Memories Inside: Open with Caution

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

Living alone had taught David a number of important things. First and foremost, breakfast is not optional. If he didn't eat properly, he couldn't possibly focus at work. He works–well, he worked–with an aspiring Governor of a small town in Illinois. She lost the election to the incumbent. So it goes.

It was time for David to move back home. He was between jobs, and his parents were pleasant enough. Not so unpleasant as to discourage him from moving back, but not so pleasant as to warrant additional description of them here.

The second thing David learned was how to forget. Memory is a curse. Most of the time when we have it, we don't want it. And when we lose it, we don't even know how to want it back. David mastered the art of making roots wherever he went and family where he stayed. Just as easily, he picked up and moved when the next wind took him away.

David wasn't always this way, but the world made it easy to change. You can block someone on social media, delete their pictures from your phone, and soon enough, you forget what their face looked like, what their voice sounded like, along with any other inconvenient memories.

This skill served him well on the campaign trail. Politics often requires one to forget himself to become what the people want. But the people often want someone beyond human. And no human was meant to be that.

Rebecca James, the young woman who had run for Governor, was David's role model. She spoke with dignity at all times, even with her closest friends. If there was once a starry-eyed young girl who dreamed of running for office with a hopeful heart, she was surely gone. Once you start living your dreams, you stop dreaming them. Maybe something is lost then.

David dreamed of being an opera singer. Since he doesn't live this dream, it still gives him hope. He sang in college, and he was good at it, too. His audiences included the school's Board of Governors, music majors from across campus, and children's hospitals. But getting into law school took priority.

On one particular day, his audience was the back of his shower head.

"Stop being so loud in there!" his mother shouted.

David obeyed.

"There's a box of stuff in the attic for you," his dad mentioned once David had finished his first shower back at home. "Go check it out."

David obeyed.


The box was more of a chest. Like something a pirate would have dug up from his final raid before retirement. David didn't recall owning such a thing. He figured his parents tossed all the stuff they found into this fairly convenient package for his perusal. He was correct.

The first thing he found was a Sony Discman. The Walkman was coming back in fashion. Fashion is unpredictable. If it had been a Walkman, David might have felt proud of his discovery. But his technology was not old enough to be retro and not new enough to be anything but obsolete. That's just how these things go.

He got the Discman on his seventh birthday because it was already clear to his parents that he wanted to sing opera. This gift would spare them from having to hear Aida blasting from the family's CD player in the living room. A pair of cheap headphones were attached to it, which he rolled around the Discman. He placed the unit gently beside him. Supposedly, those things can survive anything, but there's no need to test that.

Next was a small wooden cross. It was not adorned. Just wooden. A little rough around the edges, perhaps by design. David had almost forgotten he believes in God. A dangerous thing to forget if the stories are true. He was thankful for the reminder.

The third thing living alone had taught David was dealing with pain. A few drinks at the right time can blunt the worst life has to offer. He knew how to create holes that pain could spill right out of.

And then he found her. Sarah, in all her beauty. She sat patiently on the piece of glossy paper, receiving a kiss on her cheek from a younger version of David. Salt water waited in serenity, its waves pausing for the camera. The clouds protected the lens from the sun so both figures could be seen clearly. Her eyes, filled with delight, looked out of the page at the present David. She was once his brown-eyed girl, with long brown hair to match.

He ran his finger across her cheek. For a second, he might have remembered what her skin felt like...

Suddenly, his searching grew frantic. He tried to feel enough so he could cry. But he couldn't. He looked for any fistful of meaning to take like a bottle of pills, hoping he could remember what it felt like to be in love. Or alive. He would settle for alive.

But after tearing through unsigned yearbooks, baby clothes, and dust bunnies, all he found was an empty CD case.

David sat on the ground, his heart still racing. There was a hole inside him, one that couldn't be filled by emptying a bottle. Despondent, he reached for his Discman and tossed on its headphones.

For a moment, the world went quiet.

Silent night, holy night

It was Sarah's voice. David was accompanying her on the piano.

All is calm, all is bright

Suddenly, he's sitting next to her in the empty recital hall.

"Let's try that intro again, baby," she says to him. He smiles and nods. His piano isn't great, but he's getting better.

His memory flashes to a sunset. They sit beneath an oak tree.

"Are you ever going to kiss me?" she asks.

"If you want it, come and get it," David responds.

They kiss.

They make love.

They hold each other for hours.

They're happy. Finally, they're happy.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child

"Please, can you tell me what's going on here?"

"No David, no. I can not tell you what's going on here."

"Okay. I trust you. I love you."

"Thank you."

She gives him a half-hearted peck on the lips and walks into the night.

Holy infant so tender and mild.

They stand in front of the fire, facing one another.

"I lost him," she says, looking down.

"You lost him? How did you lose him? Like in a supermarket?"

Her eyes light like a sky on fire. "You have a joke for everything, don't you?"

A pause.

"I lost him, David. He's gone," she repeats.

"This wasn't supposed to happen," he says.

"No shit it wasn't supposed to happen! We're just kids, David. We're kids who lost a kid. It was an accident. I couldn't stop it."

"It wasn't supposed to happen."

"Well it did."

"I can't handle that."

"And you think I can?" She waits. "I don't need this right now. I can't stand this right now."

"Then go," he points to the door.

And she goes. They never speak to one another again.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

The fourth thing living alone had taught David was that everything happens for a reason. Therefore, everything can happen for any reason. And sometimes that reason is there aren't enough miracles to go around. David and Sarah's son didn't live to learn that lesson the hard way. David and Sarah did.

He still loved her. They were just kids. And maybe there was a version of that story where the magnitude of the world didn't slowly drive them apart. But the only version of the story left is on that ocean front with a kiss on the beach.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

It's only when David falls asleep, when the conscious mind rests, that father and son sleep together.

Silent night, holy night.

He sleeps with Sarah, his baby, and they live as one happy family.

Son of God, love's pure light.

They go back to that same beach every year.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face.

They sit in front of their fireplace in the winter to keep warm, sing opera together, and tolerate David's piano performances.

With the dawn of redeeming grace.

They climb oak trees in the summer.

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

And once David wakes, he carries no recollection of these perfect times into his real life. This was the second thing living alone had taught David.

David closes the chest, a single tear rolling down his cheek. As soon as he remembers, he wishes he would forget. Fortunately, he will. Sooner or later.

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sarah whispers to him.

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