He stood in an attic filled with boxes. A single light-bulb overhead illuminated only what was immediately below it. Downstairs he had thought about dialing his ex-wife to ask about his son. He had tried to hold the image of his son in his mind, tried to picture him as a man. However, only fragmented and volatile images whiplashed in his head: his son swimming in a river, a gapped tooth smile, the house he grew up in. He had thought about the idiosyncrasies of memory, the faultiness of it. The way you can’t ever remember any moment perfectly, the way consistently misremembering a memory transfigures it perpetually, the way you can’t seem to remember a fucking phone number when you most need to. He had hung up the receiver and headed to the attic.
             Just an hour ago he had been fine. He had poured himself a drink and sat on the outside patio reading Borges, listening to the evening turn dark: the song of the cicada, the slow rhythm of traffic, the fade-out of human voices. And it was particularly these sounds that triggered the memories. At first only sporadically but thirty minutes later his mind was set ablaze with images that confounded and mesmerized him. He would close his eyes and try to still the whirlwind of images. Before long, he could slip into them, immersing himself completely. 
 July 8, 1960 
             It is dusk. I’m in the middle of an overgrown field across the street from where I live. I can hear the voice of my father calling me home. His voice almost a whisper. I look up to the purpling sky, listen for a second to my own labored breathing against the summer drizzle, before I run back home. I see the face of my father untouched by the vicissitudes of time. I try to stop myself from running past him. I try, but I just storm right past him.
September 1961
             Across the street, the flames rage against the cool November night. The smell of ash fills the air, pierced by a distant siren. The house begins to crumble. My father lights a cigarette. I look up at him. His face shrouded in smoke. 
             I say.
             “Father, where will we go?”

             It was after this that he decided to head back inside, hoping to become more in tune with these images.  Some were memories that had been with him his whole life. Others, were memories forgotten deep in the recesses of his mind like old boxes in the corner of a cobwebbed-filled attic. These were the once that interested him the most. They had always been there, lurking in the depths of his subconscious, altering him in ways he could not understand.
             Winter of ’70. She speaks to me but I can’t make out what she is saying. Our breathing has fogged up the car’s window. A faulty street light illuminates her face for a few seconds and then goes back out, leaving us in shadow. I can see her lips moving. I can see her reach into her pockets and pull out a picture of herself where she can’t be older than seven. And we stare at it in the half-darkness. I can sort of make out what she is saying now. Something about her wanting me to really see her, to really know her.
             He had headed to the bathroom, splashed water on his face, and had then tried to refocus the images which were becoming harder to control.
             Sometime in ’77. The sun setting over the sea’s horizon casts a dark purple tinge over everything. I can see the silhouette of my son running across the seaside. He momentarily stops, picks up a shell and hurls it into the ocean. I’m drunk. I lie on the sand. I close my eyes. “Just for a second.” I think to myself.
             Looking at the bathroom mirror he realized how much he had aged in what seemed to have been hours. Or was it that he was only now realizing how fast time had passed, as if the memories provided some sense of scale? No. Time had not simply passed. Time had ravaged him; it had run over him like a locomotive.
             When I open my eyes again there’s nothing but darkness and the sound of waves.
             It was after this, when the memories were no more than abstract blur, that he began to panic. He had lost sense of who he was/who he had been. He had mentally shuffled through the memories he had just immersed himself in, but he no longer recognized them as his own. He had decided for the attic. Perhaps, thinking that he could find some remnants of who he had had been in that space. 
             A doctor’s office. Box illuminating a black image of a skull. Grey matter and a void there. A void that spreads all over me.
             Once in the attic, he blindly dismantles the boxes around him until he finds the dusty cover of a photo album. He takes it to the source of light. He hesitates for a moment not knowing if he should open it or just turn away. Inside only strangers stare back at him before the light goes out.
Juan Solis is still trying to figure out who or what he is.

You may also like

Back to Top