Go home, she said, and write for 50 minutes about memory.
Go home, and write for 50 minutes about memory.
Whatever you like.
I took that literally and sort of made up fake memories.
If there were a clock in my room, it would be ticking. Loudly.
Marking off the moments I spend chair tilted back, eyes upward. The ceiling still looks the same. Boring. Off white. Not like the ceiling of my old room.
There, I used to stand on the headboard of my cream and pink bed and create constellations, sticking stars to their sky with sticky-tack the color of a blue raspberry, whatever that is. Around them were dirty finger print comets, dragged across the white sky as I balanced myself on that inch of headboard.
Whenever I’d added a couple more heavenly bodies to the starry array, I couldn’t wait for dark to come so I could see my self-created universe free from the blemishes of an five-year-old giant for the first time. The greeny-yellow-white of my stars’ glow was not that of the faraway pinpricks we wish on at night, but that which everyone under ten associates with aliens. And aliens, of course, invade earth only to be defeated by some hero or other, who inevitably dies at some point and the aliens return.
The cycle continues.
It’s like aliens, she said, explaining the food chain. One big circle.
Aliens? an older and therefore more disbelieving student asks scornfully.
Aliens, I affirm, enraptured by our teacher.
I don’t get it, is the inevitable apathetic rejoinder.
“You wouldn’t!” I should have shouted in my shrill kindergardener’s voice. Only someone who’d been an intergalactic hero could understand how the food chain relates to aliens. Big aliens eat the little aliens. And if you aren’t a big enough hero, you get eaten too. Big fish, little fish. Red fish, blue fish. Simple as that.
Such were the rules of alien warfare as I laid them out lying in bed staring at the hypnotic heavens six feet above my head. Battle after battle was fought in the air above me, until at last the F.O.G. (Federation of Good) called T.O. until the next night, so their commander could go back to being a little blonde girl with school the next morning and an inability to stay awake past 10 o’clock P.M.
When the ball dropped on Times Square in 2004, however, that was all over. Commander of the F.O.G. no longer, and a whole three years older, I was yawning at midnight when the champagne cork hit the ceiling and someone accidentally refilled my glass not with Martinelli’s, but with a little bit of the bubbly. Thirty seconds later, a choking and spitting Electra was led up to bed, with the comforting knowledge that someone would dye the champagne blue the next year.
And so I stared at the blue stick-tack at the edges of my stars, for a few seconds before I flicked out the lights, the taste of perfectly golden champagne still on my tongue.
No one ever dyed the champagne blue. I forgot by February and I would be surprised to learn that anyone else even remembered the promise the next day. But I didn’t mind; I got to see green beer a few years later at a neighbor’s St. Patty’s Day party. And just about green everything else. Green chocolate even! My friends assure me it was very good and normal chocolate, but I’ll never know as I couldn’t bring myself to bring something shaped like a Hersheys bar to my mouth if it was any other color than brown. Green is arugula. Green is celery. Green is mould. A green chocolate bar wasn’t about to make it past my defenses.
I did however reduce myself to cannibalism in the event of a chocolate Santa Clause given by some forgotten angel to my family at christmastime one year. It was the size of my littlest brother. Quite little at the time, but huge for a chocolate Santa Clause. He stood on his own two feet under the Christmas tree, smiling out at the room with his jolly brown face and happy button-nose, which I later devoured as the first piece to come off him.