I started to keep track of everything at a very young age. It began in second or third grade during independent study. I, along with four other kids, huddled excitedly around the boy who was speaking of his grandmother. He stood up as we formed a circle around him on the floor. Speaking softly, he said, “She doesn’t remember anything.” These words rang in my ears for days. I wondered what I would do if I lost all my memories. All of my life, memories have remained a vital sense of my existence and power. Memories are what create ideas that form into poetry, screenplays, business platforms, and much more. Without memories and experiences, all of this would cease to exist. When I was young, my understanding surrounding memories was fairly simple. I understood that what happened to me, what I thought and felt, was important, and more importantly was mine to share. I wanted to remember everything. If I foolishly chose to forget, that information could never be used. I wanted to effect people, and although unconsciously at the time, I think I knew memories could do that.
I began keeping journals of important events and saving all letters and notes. I kept track of the weather, my illnesses, and at some point, my meals. The years went on and the stacks of notebooks began to fill more than shoeboxes. It wasn’t until around ninth grade or so when I decided to go back through everything. As I read through passages I found myself remembering those places, feelings, and people without fault. These passages took me back to feelings I had long forgotten, some with simple sentences of dialogue that immediately flashed scenes into my mind. I wasn’t sure what to think. I was left sitting on my bedroom floor with years compressed into words scribbled in spiral notebooks around me.
My journals changed from this point. The first consisted of documenting events in a sensory manner. I recorded images exactly as they were in my mind, before they would escape me forever. For the second journal I started keeping tabs on my thoughts on various topics, as well as lists. “A Recollection of Dreams,” “Thoughts about Sadness,” “Dates and Thoughts,” and “Thoughts about The Future,” just to name a few. When I look back at these, I can see myself at those specific points in time. I can remember writing each of them. I may not know whom I am going to be in the future, but I am happy to say I will know exactly how I got there. I believe in documentation.
Right now, you mustn’t forget that you—yes, you—know little to nothing. You reluctantly accept this. You accept the inevitable stupidity that is born from youth. So with each day, month and year gained, you giggle with excitement, because it’s just a few days now until you shake off your idiocy and become omniscient. And wouldn’t that be grand?
So you wait. You wait and you wait and you wait and you wait. And then the 35,405th day of your life comes knocking at your doorstep and you’re thinking, “What the heck? I’ve been tricked, bamboozled!” because you’ve reached the ripe old age of 97, and in all that time you’re still finding yourself asking questions like”Why are we here?” and “Where’d I leave that gosh darn remote?” And it suddenly dawns on you that it had all been a ruse. A ploy to keep your mouth shut at the table, so that the “grown-ups” could have their talks without your interruption. You realize that you’re never going to be touched by some grand enlightenment, exempting of course the one you just made, nor will you ever come to an epiphany that carries all the answers to life’s many questions.
…The point is, all the “Pop-pop”s have failed to recognize the already knowledgeable and quick kids before them. They see a young face and are fast to make the assumption that because the person is young, they must know little. A child with brains? Fantasy! But this is simply not so; there are kids with brains— I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them—I swear. Take a moment to think of your last encounters with a kid. They were exuberant, no? Happy to live, eager to learn, so unapologetically themselves and so unconcerned about putting on airs. And dare I ask, what is wrong with this?
During my time in high school, some of my most enriching learning experiences have been through volunteer work with service organizations, both in and out of the country. The summer after my sophomore year I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to volunteer for an organization called Safe Passage. This organization supports children and families who make their living by scavenging through the city dump. After having this experience, I could envision myself working and learning on a deeper level for the Field Work Term at Safe Passage or a similar organization. I am excited about the possibilities of using my increasing proficiency in Spanish and my personal interest in nutrition to make a difference in the world. During my junior year, I had an equally fulfilling service learning experience with Habitat For Humanity in West Virginia. Through working to revitalize houses of families in need, I was once again reminded of how important it is to help others who are less fortunate than you are. During the trip, I also had the opportunity to interview and then create a multimedia documentary on a local resident who had endured great hardship throughout his life. Through this experience, I learned how healing the process of telling your personal story can be, and how much we can learn from each other. I can see myself doing some type of documentary work in the future.
“We’ll be back. Clean as much as you can; anything you find, you keep. Burn what remains.”
The sergeant pressed a button, getting ready to drive away. The cigar in his mouth glowed bright orange, violent orange, burning, lying orange. Something stopped him from driving away.
“Uh… look. Um… be careful. There’s a lot of…just be careful, OK?”
Then he was gone, leaving a cloud of cigar smoke in his wake, a ghost of old worlds past and gone. The warm dry air, a current that chapped skin and dried the dead, blew through the abandoned city; the wind carried the scent of rust and burnt meat and radiation, almost gone, just whispers here and there. It makes your head buzz. The radiation, I mean. Makes it feel like you have bees in your skull, a shuddering buzzing crawling sensation.
The streets were dry and the sky was a sickly yellow.
So I swept.
I swept and I walked and I listened to the wind whistle through the broken windows and hollow bus stations, a sad kind of noise. Kind of like burning guitar strings or melting plastic.
Sweep sweep sweep, take a break, drink from my hip flask, yell at the sky, and try to fill the quiet.