The One Thing To Remember

Alex Sagan's picture
Submitted by Alex Sagan on Thu, 2006-01-26 12:52

He’d just gotten home. He didn’t know how much longer it was going to be—there always seemed to be another uber-anthrope waiting around the corner to greet him, to pressure him into a crowded, smoky bar where pale-brained fools shrink their white matter with alcohol and repetitious conversation. His little sister had nagged him about Belle. Always about Belle, Belle, Belle, Belle. It tolled not for him, not anymore. He had seen too much. The world pressed in on him like a thick, poisonous fog. There was only one thing he wanted, needed, now.

The next day. Thanksgiving. Aunts and uncles and a grandmother, all with opinions and nuggets of wisdom. They didn’t know how ignorant they were. He played with the children. The children were all right. They weren’t written on, yet. Maybe in ten years they’d spew the same kind of self-righteous trash their parents did, but not yet. He made believe he was having tea with the youngest. He delighted to make her smile.

That night. Everyone lounging on the couches at home, TVs turned to various sports and news shows he felt no interest in. He didn’t need the news, he didn’t want the news; all around him, every day, they woke to the Herald, rode in with the Metro, dined with the Globe, and took the Channel 5 News to bed with them. Nothing important had happened in years, not since he was born, anyway. People got shot, people got married, people brown-nosed for prestige, people growled and threatened for power. Nothing had changed. Nothing was going to change. He thought about the life they all lived, and—no, he couldn’t think about it. Scrambled eggs. A waste of mental energy. He locked himself in his room and read. He put ear-plugs in. His mother sighed when he didn’t respond to her knocks: didn’t he want to see the photos of the dog and the fish? Belle calls, later on. He doesn’t try to mask his contempt this time. She is surprised; she thinks he’s changed. He agrees. It’s as if he had his eyes shut until he was forced out of the hometown jar, realizing quickly and painfully that the jar wasn’t suffocating him, it was protecting him from the poisonous fumes of the rest of the world. But why aren’t you happy to be back? she asks. Because no one else can see it, he answers. No one else knows the Paradise they live in. They buzz around the jar, angrily butting up against the glass walls, doing all they can to observe the world of smokestacks and skyscrapers on the other side of the jar via their papers and magazines and newscasts and don’t even notice how green and vernal their home is. They live in it, and they don’t see it. I see it, she claimed, indignantly. You think you do, he replied. But you don’t. They hung up. Another connection severed, he thought. He felt light, almost—free.

Midnight. It’s cold out, but not as cold as it should be this time of year. Just cold enough to make it smell like fall. Someone has a fire going somewhere—he can smell the burning wood. He slips up the path in the woods behind the house. He doesn’t feel his muscles relax until the last houselight winks out behind a tree. He is in the place other people fear to be; the dark place, the place with no houselights. A little further and he reaches an opening, a kind of field in the middle of the woods. There’s a grey stone half-covered with brown lichen in the middle, familiar to him from repose past. He sits and looks up at the sky. If he looks long enough, he can see a meteorite flash before it is burnt up in the atmosphere. Many people don’t realize that on any given night, if you look long enough, you’ll see one. They think they’re special. There are lots of things like that. Experiences that seem more meaningful to ignorant savages than they really are—and experiences that are less meaningful than they should be. He thought of his sleeping sisters, his father watching TV, his snoring mother. He was a part of them, sure, thanks to genetics. But there was something different about him, something that set him apart irreparably that had nothing to do with his physical makeup. He wondered why he could see it and they couldn’t. His legs were going numb. But it didn’t matter. He lived more right then than he had in months. And he had returned because he was depleted, and must stock up so that he could remember...remember...remember, looking at those glittering dots sitting alone in the woods while others dozed, just how small and how large he was.

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