their conversation through the window. The floor is a mine-field of debris and toys and just before I reach the bed my foot catches on something and I am sent down in a tornado of flailing limbs and dramatic shrieks. The shrieks turn into real cries as my forehead hits the metal edge of my trusty bed and I watch my sister’s laughing face draw itself out, long and grey.
In the moments after my sister has run out of the room screaming for my parents and before they all come rushing inside, I notice drips of blood seeming to fall from my own face and onto my favourite pants, the ones with the flowers around the bottom.
This is shocking. Mum is going to kill me.
However, she does not kill me. Instead my father comes in and wraps my head in a yellow towel and when he is carrying me across the hospital car-park he says something racist about how I look like an Indian lady. Inside the nurses are all very nice and I even know one, one of my friends’ mothers. They tell me I am very brave and they stitch my forehead together again, and with seven little stitches I am as good as new.
My dad promises ice-cream and even in my deathly state, I manage to choose a Milo cup. At home I am propped up in the living room, where my battle-scar is oohed and ahhed over. My sister is soon forgiven, although forgetting is not something my family has ever been particularly good at. My older brother splits his head open in much the same way a few months later.
Memories are funny things. Sometimes they are so tangible all I have to do is close my eyes and there I am, in the backseat of cars with my sibling’s heads lolling onto my shoulder, under the sun with a hat jammed over my badly cut bob, in the hospital admiring the tininess of my baby brother’s fingers, reluctantly admitting that maybe a baby brother is just as good as the baby sister I wanted. Memories are books that are endless, that twist and turn so that I can never be completely sure of what is real and what I have dreamed.
I stand among the stacks, surrounded by piles of glowing, glittering memories that call to me, singing an enticing song of nostalgia. Anyone can become lost in their memories. But at some point we must all leave those dozing dogs, those silvery droplets and those dusty tomes to discover something new. Let the memories lie. They’ll still be there when you get back.




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jfrank said...
Aug. 25 at 12:36 am
This is so lyrical and bewitching--a real masterpiece.
 
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