Memorized

December 29, 2014
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      You see her in public for the first time since you stopped speaking. You know it's her because you remember the hat; it was a gift from her mother two years ago. You also recognize the old combat boots she's wearing and her quick, determined pace. She's walking ahead of you down the street, a few bags in hand. At first you assume she's Christmas shopping, but she was never the type to leave things until two days beforehand. You know that she hasn't been in town for a while, so you marvel at how well she seems to know her way around. Knowing her, she probably had the whole city memorized years ago.
      She liked to memorize things. She could say the alphabet backwards in less than ten seconds. She truly learned her friend's phone numbers before putting a name to their contact in her phone. God knows how many poems she knew; poetry could spill out of her mouth as easily as she could count. You were never much on reading it, but hearing her recite it was one of the greatest things you'd ever heard.
      It wasn't so much reciting, you decided, as it was performing. When you read poetry on paper, you never knew exactly where to pause or whether any emphasis was needed on a specific word. She placed her breaths at exactly the right moments and put emphasis in exactly the right places. She could bring a whole new meaning to things. Sometimes, she would quote lines lackadaisically, looking out the passenger side window when something catches her eye and reminds her. Others, mostly in those moments before you both fell asleep, she would recite her favorites line by line, not a single word misplaced.
      She also liked to memorize voices. This confused you at first, so you asked her to explain. She told you that she knew your voice like she knew that Y came before Z or the phone number of her favorite pizza place. Give her a phrase, and she could hear it in your voice before you'd even said a word. She knew how your voice got gravelly when you were tired. She could tell when you were lying. She learned the dulcet tones of your laughter like it was poetry.
      She knew you so well. That's why she could hear the end coming in your voice before you even started the conversation. She reacted in exactly the way you thought she would, which wasn't to react at all. She said she understood, that she had seen it coming for a while now. It was okay, she promised. Then she left and you didn't speak to each other again.
      Now it was a year later and you see her again. You wonder how she's doing, and if she's still memorizing things, if she's memorized anyone else. You pick up your speed to get closer, and say her name out loud. She apparently doesn't hear you, so you jog up behind and put your hand on her shoulder, saying her name again. She crouches and turns around immediately; when she realizes who it is, her eyes go wide. You've both stopped walking, blocking the flow of people in the middle of the sidewalk. At this point, everyone else is obsolete. Her mouth opens slightly, and you imagine the poetry that once flowed from her. She doesn't speak for a few seconds. You choke out a hello and a how are you, and eventually you make your way into the coffee shop down the street.
      You order your coffee black, and she orders a hot chocolate. As she tells the woman behind the counter what she wants, you realize how familiar this is. How easy it would be to fall back into this. You both sit down in a corner booth. Her hands are wrapped around her cup for warmth and you stir your coffee even though it isn't necessary. You discuss what you both have been up to recently, and she asks about your dog. She's only back in town for Christmas. You've both been too busy for relationships. This is a lie on your part, but you don't know how to explain it otherwise. It finally comes out. You miss her. She misses you, too.
      She apologizes for being so shocked to see you earlier. You tell her that it's okay, you just assumed that she still had you memorized. You meant this as a joke, but even you could hear a hint of seriousness leaking out. She lets out an almost forced laugh and purses her lips. She thought she did, too. It was like learning her favorite poem, she said, only to go back a year later and see that she skipped a line. She looks you in the eye and takes a deep breath. You can see the pain in her eyes as she finishes the thought.
      "Except, I think I must have forgotten a whole damn stanza."






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miraandaa said...
Jan. 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm
This is my absolute favorite thing I've read so far on here. The imagery and emotion is contagious. You have a gift and I would love to read more of your work.
 
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