One of the walls in my grandmother’s living room had protruding plaster bulges. I watched them dance and wondered which concert or country or book they represented in my grandmother’s life. I pictured them grow and shrink with each remembering of a memory as it came up in her breathing and travelling thoughts. What if she picked up that small souvenir violin she bought in Prague and in response, her wall would hum along with the battery-powered toy? What if the wall remembered her life as she did?
I pictured two sweaty painters in tank tops come into her apartment with buckets, starting to throw balls of wet plaster onto the wall. I pictured my grandmother laughing with them and smiling to herself. I thought how lucky the painters were to get paid to throw things at walls and change them and bring them to life. How lucky they were to laugh with my grandmother and cool down in her apartment filled with classical music and air conditioning.
My grandmother’s life has lost its breath, along with its music and memories, so what does her wall remember now? Has it receded into itself to be flat like all the other walls?
Music class was held in the bomb shelter down the hall from my senior kindergarten homeroom. The shelter was plain with thick walls, so inside the acoustics were good. We inhabited a musical safe zone where we could play anything and not get hurt. My music teacher had a Russian accent that made her words taste funny in my ears. She sat on the floor between our tapping feet and sang as we tightly held the mallets with our childish hands. I focused on the rubber ball on the other end of my mallet, hitting and bouncing off the metal slate of the xylophone. The room was long, narrow, and cold like the xylophone slate. There was no space to sit in a circle, so we sat on the bench beside each other and faced the bricks in front of us. Hidden and safe.
It’s not your fault that you told me to go on a diet when I was 7. It’s not your fault that you told me I looked 4 months pregnant after a holiday meal. It’s not your fault for yelling at my mom for eating 3 grapes after dinner. It’s not your fault that you look me up and down when I come home, checking to see that I am still skinny and within your standards.
It’s my fault for remembering.
You tell me to take myself less seriously.
The alarm rang at 7:00
But I didn’t think of you until 7:03
So I am making progress.
I swore at 7:00
Then again at 7:03
But there was no one there
I swore at your absence.
My dreams ended at 7:00
When I woke up to nothing at all
Except for everything I have forgotten
While memorizing you.
Oh, but darling
How did we get here?
I am in the post-love phase,
to call because I wouldn’t be able to hang up.
I shed your ghostly presence
Wondering which parts of myself
I lose in the process.
Remember that time in the car, at
Remember the birdshit on your shirt?
Remember the stuffed peppers?
Remember me? I try to.