Sunday, September 13, 2015

15: Confidence

“Brianna was swinging on a tire swing.  A tire swing hanging from the limb of, I think, an elm.  And she was just giggling, the way little kids do, for no reason.  At little kid things.  And…and this is the weird part…I can remember so vividly that the sky was this clear, deep, perfect blue, and I can remember her laugh.  I remember her laugh exactly.  And her eyes, because there was no pain in them, for once, that day.  But no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I try to remember, there are just these…blank spots there.  I mean…like, her hair, for instance.  I know her hair was brown and that it was…I don’t know, long-ish, but…somehow, I try to remember how it was styled, or whether it was tangled that day, and I just…there’s just this blank spot…” 

 “So…Jason showed me the town again, today.  He keeps forgetting which parts he’s already showed me.  Or maybe he doesn’t care; he seems so excited to show them to me again that maybe he just can’t resist.  Nice guy, but he’s got the attention span of a goldfish.  It’s almost as if he rediscovers the whole world every few seconds and falls in love with it all over again.  At first, I kinda thought he was stupid.  I mean, you know, the psychovore hoodie and everything…he’s not what you’d call an intellectual.  But he’s not dumb.  He’s just…not critical.  He’s the most totally non-judgmental person I’ve ever met.  He just accepts everything and wants every single thing in the world to be his friend.  He wants it so much that eventually ends up becoming true.  Everybody loves him.” 

“The princess thoughts.  They are our enemies.  They come to us unbidden.  They sneak up on us when we least expect them, and they leap inside, demanding romantic rescue and sparkly shit.  Once you get your body, you and I will be allies against them.  We shall squash the princess thoughts, you and I.  We shall crush them beneath our heels like overripe grapes.”

“I don’t remember my sister’s hair.  I know certain things about it; I just don’t remember them.  They tell me that’s…just how it works, here.  Memories.  That it’s always the things you care about that you bring with you, but which details you retain, that’s almost random.  Like, people remember all of these tiny little factoids, but they’ll have forgotten really big important things that provide the context that make those details important.  Buck, for instance.  I asked him the other day what he remembered.  And he talked about green grass under a bright blue sky.  ‘There’s this huge grandstand, with green benches, and the paint peeling.  And there’s all these colored folks, all dressed up in their Sunday best, smiling and cheering for me.  And I know I’ve made them happy.’  And I ask him, what did you do that made them happy?  And he gives me that grin of his, and he says, ‘I have no idea.’  And then, of course, he laughed about it.  Because that’s what he does.  But I can’t.  I can’t laugh about the fact that a sweet, kind man like that doesn’t remember what made people love him.” 

“Jason’s interested.  I’m pretty sure.  Which is…weird.  I mean, look at me, and look at some of the girls in this town.  Look at Diana!  Jesus.  Of course, ‘girls’ is a weird term to use.  Everybody’s got a mid-twenties body, but some of them have been here for over two centuries.  Diana’s what, eighty?  I suppose you can’t really call an eighty-year-old a ‘girl’.  I think that may have something to do with it.  Even with all the women who’d want him, I’m the only girl in town who’s actually close to his own age.  And he’s…well, he’s attractive, in all the most unsubtle, obvious ways.  And he’s sweet, and eager to please…a little over-eager, maybe.  But…there’s something there, behind his eyes, you know?  Something that wants out.  And I don’t quite trust it.  I don’t remember why I don’t trust men, but I don’t.  Maybe that’s not fair, but that’s who I am.  There’s a lot of dudes here, and I just don’t need another one in my life right now.  What are you glowing at me like that for?  No!  It’s not because he’s black!  That has nothing to do with it!  I’m…well, I’m pretty sure that’s got nothing to do with it..  But  I guess if it did, I guess if I was a racist or something, I wouldn’t remember that I was.  Oh, goddamnit.  Why’d you have to bring that up?”

 “I asked Harriet, what do you remember?  And she gives me that stare, and she just says, ’Freedom,’ and walks away.  Harriet is…she’s just this force of nature, and she’s awesome, and she’s a woman and she hasn’t let this place beat her down.  And I want to know her, and talk to her…and I can’t.  Because…she’s got those walls up, around her, and only Buck gets let in.  And Rosemary’s busy trying to save everyone, and fix everything, and protect Ben, and keep his worst instincts from running away with him.  And even Ben might be OK, if he wasn’t so obsessed with being such a B.A. all the time.  At least I have you.  Someone I can talk to, and trust.”

