Authors: Pierce Youatt
Copyright © 2012 Pierce Youatt
All Rights Reserved
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Before we go any further, I feel like I need to make something clear. I am writing from memory. Unlikely though parts of my story will inevitably seem, I am transcribing my memories in their entirety, as accurately as possible, to the best of my ability. You may not believe that, especially once you've begun reading. That's fine. I'm not asking you to take my memories at face value. While they may match up perfectly with events as they truly happened, I don't mind allowing for the possibility that they don't. In fact, I think it's safe to say that our memories are rarely accurate. That's actually why I'm doing this.
See, I recently came to realize that my perception has been compromised, and that's to say nothing of my memory. It's widely accepted that memory is highly unreliable, but our perception is not above reproach either. Even if you remember things clearly, who's to say you really saw what you thought you saw, or heard what you thought you heard? Add to that the fact that you only remember a tiny fraction of everything you experience, and that your memories are slowly eroding, that the artifacts of life gradually fade from your mind. We like to believe that our senses and memories are objective, but I don't think that's true.
Whatever the truth is, I want you to consider something before you read another page. Every day is a mountain of experience, and the few memories you hold on to are mountain peaks made into islands by a rising tide of time. In all the hours, all the days of your life you can't remember, what happened? How did you fill the time? Without proof, how can you be sure of what did or didn't happen? How do you know you're not actually creating memories by trying to recall them? How can you measure the influence of stray thoughts, dreams, or even your imagination? These are the same memories that shape our understanding of the world.
And that is why I have written this story down. While parts may strain credulity, these are the only memories I have of what happened. The following pages contain critical events from a difficult time in my life. If parts seem unbelievable, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the reality of past events is the non-fiction version of my fictional memory. Or maybe there's more truth in fiction than in fact. Either way, by writing it all down I'll have a record, a hard copy of what I once remembered. That's got to be worth something.
I realized my eyes were open. That's how I knew I was awake. I had been dreaming, but I couldn't remember my dream. All I could remember was that it had been confusing and exciting. As the dream went on, I began to notice that the things that were happening didn't make sense and that I had the freedom to do what I wanted. I wasn't on rails. As I started to make my own decisions and explore the world around me, I realized that I was dreaming. The moment I gained total control, I found there was nothing left to do. I realized my eyes were open.
I laid there for a little while, staring up at the ceiling of my tiny studio apartment. The building had been a hotel once. I'm not sure when it became an apartment building, but you could still see evidence of its previous life as a different kind of rental property. For example, there was the fact that the entire ground floor was actually a parking garage. There was the little office by the front entrance of the building, off the mail room that used to be a lobby. Outside the old lobby was one of two stairwells that led up to the rooms. The other stairwell snaked up the back of the building and led to what was now an undersized laundry room with a single washer and dryer. Once upon a time it might've held the ice machine, or maybe it had been the custodial closet. From where I was laying, I could see another hotel legacy – the tracks that once held closet doors in front of what was now my kitchenette. That's right, they managed to fit cupboards, drawers, a sink, a refrigerator, and an oven into what was once a closet. There was even a single row of tiles across the floor in front of the whole thing, bordered by the old closet door track. I often wondered why they hadn't taken the tracks out, but I guess from their perspective, why bother? People aren't going to turn down a lease because of old closet tracks in their kitchenette.
I dragged myself out of bed to the bathroom, which was another little hotel treat. The vanity was separated from the toilet and shower by a second door, and the second section of the bathroom had just enough floor space to allow a particularly imaginative person room to turn around. I liked my divided bathroom, though. With the door shut, the shower room was so small that it filled up with steam almost instantly. It was like having a sauna thrown in for free. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and reached for my toothpaste. I was disappointed to find the tube empty. I had been sure there was plenty left. I even tried squeezing systematically from the back of the roll, and while it smelled delightfully minty, nothing seemed to come out. On top of that, it looked like I was out of mouthwash, too. At that point I figured the whole thing was a wash and decided to cut my losses.
The steam room shower was perfect. I liked to leave the lights off to enhance the atmosphere. With a room that small, everything was always within reach, including my towel. I didn't even have to grope for it in the dark. It was right there at my fingertips. When I was relatively dry – still damp from the steam – I tossed the towel over the shower bar and opened the door to artificial light and the day ahead.
I checked my phone and got dressed. I had plenty of time and I wasn't in a rush, but it was still taking me a long time to walk places. The swelling in my knee had finally gone down, so that now one was just a little bit puffier than the other. It's not like it hurt constantly, I just couldn't bend or straighten it all the way. The doctor said there was probably a bucket handle tear in the cartilage. As much as anything, it was a hassle. I cursed myself out for it on a daily basis. I gathered my things for class with a little limp. They were scattered all over the room. I had insisted on staying enrolled through fall semester. As things got tougher and more complicated with my family, I had wanted to hang on to the parts of my life that were still normal.
Over the past year, it felt like I had lost all the in between times. The time for hanging out with friends just disappeared. The hours I used to spend in front of the computer or television evaporated. Eventually, I even lost the time I spent studying and doing homework. My professors were really nice about it. As a matter of fact, they were downright accommodating. I was able to take my finals in the spring, not that it was easy to get my head back in the game. I still had to make up all the work I missed in the fall, though. There was a mountain of it. I had reduced my enrollment for spring semester, but it was tough keeping pace. There were times I wondered if I would ever catch up again.
