"Old Man Twice" by Leo the Fox.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
by Jazz Crescella
“I am the keeper of your memories,” I remember her telling me once, and I thought her true.
My memories writhed on the vine, together and alone, each withering beside the next.
“What haven't you told me?” I asked.
Her plastic chair creaked. Her eyes were wide and tender.
I ran my wrinkled hand through my short hair.
“I got a haircut?”
I’m not sure she heard. Now her attention seemed on the autumn evening, beyond the porch, far down the manicured lawn at a copse of trees that stood bare of foliage—soldiers between us and the county road.
“You know something?” she said. “You were never young.”
“I know. You told me.”
“You’ve always been a whining bag of bones.” I could no longer see her eyes.
She then sat in silence. I worried she would not move my wheelchair if I asked now.
The air was crisp and awakened my skin. I concentrated on the air like a deaf-blind man might if near the lips of a singing God.
And I listened: to grasshoppers, low-buzzing mosquitos, and flies bumping into the window behind me or the dim bulb above. I hated that bulb. Because of it I only ever saw the moon, no stars. The moon was a wavering companion.
I don’t remember myself as young. Maybe she was telling the truth when she told me I was always old. I remember being older. I remember finding out about the girls.
On that day she had held a plate above her, before smashing it down. “You said we’d visit next summer. You wanted to work on your barn, your fucking barn.” As she drew closer, the hew of her summer dress rose and fell. I remember—I am ashamed to remember—that in that moment I thought how beautiful she looked, and how I wanted her. “That was your daughter. Your grandchildren. We could’ve had more time before that crash—”
Lucille was just the name to me now; like how I would be just a name soon, maybe already was. Sometimes I told myself that and sometimes I imagined her as more than a name. Same with the grandchildren, if they existed. I only have my keeper’s word that they did, and some pictures. Pictures of people, none of whom look like I do.
And now: my tea’s warmth felt pleasant between my palms. A porch floorboard groaned.
I carefully glimpsed her and caught the back of her head. Her breaths were slow.
“Sorry,” she said.
I lightly closed my eyes.
“Sorry,” she repeated, firmly. My eyes opened. She turned to me with her whole body. Her head tilted a little to the right. This revealed her earlobe: a long, gruesome thing resembling a fully-baited meat-hook.
“Aren’t you going to say something?”
She looked at me harder.
“You know why I said what I did?”
I moved my hands over my nose as if in prayer, and took a clumsy breath into them. To me, it sounded too loud.
“You had reasons.”
“You’re fucking right.”
She stood and faced me, back to the night, both fists in front. Her knuckles were white as bone. Above, her jaws clenched like a portcullis; two, actually. They slammed together as if trying to find earth or flesh to pierce into.
Her right fist drew back. Visible outside her short-sleeved smock, her forearm strained. Then her fist returned forward; slowly. In another few seconds, she lowered her arms altogether. She muttered before speeding to the screen-door. It slammed.
We must have loved each other once, I thought to myself. I must have been loved once, she just won’t tell me.
She shut the porch light. Not long afterward, I noticed the moon had left. I saw some stars.
And I remembered.
I felt for my breast. Three bottles of pills were in my pocket there.
The light bottles got lighter, then lighter again. I felt proud for remembering, and so did (I was sure of this) the grasshoppers, flies, and the air grew crisper, like my breath. The breeze blew, made my skin run cold, and it scattered the branches on the trees, and would’ve blown right through a portcullis. A symphony, I thought, and prepared to dance.
I have known for some time now how I will die: at my own hands.
Jazz Crescella is a writer from Southern Ontario (Canada) who is fond of Chinese Pears, a strong Americano, and the first three-seasons of Battlestar Gallactica.