Memory Room

I lingered in the doorway and breathed in my memories.

Her room sat on the northeast side of the house overlooking the ocean, and I could smell the salt air wafting through the open balcony doors. It was a chilly room that was light without being sunny. Outside gulls called ceaselessly and in the distance, buoys clanged. The morning mist had burned off, but come evening, the air would be filled with the lonely call of the fog horns.

The room had ecru walls and cream-colored French provincial furniture. A double bed with its blue and white toile duvet sat in the center facing a massive double dresser. Blue curtains danced from the two wide-open balcony doors. On the bureau, neatly arranged, lay a brush, comb and mirror and an ornate silver box filled with a tangle of gold earrings and bracelets. Three sterling frames held photographs: one of me as a child, one of the two of us holding hands, and one of her standing on a balcony, her eyes fixed on some distant point, her lips drawn in an enigmatic smile. A cream colored rug with a pattern of blue flowers stretched over the pale oak floor.

On the far wall a series of built-in shelves held her collection of shells: the great pink conch, the pearlescent nautilus, the fat striated shark eye, down to the lowly clam shell and barnacle.

I stepped into the room and turned to face her nightstand. Her usual assortment of books was neatly piled underneath. She loved to read about ship wrecks and early American history, but her taste was eclectic. One might find the latest best seller or a classic piece of fiction in her pile. Her neatly folded glasses were on top of the table next to a white marble coaster.

Above the bed in nightmare slashes of vivid color hung a portrait of her. Her work, I knew without checking the signature. The woman’s orange lips stretched open in something between a scream or a laugh, her hands ripped at her wild purple and red hair while green blood ran down her arms like tears.

My sister’s portrait of me.

Remember Remember

My brain hurts today.

I’ve been trying to put together my puzzle pieces of memory, but they shape shift into nightmare phantoms, prodding me with voices of smoke and sizzle.

Remember. Remember. And you will be free.

            But what am I to remember?

The neatly joined grey walls and floors come together at perfect ninety degree angles. Overhead, a long fluorescent bulb blinks intermittently and throbs with a low wattage hum.

I hate neat lines and perfect squares.

Keys jingle jangle in the door and a chipper voice says, “Time for your medication.”

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. I want to throw my puzzle pieces in his smiling face, but I swallow my pill with a tiny white cup of water. Or so he thinks.

The puzzle pieces watch me drop the red pill down the metal toilet and laugh. They dance around me faster and faster until I bang my head against the wired glass door and scream.

I must put the pieces together, or the white coats will come back with their forget-all machine. The taste of rubber before the void.

Remember. Remember. And you will be free.

But what am I to remember?


We smile at each other across the table, and I think of you as you were, when we made so many reckless promises. Before the dreams fell and shattered, the words hurled in anger, the lies told to cover more lies.

Memories can be sweet summer days. But they can also swirl around you like smoke obscuring what you don’t want to see and cut you like so many tiny shards of glass.

You have never understood that each cut leaves a tiny scar. Now we sit at opposite ends of the table, not touching, bound yet unbound. Frightened to let go, and exhausted by reality.

You sit back in your chair and sigh. “Are you happy?” You don’t wait for me to answer. You run a hand through your hair. It’s still thick and wavy. I’ve always thought it was your best feature. “It’s time for a change,” you say.

I hear the cello call to me, pulling me to the window where I listen to the notes swirling around me, leaning close for a brief kiss then pulling away. It ends too soon, this lovely melody, and I sit as always staring out the window remembering happier days when all things seemed possible. My cat Sam comes to sit beside me, my most faithful companion now that my dancing days are over. Some nights I see you dancing in the melody and I reach out my arms, but once the music fades away,you too disappear. 

“I miss you,” I whisper.

But Sam’s purring is my only answer.

Music in the Night

Return Journey

The train gains momentum as it moves down the tracks. I am not so fond of trains as when I was a boy. Then they seemed like an adventure; now only a necessity.

I hear voices behind me. American voices. A girl says, “Mommy! Mommy! It’s just magical.”

A chatterbox.

“Hello, Monsieur.” A little girl with blonde ringlets and wide blue eyes appears before me. She gives me a wide smile. “What’s that?”

I smile. I have not smiled in a long time, and my muscles ache with the effort. “It is my treasure.”

Her mouth opens in an “O” before her mother leads her away with a quick apology.

I think of another child with dark hair and eyes. My joy. Gone for over seventy years now, she lives only in my heart. Taken from me by another train. Now I carry her mother, my last treasure, to meet her in the air at Treblinka.