I collected the last couple items I needed for class and headed out. I was out the door and on the street before I realized I'd forgotten my phone. Even though I wasn't expecting any calls, I felt naked without it. It was too late though. There was no going back. The stairs were the worst part with my knee banged up, and they seemed to take forever. Who was I going to talk to, anyway? I hadn't spoken to my mother in weeks, not since the incident. She had called a couple times, but I ignored it each time. I tried to remind myself that it was because I was angry, not because I was ashamed. Maybe I felt ashamed of myself and maybe I didn't, but something more than just anger and frustration bubbled up when she called.
I limped on to class. The sidewalks were pretty much clear, but there was still some stubborn snow in scattered drifts here and there. I would say it was on the grass, but there didn't seem to be any in sight. That's kind of how early March is in Michigan. It's just gray. Gray and brown. It's not really winter anymore, but it's not exactly spring yet, either. The sky was gray that day, too. Does it count as sky when you can't see any blue? All I could see was uniform cloud cover. The sun was constantly hidden from view; the day just got lighter and darker. Not very nice.
I made it to class with time to spare, which would've cheered me up a little bit if the reward hadn't been sitting in the back of a lecture hall without my phone while everyone else shuffled in. The class itself was mind numbing, and I think everyone was in on it. The professor, too. They sold an entire book made up of notes for the class. I'm not kidding. Everything the professor wrote on the board, every diagram he used, was already in this book that you could buy in advance. What really killed me was that the pages were divided into two columns. On the left were all the prewritten notes and diagrams. On the right were empty lines for you to write...what, exactly? What was the point of attending class when you already had all the notes? I did it anyway, though. I figured it was a good habit. And it got me out of the house, which seemed healthy if nothing else.
After class I walked to the cafeteria, debating the value of my education. I reasoned that performing the exact same lectures every year was probably excellent practice from an accreditation standpoint. I've heard people say that you get out of school what you put into it. Sometimes value was hard to find. Since the cafeteria was a bit hit-or-miss, I was going to have a salad with my lunch. Even that managed to be a disappointment. They were out of lettuce.
It's at this point that I should probably be up front about something. I don't know how it looked to outside observers, but I'm sure there were people who would've described me as depressed. I'm not talking about how much I had my heart set on having salad for lunch, I mean clinically, medically depressed. Maybe I was. I'm not ruling that out as a possibility. However, that's not how I saw it. I would not have said I was depressed.
It goes back to what I was saying earlier. It seemed like I had lost all the middles. My life was all extremes for a while there. I had been through some tough stuff. My happy scale got re-calibrated. You know, when you've gone through a really difficult experience, you get a new perspective for a while. You think about what's really important in life and what doesn't matter at all. When you look at life that way, a lot of the things people get worked up over seem pretty insignificant. The problem with looking at life that way is that most of the day-to-day stuff doesn't matter much anymore. I'd been having some trouble with motivation lately. It hadn't helped with my mountain of homework. Or with taking notes in the class where they sold books of them prewritten.
The sky was dark when I left the cafeteria, and a nasty wind was starting to blow. I hunched my shoulders and started the long walk home. At first, I only felt a couple tiny flecks of water on my face and hands. There was still hope I'd make it home before the rain really started. Before I made it half way, the sky opened up and I was soaked to the bone. It wasn't quite cold enough for snow, but the water felt like ice. I was too wet and cold to think straight, and I couldn't limp home fast enough. The rain didn't let up, and by the time I made it back to my apartment building it was so dark that cars were driving with their lights on.
The stairwell and hallway leading to my door were dimly lit. The hall lights were normally shut off during the day, and it was still early afternoon. I fumbled with my keys, trying to unlock the door. It didn't help that I was soaking wet and shivering. I practically fell through the doorway when I finally got in and immediately started stripping off my sopping clothing. My jacket, I hung up. My shirt and jeans made puddles on the bathroom floor. I went straight to the shower to retrieve my trusty green towel from the curtain rod. It was still damp from the morning, but drier than me. I started to towel off. The bathroom was pitch black. I'd left the blinds closed earlier in the morning, and with the sun hidden away on top of that, the place was like a cave. I reached for the light switch near the vanity and flipped it on.
My reflection in the mirror was wrong. It took me a second to work out why. The person staring back at me was me. That was okay. But the towel draped over my head, the towel I was touching with both of my hands, was completely invisible. I leaned closer to the mirror to get a better look. No towel. What the fuck. I flung the invisible towel from my head and heard it hit the wet tile floor with a resounding plop. I slipped and stumbled out the bathroom door and pulled it shut behind me. My heart was pounding. Something very strange was going on here.
I left the rest of the lights off and limped over to the bed where I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around myself. I returned to the overcast gloom of the entryway. Light from the bathroom reflected off the rainwater on the tile beneath the door, and I stood there, staring at it as I gathered my courage. Obviously, my towel was not invisible. I remembered buying it. It had not been invisible when I'd bought it. I had even used it that morning. It had still been damp when I'd picked it up seconds earlier. It hadn't been invisible that morning, had it? I thought back through my morning routine. I couldn't remember actually looking at the towel because I'd showered in the dark. I had never technically seen it that morning. But what I was considering was ridiculous. Invisible towels do not exist. Maybe I had low blood sugar or something. Or maybe it was one of those head rush things where you stand up too fast and your vision gets all fuzzy and full of static. I mean, no, I hadn't gotten any head rushes lately, but the invisible towel phenomenon had to be an illusion.