Memory is an elusive concept, there are times when I can actually feel the red-rusted cogs in my brain rotating, pivoting for precious recall. Finding my house keys has become a daily session of hide and seek until I can trick my brain into activity through distraction. The epiphany that I’d left them in the lock was becoming less and less of a relief.
Trudy would say I had a head full of salmon as opposed to synapses, all jostling for position, making there way, vainly up stream in a bizarre ritual of attempted cognition. Maybe she didn’t say it quite like that, I forget. Trudy is the one constant memory, just the image of her. Silvery hair, a nest of coils draped down to her shoulders, those fashionable wrinkles as if youth were a blank slate and age was the process of becoming a chiselled fresco, a masterpiece.
I just wish I could remember something else she said, anything but those damn salmon, hell! it might have been trout, I simply don’t know. Her voice has been lost to me. It circles the frontiers of my mind just out of reach. There are times when I feel I can hear her, the way a child might hear the sea when they put a shell to their ear.
I have no photographs of her, I don’t recall why. Perhaps she was terminally camera-shy but I refuse to believe such beauty would not want to be captured. I probably just forgot to get them developed, I’ve had issues with things of that sort for years. I comfort myself with the idea that I never needed photos to conjure up a vision of her and my conviction has served me well, well into my sixties.
Did she leave? I often wonder, or did I turn her away. No I would never be so merciless. I could think of nothing so heinous that would cause me to spurn her. An infidelity? A mere speed-bump on the road to true love. I should be grateful that she was with me at all.
Jesus! all this nostalgia has made me a melancholy old fool, a walk is what I need. But those damned house keys have gone missing again and I can’t for the life of me recall their whereabouts. I search the desk drawers full of knick-knacks and trinkets -mostly useless with the occasional item of value- a harmonica, my pipe, the pocket watch Trudy gave me for my 50th birthday, but no keys. The frustration dissolves when I see the watch, and I hitch it to my waistcoat pocket as she would have had me do. The neighborhood is quiet and reasonably safe so I resolve to leave the door slightly ajar and go for the walk anyway.
I don’t get very far, probably for the best as I would forget my way back home like the silly old man I’ve become. There is a bench a little down the way and I take a seat. The view isn’t tremendously interesting. Detached houses with gardens in varying degrees of maintenance, cars, streetlamps and the odd pedestrian ambling toward somewhere more exciting. How did I ever end up in such a dull, forgotten suburb? It’s quaintness is irksome and I take out the watch to examine it. It’s stopped at 5:43. At this time of year this time could well be correct but it’s unlikely, though the streetlamps have already begun to emit a warm glow.
I want to smoke but realise I forgot my pipe back in my desk drawer, typical of me. I contemplate heading back home when another pedestrian appears. It’s a woman, young-ish with curly black hair, she’s not wearing any shoes, just a pair of white cotton socks with blackened soles from walking. She must have a head full of salmon to be doing that I think. I laugh to myself, checking the watch once more and when I look up, the woman is approaching me. I’m not in the mood for the ramblings of a mad woman so I get up to leave but she shouts something at me and it makes me turn round. She’s standing opposite me now, looking like she’s about to cry. I’m about to ask her if she is o.k when she repeats herself, softer this time.
“Dad…” she say’s
And I look at her a second time. Examining every inch of her face, the sorrowful eyes, the beginning of age in her wrinkles, the sinuous quality of each lock of curly hair.
“Eva?” I whisper. The name comes from nowhere and yet I know I’m right. She IS my daughter.
“Let’s go back home, Dad.” she says
Linking my arm, I go willingly, now I remember why there are no photographs.
As we walk back to the house where my daughter has welcomed me for the past ten years since Trudy’s death, I lean in and whisper.
“I’m sorry darlin’, you look so much like your mother.”