Alyssa E.

About Time

“About time I got out of that cookie,” the fortune slip said in small red print. The Chinese restaurant was dimly lit, with an excited yet subdued humming of voices filling the air. I looked down at my lucky numbers: 6, 2, 36, 28, 10, 14. “All even numbers,” I heard Brigit comment over my shoulder. Did any of ours match up? No. The cookie was dry and crunchy in my mouth. I savored it not for its taste, but for the moment, knowing full well that these small packages signified the inevitable end of our outing. Despite my attempt to buy us some time, the bill was on the table and soon our chairs were scraping the floor as we stood up to put on our coats. “Thank you, have a good night,” smiled the waiter before disappearing into the sea of tables. In no time at all, we were out the heavy wooden doors, greeted by the harsh reality of the frosty winter breeze as we crossed the street…

I blink and suddenly find my eyes readjusting to new surroundings. I am sitting at my desk with a pile of old papers in front of me, and the wrinkled, aged fortune slip resting in my hand. In a flash, I remember; I had finally resolved to clean out my desk drawers and the tiny strip of paper, a link to my past, had fluttered out from inside the cover of my second grade writing journal. That memory had been like a hidden footprint for years that was only just being rediscovered. I had long since forgotten about Brigit, who had been my best childhood friend until she moved away the night after our dinner at the Chinese restaurant down town. We had been inseparable since she moved two houses down when we were five years old – but why can’t I remember anything more about our time spent together? There must be tons of memories buried so deeply under everything else that I had forgotten they were there. It is like I have lost all those early years of friendship. If I only had more memories I could travel back in time to recover them. I have so briefly peeked into that dusty window of my childhood, and now I suddenly have the urge to look deeper through that window and remember for the sake of remembering.

I sit back in my chair and concentrate, allowing my mind to flash back to the night at the Chinese restaurant, searching the memory for a clue that might lead me to another. If only I had written something down – anything – that would have preserved another memory like the eternal imprint of a telltale fossil in a rock. All the while, my mind tries to sift through the jumble of memories it holds, hoping to emerge with buried treasure, but comes up with nothing.

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The car swerves around the bend at a speed bordering out of control, dangerously close to the immense rock cliff. Over hills, around cloves of trees, and dipping down into narrow valleys, the car lazily races across the countryside…Finally it nears its destination – but first it must maneuver through a maze of highways at top speed. I am the driver. I speed across stretches of roads, unable to stop or slow down, and barely make all of the correct turns – but I am invincible…The house is painted a light blue gray with white shutters. It is open and breezy with a paradisiacal atmosphere – peaceful and heavenly. When I arrive, I am greeted at the crisp, white doorstep, although I walk right in and know the house as if it is my own. I am surrounded by arrays of windows on all sides, through which a bright yellow sun shines its rays, making a hanging stained glass ornament emit its bold red hues down from the center of the low, bright ceiling -

I awaken from the dream unexpectedly, suspended for a few moments on the border of unconsciousness and reality. Then it hits me and suddenly I’m wide awake. I’ve seen that stained glass ornament before. I’ve seen it with Brigit in the tiny collectables store in town. I remember our mothers would take us there after we ate lunch at “Pete’s Pizza” next door. I remember the day we discovered those stained glass sun-catchers, so delicate yet so grand. We delighted in the colorful, magical patterns they made on the floor as they majestically turned, suspended by strings, powered by the mighty sun…

I flip past memories like pages of a book, walking down the bustling sidewalk to the beat of my Walkman, now thirty-six seconds into track ten. As I wait at the lights for the “Walk” signal, I count down the seconds on the meter with anticipation, and can feel the memories making their way up closer to the surface with each advancing beep. Ten, nine, eight,…as I wait, I catch the distinct, worn store sign, “Mementos,” so distantly familiar... three, two, one. Finally, the signal comes on. I pause on the edge of the sidewalk for a second or two to readjust my hat, which threatens to be blown off by the violent, gusty wind. With my eyes locked on the store sign, I take a fateful step into the street. At that exact moment, the sun hits a piece of glass hanging in the store window, sending a blinding flash of light into my eyes.

In the hospital they tell me it was a drunk driver. It wasn’t my fault. They tell me I had been crossing the street on a crosswalk and a Sudan, license plate 4XCB806, went through the red light. I might have heard it coming, or I might not have – they’re not sure. I was listening to a red Sony Walkman. I don’t remember what was in that Walkman. They tell me I won’t be likely to remember anything from before.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.