How Sharp the Scraper
The mind is a curious being. I picture mine as a writer’s desk. Cluttered with oldies lyrics and snapshots of ruffly one piece swimsuits, plastic sprinklers sprouting from a garden hose. A mother’s worries buried in its folds and hills. Mundane comments lost amidst the mess of pencils and calendars and a cold mug of coffee.
In the middle of the pile sits a memory that can’t be scraped away, no matter how sharp the scraper.
I’ve tried drinking it away. Drowning it with wine and the whiskey that burns. I’ve tried three fingers and a bathroom stall. I’ve tried a growling stomach. A treadmill and a stained white towel. A stranger’s bed and words that debase the heart. Once I cut it out, but it snuck back in. It always does in the most inappropriate moments. I’ve tried a handful of pills, a blurry dance floor and music that beats from the chest. I’ve tried a new country and neighborhoods that don’t know my name. Films with blood. With torture. With bodies.
If I could scratch it out with a black pen, I wouldn’t have much to tell you. It would have been like every other vacation. Castles and sore feet. Afternoon expressos and morning beers. Narrow streets and searching for postcards.
I wouldn’t tell you about the mulberry walls or the long strip of white paper. I wouldn’t describe the knowing, relaxed smile on the man in the robe as he climbed up the steps. Or the glowing light on the phone against the wall, its teeth bared in a sinister case. The depleted eyes after release. The fake, waxy flowers resting in a vase. Somehow perverted and out of place. I wouldn’t tell you how I pulled up my underwear, which had somehow been peeled off, like the fillet of skin in a hangnail. I wouldn’t have crawled through the cave, eyes smeared black though I hadn’t been crying. I wouldn’t have fumbled with the things I couldn’t explain at the receptionist’s desk. Her furrowed eyes looking back and forth from me to the front door to the space behind the folding screen. I wouldn’t have felt the burning shame of faces exchanging glances, trying to decipher the distress in the air. I wouldn’t have stumbled out into the gray rain and back to an apartment where I’d stand in the shower all night, staring at the tiles till they blurred together.
If only I could pluck away that memory, like a thick unwanted hair on a chin. I’d saunter past that building, sit in the plaza, and order a red wine on a terrace with the buzzing city around me. I’d watch the people in the streets until long past the sun went down. I’d sit alone, oblivious to the happenings in the layers deep beneath the pavement.
But still, it clings to the pile. I’ve stacked books on top of it. I’ve shuffled post-its around and recycled the balls of crumpled paper. Not all memories can be erased like they are in Hollywood Indie films. There’s no empty space here, no wondering if something has been misplaced or lost for good.
These memories are part of us. They call out to us in the night and wake us from our daily meetings. They don’t want us to forget. Eventually, we’re forced to look them in the eye, decide whether to give them the power, or steal it back for ourselves. Eventually, we’re granted the choice to grab them by the neck and hold our fists up high, the limp bodies dangly from our fingers in defeat.