It is so incredibly hard posting this story. First, because the editor in me writhes in pain and screams out changes that should be made as I look at it! It’s really hard letting people see it without doing MAJOR edits on it first. But this is how I wrote it when I was seventeen – almost twenty years ago, and I’m going to keep it this way for now.
It’s also hard because it is such a personal piece for me. It means opening up a part of me for anyone and everyone to see. I’m handing you my soul, my life, and I don’t know if anyone will even care or not. But I’m all about taking risks, making leaps and bounds, these days. So, here is Remember.
The click of her heels hitting the cement echoed through the deserted street. She quickened her already fast pace as if hoping to beat out the coldness that had more closely crept up in an unintentional race. A slight breeze suddenly arose, joining the race and adding a new challenge, which she attempted to thwart by pulling her coat closer around her and letting the time between when her heels hit the ground decrease.
For a quick second she let her eyes look up at the looming mountains in the near distance. The autumn colors were quickly taking over, and the scene made her breath catch for a moment and a moment alone. She thought the mountains looked beautiful, but apparently the coldness didn’t think so. She could feel the competition closing in on her, and just before she cast her eyes back down she caught sight of a golden maple leaf slowly and somehow pleasantly making its way to the hard frostbitten grass. She wondered how the leaf could have so much time to fall so slowly, gently and happily to the cold, hard and uncaring ground. The woman shrugged and continued down the still empty street.
“You’ve got to be crazy to walk in this cold weather,” so many people had told her.
“Maybe,” she always replied. “But it’s my only chance to be out in the open, to enjoy Mother Nature.”
She didn’t bother to look up as she crossed the last street before her block. There usually weren’t even any cars out in this sort of bitter coldness, and if so, she knew she would have heard the growl of their angry engines trying to defy the weather.
Three more houses, she thought, as she skipped over the gutter and onto the new sidewalk. Two more house. She passes one more as she once again quickened her steps and lengthened her stride. One more house . . . and . . . home! came the final triumphant thought as she shoved a key into the door knob, jiggled it around, turned the knob, shoved the door open and stumbled into the surprisingly warm house.
“How did it get this warm in here?” she asked the house, plopping down into the nearest chair and closing her eyes.
“Well, you didn’t expect me to wait in the cold just because you walked home in it, did you?” came a deep an unfamiliar voice.
Her eyes popped open to see an unfamiliar man standing a few feet away from her with a steaming cup in his hand.
“Wh—who are you, and what are you doing in my house?” she asked as she realized with great surprise that she wasn’t afraid.
The man pondered while sipping a quick drink of his unknown liquid. “I am—a sage of sorts, I suppose you could say,” he finally answered.
“A sage?” the woman asked with disbelief. “Am I dreaming?”
“Only if you choose to let it be,” the man responded quickly this time. “But it can also be as real as you choose it to be. You decide how real it is. The power of the mind is much greater than most people realize.”
“A sage,” she muttered, not sure what to believe. “All right, fine. You’re a sage, but what about my other question—what are you doing here?”
“The real questions should be what are you you doing here?”
“Me? This is my house.”
“But isn’t that your nature?” He pointed a finger to the window, a window that held a stunning autumn scene out of its glass frame.
“Well . . . yes, but what does that have to do with anything?” she questioned as she let the mass of confusion she was feeling play on her face.
“It has everything to do with everything,” the words slowly came out. “Or don’t you remember?” He finally let his hand fall back to his side, but his sparkling eyes continued to point to the glass window.
The woman left the question rhetorical as she thought it had been intended. She didn’t know whether she was dreaming or not, but no matter. For some reason she wanted to listen to this—sage. Straightening herself in the hard chair, she once again realized how warm it was and began taking off her coat and gloves. She had forgotten about them with the intrusion of this stranger.
The man must have heard her movement and turned to face her. He gave her a slight smile and said, “You’re crazy to walk in that coldness.”
