The human brain cannot forget a face. In dreams, it broadcasts faces it has seen before and doesn’t necessarily register in memory. But in nightmares, the creatures it recreates are what cannot be registered. That is for a reason.
I used to wonder what happened when your brain forces itself to consciously remember what it had forced itself to forget. I used to want the answers to questions most people never ask.
That was a long time ago.
But I don’t tell people about me now. I talk about me then.
I was in search of answers, the origin point of everything worth talking about.
Something to know about me. Most people for miles around know my name, know my face, know my tattoos. But not the meaning behind any of it. They’ve seen my scars, just not my stories. They don’t know me; which is only an issue when they’re talking like they do. Which brings us to…
Another thing you should know about me: my reputation is far bigger than my life experience. Some of it is made of brick, some glass, some stone. Mostly falsehoods. Don’t believe what you hear about me. Why else would I be writing this story for myself?
Now I’ve talked long enough; it’s time to make a choice. Where do I begin?
A place. Nine miles south of my favorite place in the world, actually. It’s a terrible location for the purpose it was meant to serve, but it serves me just fine. It’s a bar and grille morphed into a theme restaurant so you’re supposed to feel like you’re inside of a pirate ship. I never do.
A time. Just past 11:30, moon sweeping through the wheel of a window to fall in sheets of silken glass to the floor. The dust is tinted blue under this spotlight. The aromas wage battle- it’s late for burgers and early for pancakes. The red of the booths looks black as the night outside. It’s just warmer in the zone of timelessness than outside, where we labor in January.
A cast, if you will; just a rundown to demonstrate that I am not alone. A tired waitress, a jaded cook, and nothing but a hill of cigarettes between them. A man with two notebooks, a laptop, and his phone on the table in front of him- lemonade on one side and water on the other. He occupies a corner of the ship destined to be taken over by kids in twelve hours. He has the sliver of maroons and burnt oranges decorating his wrists until they paint his elbow. I don’t think anything of the fact that there are so many; I’ve been known to lose control too. The thing is, their patchwork describes tales of healing but a look in his eyes and the shaking legs states that those scars tell me lies. His name, so I’ve heard, used to be Ian. Now it’s something else. Once I asked him for his name- “it’s Jonah”- which I then followed up with an inquiry as to his birth and got a chilly reply to the tune of, “I was born Laura, but then it was Ian. Now it’s Jonah.”
A third thing to know, this one about Jonah: he’s my ally in this story (I told you I wasn’t alone). Now, to go about the business of introducing the other side, we exit the evening in the pirate ship.
A new place: Philadelphia Museum of Art. A new time of course: about 9 in the morning. A cast: a couple of students, an employee guarding the gallery against those who’d dare to stick a paw on the art, Jonah, and myself. For a room of hard surfaces with this many people, the depths of the silence are tremendous. Jonah and I are parked on a bench trying to act like we’re comfortable in here.
And there’s a big, broad elephant in the room. Which is why I struck up a friendship with Jonah, but now it feels like I have no escape.
“He’ll always be after me. He just has to see me locked up.” I remember moaning and groaning.
“But he can’t. What crime have you committed? You were born in a small town, that’s what.” Jonah lights a fire when he talks about things like this, but somehow it calms me. Not today it doesn’t.
“The sergeant wants me to give him access to all my records- everything on my phone, my laptop, everything period.” His eyes widen when he hears that; it crosses lines we never thought he would. “If I hesitate, I’m guilty.”
“I know, but we can’t stop it. You’ve got to know that.”
“God, all your life you’re transparent and no one cares about you. Then you want something for yourself and you’re public enemy number one.”
“Cops; what are you going to do about them?”
“Cops; can’t live without them, can’t live with them.”
“Lana? Do you think that guy is looking at us?”
“We’re being watched, yeah. How do you like surveillance according to Sergeant Wallace?”
“Oh my God, Lana.”
“It’s time to scram. Remember, do not turn your head at all as we pass by. That painting on the far wall is the most mesmerizing thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, or I am. So long as you don’t look at him,” I direct him tersely. I’m pretending to laugh on the way out, but I’m still screaming on the inside.
The sergeant’s eyes are lumps of coal, ablaze. My shoulders sizzle under their targeted lasers. I should’ve known he’s nowhere near ready to see me walk out. “Alaina,” he bellows, the word and all it’s curses bouncing, rebounding to hit me in as many rounds as it can.
“It’s just Lana now,” I steel myself to inform him.
“Are we finished hiding?”
“We’re not hiding.”
“Are you finished hiding?”
“I’m not the one who’s hiding.” I don’t feel like I’m living up to my posture of defiance like this.
“Stop talking in circles, you little witch.”
“I’m talking in words. Does that scare you?”
He raises his hand to swing it across my face but thinks better of it in front of witnesses shyly observing the show. He has to settle for grabbing me instead.
“You’re dodging and evading, don’t you dare deny it.”
I maintain eye contact as firm as I can. Silence, no longer blissful.
“What are you hiding?”
“I know you’d like to search me. You don’t get to. Now, can I leave? I have more art to see.”
“That was a bit anticlimactic for how melodramatic you are,” Jonah comments.
“Really?” I’m incredulous. “I feel like I’m going to die.”
Thank you so much for reading; I appreciate all the support on my writing. If you’re interested in another short story, here is my most recent one, a story about friendship and music. Check out my poetry for some shorter reads:
And plenty more! Please enjoy.