“Harry’s not so bad, I guess.  Have you met Harry?  The guy who spends all his time making those hats?    Nice enough, for a guy, talks too much, but I guess they all do.  Anyway, Harry’s not so bad as some of them, because Harry remembers his wife.  And he’s still completely, head-over-heels in love with her.  He remembers exactly, and I mean exactly, what she looked like on their first date.  And on the day they were married.  And on all of these occasions, later on, throughout their lives.  Down to the last detail, and dozens of occasions, up until they were both very, very old.  And he’s still in love with her, but he doesn’t remember her name.  Whatever did this to us…I mean, it’s almost too cruel to just be random, the way they left us…left us just enough pieces to see the shadows of something bigger.  And to know we’re missing it.  Enough that we’re just barely functional, but not enough to get ahead…and enough to know there’s more.  That it’s just right there, out of reach.”

“I’ve been thinking about Ammerman.  He’s…interesting.  No, don’t look like that.  Not a princess thought!  Not guilty!  I didn’t mean romantically interesting.  What I mean is that he’s the only man in this town who doesn’t insist on treating me like a China doll.  I’m not the biggest fan of his coterie.  Dion, and Little Bill, and Ramesh and the others.  A couple of them…well, they’re more annoying than an actual problem.  I spent the first two weeks here with my heartlight as the only visible part of me, so I’m used to having men staring at my chest.  See…here’s the thing about Ammerman.  He’s…repulsive, right?  I mean, the way he looks, the way he talks, the way he carries himself.  He’s creepy, selfish, obnoxious, uncouth, and arrogant.  He’s the worst possible person to represent his views.  But…for all that…I’m not sure that he’s wrong.  You’d have to talk to him, I guess, to really understand.  But…I don’t think he’s wrong.  About how this town―about how Ben, to be honest―imposes itself upon its citizens in the hundred subtle little ways it does.  I don’t know if Ammerman likes people, in general, any more than they like him…but, in his own way, I think he respects people at least as much as Ben does.  Possibly more.  And maybe if I’m with him…maybe people will pay a little more attention, you know?  To what he’s saying, instead of to how he says it.  And then, of course, there’s the fact that everybody hates him.  Almost everybody.  Ben’s got all those admirers and followers, and John’s got practically nobody.  If there’s a sort of cold war going on between them, then almost everybody’s on Ben’s side.  And I don’t like bandwagons.  I don’t like herds.  They weird me out.  If everyone’s on the same side, then what happens when that side turns out to be wrong?”

“Remember how I told you about being afraid that I might counterfeit myself?  I’ve been feeling that way about memories, lately.  What happens when you want to remember something so badly that you talk yourself into filling in the blanks?  What happens when you start wanting memories so much that you just start making them up out of whole cloth, and thinking they’re real?  So even what little you have of the person you used to be gets…contaminated.  You make up a story about who you were.  And then the person you really are is gone for good―lost in that fog we went through when we left Earth.  I can’t stand it.  I can’t stand just…sitting here, with Brianna drifting away from me, one little piece at a time, getting replaced bit by bit with a version that’s just a little off, a little different.  Knowing that someday, the real her will be gone, and that I’ll be the one responsible for it.  That I’ll have cheated, that I’ll have traded her away, one piece at a time, replaced her with some cheap, patchwork fake.  Because…because I didn’t love her enough.  Not enough to remember the real her.  Not enough to have brought her with me.  Is that what it’s like for you?  Do you have, just, almost all the pieces, but…I wish you could tell me.  About…all the things that mattered to you.  About all the things you remember.”

“Everybody wants to be my friend.  And everybody’s telling me, ‘oh, come work here, we have so much fun.’  And John’s all, “Raaaar, hard work, yer fingers’ll fall off, freedom means sacrifice, ol’ dog new tricks, blood, pain, tears, raaaar, ptui.  I sang one stupid song, and suddenly I’m the belle of the ball.  A damned China doll.  It’s not right.  It’s too easy.  But John…John seems to think that maybe there’s something more to me than people see right now.  That maybe there’s more to me that a song.  Everybody else wants me for what they think I am, but John wants me around for what he thinks I can be.  And I don’t think he’s wrong.  I think maybe there’s more to me than…than I got a chance to show, maybe, back on Earth.  And I want a chance to be that person.  Maybe it’s like he said at the meeting―maybe it’s not about being up on a pedestal?  Maybe I don’t need admirers. Maybe what I need is a push.  Maybe he can give me that.  On the other hand…he is really, really repulsive.  I mean, ick.”

            “You know what I like about you?  You’re a good listener.”

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