I don’t know what made me think of it. Maybe it was that weird thing I found when I was home for Dad’s funeral. Maybe it was that random day trip I took back into the city last month. Either way, I found myself having weird flashes of memory. I don’t really mean “flash”, what I experience is more like a instinct with details. Not with any useful details, of course. Just images from the camera that is my eyes. A camera that took photos that are now fuzzy, covered it specks and scratches that barely allow me to make out what they depicted anymore. A city sidewalk, an alley, a big metal door, and a glimpse of my sister’s leg and foot dangling over the edge of a… fire escape.
The images weren’t constantly distracting me from my work. They were more haunting me. They’d sneak into my mind when I least expected it. I’d be in a meeting and someone would say a word and suddenly I’d find myself thinking about a time I heard that word around one of those images.
When I would think about these memories and trigger words, I’d find myself fiddling with that weird thing I stumbled across when I was home last spring. It was this object that was a dark, cloudy blue color that physically resembled a cross between a bar of soap and one of my mom’s old worry stones. A worry stone is a flat, oblong disc made of some kind of polished stone. They have a kind of indentation in them for your thumb to rub when you are nervous, concerned or just worrying about something. It’s funny. Mom would always tell me that we shouldn’t worry whenever things would get scary. Things got scary a lot when we were kids. Mom and Dad would fight a lot. Whenever we’d move to a new place, one of the first things Jill and I would do was explore. Dad would always tell us not to, but we knew we had to find the best hiding places for when they’d start yelling at each other.
We lived in the city for a couple years when we were teenagers. I was 12 and Jill was 16. We found a few good hiding places in the building we lived in but the place we settled on was our apartment’s fire escape. Is that what I was remembering? It must have been.
The fire escape didn’t afford us much secrecy. I mean, Mom and Dad could always just look out the window and see us, but somehow, it was enough insulation from them for us to feel OK about life. We could felt high up, we could see a ways down either direction of the alley behind our building and it was quiet.
When we’d finally come back in, it would be quiet, too. But I knew that’s because the volcanoes were done erupting and the lava was still hot. And Mom had her worry stone that she was rubbing like crazy.
Then there was Uncle Julio. He wasn’t our real uncle, but he treated us like he was. He was another kind of escape for us. I remember how he had hired us to help him with his junk business.
What was that junk, anyway? It was weird junk. Bits and pieces of things that were clearly meant to fit together with other bits and pieces of things but I had no idea what. He had a little kind of shop in the basement of our apartment building.
I wonder what ever happened to that guy…
We moved away before I got to middle school and before Jill finished high school. That whole part of my life seems like those fuzzy memory photos now. Something was pulling me to those old memories. I couldn’t seem to make them any less fuzzy just by thinking about them. It was like, I’d lost my way inside my mind and couldn’t find my way back in time.
That’s why I decided to find my way back to that old neighborhood. I had the feeling that it would bring back plenty of old memories. I hoped they would help pull some of those old memory photos into better focus…
So, I took the day off from work and headed back into the city. As I look back on that trip, I don’t remember much of the getting there, but boy do I remember seeing that old building for the first time in over a decade. All six stories of it’s pre-war glory. All kinds of images flooded my mind. I remembered my father teaching me how to ride a bike and then yelling at me for not scrubbing the bathroom faucets clean enough. I remember my mother, doting over us as we went off to our new schools for the first time and then yelling at us for getting bad grades. I remembered Uncle Julio and his junk and some of his customers.
I remembered Jill, getting out of bed one night and climbing out to and up the fire escape. Where did she go? Was she following someone up there? Why didn’t I follow her? Or did I follow her?
I suddenly found myself obsessing over an entirely new set of memories…