Your life is your memories. That is what you always told me, when we would go racing away in the little convertible to another exciting location, our hands pressed together whenever we didn’t need to use the gear stick. Or even when we were at home tucked up in a blanket in front of a film with a shrink wrapped pizza. Even little adventures were adventures you would say, going into the kitchen to grab a beer. I remember worrying about the wrinkles round my face because of how my cheeks threatened to burst with smiling. It seems so empty now, when all I have are those memories.
Me as a young girl, sitting on the sofa in the harsh electric light with my legs curled up beneath me. Mum telling me off for having the volume too loud on the TV as I watched the sequinned dancers whirl round in a tango, popping frozen sugar snap peas into my mouth from a bowl on my knees. The icy chill on my fingertips and the melted smile they left on my lips.
That day I was ill when I was young and I had to come home from school early. Mum coming and picking me up in the car from reception and wrapping me up with my duvet on the sofa, reading to me from a heavy old book with the fire turned up high until I fell asleep with one of her hands on my stomach. The moment I opened my eyes from my drowsy half sleep and discovered that the warm pressure on my belly was now only a hot water bottle. Her voice drifting through the door where she stood with her back to me, on the phone, giggling.
The time I was halfway to my boyfriend of the time’s house and I saw a woman in a bright blue coat and red shoes pushing a disabled boy in a wheelchair up the long hill. Her apartment building, a huge grey hulk in the midst of the trees and semi-detached houses, looming down at her. Her arms outstretched, face down and chest parallel to the ground but moving slowly and steadily until she became able to walk normally again, when she ruffled the boy’s hair over his beanie hat and readjusted the paper bag in his lap. Stopping to watch them and wishing I could have seen their faces.
Lying in bed with my head on your chest, feeling your hot breath come over my body in waves and pressing my cheek into the soft firmness of your skin. Caressing your hip bones until you mumbled that I was keeping you awake.
Cooking bacon in a hot pan the morning after the night before, shrieking as the fat spat around our arms and grinning at the smell.
Running through the woods in the pouring rain dressed in only shorts and T-shirts, laughing so hard that our insides felt warm. Our hair dripping water in our eyes until everything blurred. When I lost my shoe in the mud and screamed when it all squashed in between my toes.
Going round corners too fast in the car when the road glistened with frost and only just being able to stop ourselves flying into the hedge. Like a rollercoaster at a theme park, you said.
Leaning over the battlements of an abandoned ruin and watching the sunset, drunk on tiredness and cheap rum that burnt your throat. Whirling around in a dance all of our own because no one else was there to watch or to tell us not to. How we had to sit down because of our dizziness to stop us falling off the building. Wrapping ourselves in a picnic blanket and waiting until the day.
Coming home from a long stressful day at work, hands lacerated by papercuts and seeing you with the novelty apron I bought you, cooking burgers in the oven because there was nothing else in the house. The way you smiled at me with the little wrinkle at the nose as I watched you shuffle the burgers around on the tray as extravagantly as you could. How you laughed as I kissed you.
Circling the streets of New York, our last adventure, sweating under the heat of the pressed up bodies and exposed skin. Escaping to the cool shade of a cocktail bar to sip bitter sweet drinks and laugh too loud at the people passing by. The people with their huge sunglasses, white smiles, rolls of skin tucked into belts and bulky cameras aimed at nothing. We were nothing like them of course, you said.
How my tears mixed with the washing up water the time when my nerves got too bad. You, picking my hands up, drying my eyes and holding me for hours.
And now, after all those memories there is just one more recycled one that I go through every day. I am the woman at number 21. Sitting in her front room with the curtains open and the light off, hunched in the sofa chair in the corner, and illuminated only by the white brightness of the television screen. My tea tray wobbles in my lap and I remember.
(Featured image courtesy of WolfSoul on Flickr)