• Alex’s Memory

    by Maya Mueller

    The moment hit Alex without warning.
    Like a brutal slap across the cheek, sharp and merciless, leaving stinging tears in his eyes and picking at the scars of his soul.  He placed a hand on his heart, becoming acutely aware of every intake of breath.
    Alex had lost something, something priceless and precious and unattainable.  The memory had slipped so quickly, like a slick pebble slipping from his fingers, lost among the wild currents of the river of his mind.  He had forgotten the precise color of his mother’s hair.
    Alex clearly remembered the delicate honey strands, like moonlight silver, yet could not precisely recall the color’s shade.  Were their caramel brown strands entwined with the blond?  Was it a soft flaxen, or a watery gold?  How did the hair feel, exactly, under his fingertips?  Like cotton, silk, water, fur?  He must remember.  He had to remember.  Without these memories she seemed even more like some transient fragment of his imagination.  She seemed less of a mother, but more of some distant goddess he worshipped, existing merely due to the power of his faith.  What if she had never lived?  What if…?
    The horror of the moment left him shaken, and he tremulously sat at the base of a tree.  The roots offered a rough, sturdy seat to support him on.
    Elsa Young was her name.  He repeated it under his breath like a mantra, grappling for breathily floating memories, holding his head in his hands.
    She was a woman of delicate bones, long and gentle and doe-like.  A woman of steep, sloping lines and gentle curves.  Her eyes, a mosaic of several different shades of blue―cobalt, dark navy, speckles of glassy aqua―framed by a fringe of colorless lashes that would tickle his cheek when she would embrace him.  Alex’s mother always smelled of the lavender facial water she dabbed on her face at night, a porcelain bottle that sat upon her dresser.  She would sit on the edge of the bed, her slender legs hanging of the sides, and dab her jaw bone with a cotton swab.  Alex, who was a toddler at the time, would sit at her feet with some car toy at hand and occasionally lean his cheek against her damp moisturized skin.
    He remembered the exact way she would smile; an almost guilty expression flitting across her face whenever he made her laugh.  Her eyes would crinkle into glistening blue crescents.  Her lips would curve upward despite her will, and her teeth would clench as the sheepish giggles rose from her throat, as if she were ashamed of herself for being happy.
    He remembered his mother in the garden; the oversized straw hat creating a crisscross of shadows along her face, the sleeves of her blouse rolled to her elbows.  She would pick a raspberry from the vine, and open her mouth into a large O to tell Alex to do the same.  He would obey happily, and she would smile faintly while placing the juicy fruit on his tongue.
    He remembered the cicada-humming, summer nights where they would lay together on her bed before his father finished his shower.  They would quietly listen to the water shoot from the faucets, intertwining their fingers, looking at each other with unflinching gazes.  She would draw swirls on his arm with her finger, or play shadow puppets against the solitary lamplight in the room.  Usually the ceiling fan was on, so her finger swans and geese and crocodiles would flicker before his eyes like some black and white film, like some bizarre illusion entrancing him.  She would sing Jewish lullabies to him, some other times, sorrowful lilting songs that he still remembered.
    But…the color of her hair…if only he could hold a strand, right now.  Or perhaps…if only she could stand in front of him, for one moment.  They did not need to speak, or touch.  Just to flicker before him like the shadow swans, a brief mirage to stir his memories, to saturate the thirst in his soul a little longer.  Perhaps, even, if she would smile again.  Just once.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 19, 2012

    Topics: Young Writers' Corner


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