“Maybe,” came her repetitious replay. “But it’s my only chance to be out in the open, to enjoy Mother Nature.”
“Enjoy Mother Nature? I wouldn’t exactly call a cracked sidewalk and a tar-lined road Mother Nature.”
Slowly she asked, “What do you mean?” although she was already beginning to understand him. But he put the picture—her own picture—before her anyway.
“You’re getting ready to leave work; your co-workers tell you how crazy you are as you slip your coat on. You give them the same response you just gave me, pulling your coat tighter around you and yanking up the collar to keep your neck warm. Then you say goodbye, head out the door and cast your eyes down to the cement to keep the cold from biting them out. Yes, I do admit, occasionally you glance up at the mountains whose melancholy mood you think describes you, or by chance notice a leaf taking its time sinking to the ground. But usually you don’t even look up for cars.” He paused for a moment, and only a moment, then went on. “When are you going to be like that leaf you saw today?”
“I don’t have time,” she began her futile protest.
“Time? Have you even forgotten what time is? Didn’t you once write a poem about that?”
This time he meant for an answer, but she couldn’t give him one.
“Don’t you remember ten years ago when you wanted more than anything to get out and explore—really explore? That was when you knew the true meaning of time, the true meaning of nature.”
“And don’t you remember ten years ago when the crystal ball that held that desire was shattered by reality and the fact that I was only a little insignificant teenager?” she shot back.
“But you’re not a teenager anymore,” he rebuked. “And those pieces weren’t broken so small that you can’t glue them back together now. Remember those days you ached so desperately for those things in that crystal ball, and your fingers desperately itched for a million pencils and pieces of paper to write it all down. Don’t you remember? There’s a painted rock still out there waiting for you. Remember.”
A painted rock. The words did spur a remembrance. But it was Painted Rock—not a painted rock, but Painted Rock, Nevada. Yes, she remembered, and suddenly it all came rushing back. Suddenly, all the stories, the dreams, the fantasies came back, hitting her like an unexpected tidal wave in the middle of a calmed morning ocean.
“Remember,” he again prodded.
“I do,” came her faint reply as a glistening tear escaped her eye and trickled down her cheek—something that hadn’t happened for quite awhile.
“Then go to it,” he tempted. “Go find those memories your Irish friend sings about—the ones you left behind.”
“It doesn’t matter how, just as long as you do it.”
The idea was almost too appealing. How she had ached to find those memories, to return and reclaim her thoughts. How her fingers had itched for those pencils and papers, but she had never gotten the chance, and it had torn her and wrenched at her until the final piece from that crystal ball had fallen, and she had . . . forgotten.
“But if what you say is true, and I have forgotten—”
“Ah, but the thing with the word forgotten,” she was interrupted again, “is that it has an opposite, a word that can change it all around and make things turn out right; remember.”
Remember. She looked out the window just in time to see a golden maple leaf slowly falling at the same moment another tear slid down her cheek.
Remember. She took her un-gloved hand and brushed away the tear, then quickly shoved it into the glove. The other hand followed. Pulling her coat on and yanking the collar up around her neck, she stood up.
“Where are you going?” the sage asked as she walked past him to the front door.
“For a walk,” she stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
“You’re crazy,” he told her with a grin.
“I know. But I need to be out in the open, enjoy Mother Nature. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even see if I can find some way of getting myself—” She paused, turning around to find that the stranger was no longer there. “To Painted Rock,” she finished with upturned lips. “Maybe I’ll see about finding those memories, and this time I won’t forget.”
Remember. She stepped outside and breathed in the crisp night air. She let her eyes glance upward into the sky whose daylight and confusion had finally retreated behind the gates of the western mountains. The moon, full and smiling, cast its pale glow down upon her, and she returned the smile at the memory. The click of her heels hitting the cement echoed through the deserted street, and she slowed her already leisure pace, just like a leaf slowly and pleasantly falling to the ground. Remember.