Keep the Change, Ya Filthy Animal

Sometimes I feel like I live in the spaces between my memories.

I catch myself telling the same stories over and over again, because they are the only form of magic that I know to be true. A memory can make a mundane day feel extraordinary in a matter of seconds. It’s the way I stroll down the aisle of a 7/11 and see a Mars bar, and there I am, 8 years old, hair sopping wet from swimming lessons. I’m strapped in to the back of my sister’s old Suzuki, She has the top off because it is an Indian summer and she knows I love the breeze. She is 18, and the Backstreet Boys echo through the wind. I feel limitless. And I’m eating a motherfucking Mars bar. Best day ever.

I see the Mars Bar, and I start to hum. It’s always the same. “I’ll never break your heart, I’ll never make you cry.” I smile at the thought of 8 year old Karlee resonating with those words. There is something so innocent and soft about that time. I don’t know if it’s because I  grew older or because I grew harder, but these magic moments seemed fewer and further between as time marched on.

I’m not complaining. These small pieces of time are vivid. They are real and they are colourful. The day I cease to remember them will be the day I lose sight of who I am, the very core of my being. I don’t want to forget the little girl with loose teeth and firm beliefs, because I need her. I need her to carry me through the things that I’m trying so desperately to forget, but cannot. I need to be able to remember what she would say about these dark things that take place in the tall shadows between the dusk and the night.

I’ve done what feels like a very terrible thing. I’ve taken this box off of one of the shelves in my brain, and in it are pictures of memories that I promised myself I would never look at again. I’ve always been aware of the presence of this box, because I am not sure I could ever truly hide it well enough never to think about it. However, in the number of years that it’s been sitting on the shelf, I have done a very fine job of ignoring it as if it did not exist.

I took the lid off of the box, and I stared at the images one by one. There I am, and there she is. But she doesn’t look like me. She looks different in a way that I do not have the words to describe. She looks sad in some, angry in others. For the most part, though, she just looks blank.This was not my life. I shuffled through the stack and became furious in a way that I haven’t been in a very, very long time. I was fucking pissed at myself. It was a pole frozen and glistening in a Canadian winter, and I had just stuck my tongue on the silver metal knowing full well what the consequences would be. How very masochistic of me.

I  feverishly and frantically arranged the pictures and put them neatly back in the box. The only problem was that the lid would not close. I rearranged, I pleaded, I screamed, I used every ounce of mental force I could muster to close the box, but it popped open defiantly and startled me every time. When it became clear that this could not be undone, I placed the lid neatly on top and moved as far away from the box as possible.

The problem is, they’re not just images anymore. What used to be fragments of a motion picture of a life that I did not recognize as my own started piecing themselves together in my dreams. The smell, the faces, the feelings, I know all of them. I remember them so well that it’s almost as if it happened yesterday. The thick shame and disgust is back and lingering over me like a fog that refuses to dissipate. It occupies every corner of my mind as if it is holding me hostage.

I keep asking “What do I do? What do I do with these images? What do I do with these feelings? How do I get rid of them?”

I keep receiving the same answer. “See them. Feel them.”

This answer is equal parts exasperating and satisfying. I’m in pieces, and I want a quick fix. I want to run. But the part of me that is capable of logical thinking knows that this is the right answer, and I have too much pride to move. I know that my only choice is to let the memories break me down until they become less terrifying, less shameful; until I am not bothered by their presence. Until my brain expands to welcome them as part of its chemistry and fuel to reach beyond the limitations that the box set so solidly in place.

I haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t know how long this is going to take. All I know is that there are Mars bars and loose teeth and clouds that look like sailboats moving across the sky with the wind.

“I’ll never break your heart, I’ll never make you cry.”

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