Memories

So it’s a new day. The middle of the week. Or the end of the week if you happen to be somewhere else. Almost the weekend in other places. Still. It’s Wednesday. If I had somewhere to be, something to do, this would be the point at which I realized that I was half-way to the weekend. But I have nothing purposeful to do, so it’s just Wednesday. The Day Without Eastenders. Funny how you cling on to the silly things when you’ve nothing else to do.
It’s very quiet here. Reserved. Double-glazed and locked up. If I close the windows, nobody can hear me scream. Not that people nowadays would take any notice anyways. I remember, during my University days, I used to go to the indoor market. On walking in, a man, bedraggled, scruffy and about 60, staggered in behind me. Then he fell. Everyone just walked past. Walked over him. “Another drunk”, I imagine them saying to themselves. I have to get the shopping. No time to waste on another fallen drunk.
Only he wasn’t drunk.
So I bent down. Asked him if he was ok. He didn’t answer. Then I saw the blood. Thick and oozing from the side of his head. The saliva collecting in bubbles at his mouth, and felt his hands turn blue.
And still they walked straight past.
As his body shut down, he peed. Someone saw it and warned me to move my leg before it got me. The ambulance took him away. He wasn’t breathing.
The cleaners came to mop up the blood on the flagstones and I went to wash my hands. Get rid of the blood. And everyone went on with their shopping.
“So that’s what happens when you die”, I thought to myself.
I often wonder who he was. Did he have family? Friends who would wonder where he was? Maybe. Maybe not.
Six years ago. A young girl. 21 years old, pretty and popular. Engaged to be married. Her ticket out of an abusive home, where Dad used his fists instead of his head. Where mum said nothing. Told her to be good. Not to annoy him.
Dad didn’t approve of the engagement. And nobody knows why, but she decided to take an overdose. A few days later, still alive, and regretting her decision, she tells mum what she’s done. It was too late. Transplants and hospital couldn’t save her. She died in her prime, and she didn’t want to. Mum and Dad banned the fiance from the funeral. Said it was his fault. The vicar, the friends, the rest of the family, all stood guard to keep him away. And nobody says a word.
Ripples.
Random people, random events, that will remain with me forever. The Asian man who would always be walking down the road in the opposite direction whilst I was walking to college. Very smartly dressed, with bright white trainers on. He never said hello. I never knew who he was.
The lady a few houses down where I lived during University. She grew her own garlic, and used to sit on the wall outside her house laughing. She always had a smile.
The woman on the market stall where I bought the jumper I’m wearing now. “Aaany two for a fiver, five pound yer coats and jackets”. Her line. Almost sung, but not quite. I can still hear her voice now.
So what is the point of all this? I don’t actually think there is one. The brain keeps images, words, a multitude of sensory reactions, and can link them with specific events. Specific people. Memories are amazing things.
But that’s all they are. Memories. A collection of sensory information stored somewhere in the physical organ that is the brain. They’re not people. They’re not relationships. Memories are not real life, but a version of the past. This is a hard lesson to learn. To treasure the present for what it is: a collection of moments to be savoured, and learned from.
Feeling may be emotionally exhausting, but at least then we know we’re alive.

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