Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Memory: A Fictional Farewell

This post is a bit long. It contains the last scene of a story. I wrote the first draft of this scene when I was 13, and simultaneously far too young for my age and far, far too old. This was the too-old me. I still need this piece. It still speaks to me:

...The last thing I did before Ann and I left to go back to the city was say good-bye to Darwin. I held the puppy up over the porch so that his warm amber eyes shone down into mine. "Darwin, don't ever forget me," I said. I felt a breeze on me then, cooler than it had been all summer, and it brought back memories. I knew if I wasn't careful, it would carry me back where it came from: back to the fire escape, to the skating rink and the feel of warm breath on my hands at dawn. I knew when I felt it that I wasn't going to pine over Darwin forever. But the thought made me angry, and I went on recklessly: "I'll be back, you know," I said. "I'll be back every summer as long as you live, as long as I live." I was crying. "... as long as there's the earth even..."

I knew when I said the words that they weren't entirely true -- no more true than telling Germaine the things we'd do when she got out of the hospital, or making my brother promises in a language he couldn't comprehend -- or, I supposed, than telling anyone you loved that you could take care of them forever. But I loved the sound of those words. "You know what I think, Darwin?" I said, "I think you don't have to remember someone to go right on loving them."

I looked at that puppy for what might be the last time. In my mind, I could hear Ann's words: "You've touched Aaron, you've done things for him, and on some level, you've affected him." She was talking about my brother, but she could have been talking about... this dog here. For a moment, I had this image of Darwin and me, all spread out on a table like jigsaw puzzles, and our pieces were everything we'd ever been, and everyone we'd ever loved. If that much was true -- if only that much was -- then what I was saying now wasn't so much of a stetch.

I stood there a moment longer, straddling belief and disbelief, and I could feel my breath come faster. "So even if I don't come back right away, even if you have time to forget me, you better not stop loving me... You hear? Hey, dog!""

Darwin wriggled and squirmed in the sunlight.