Unphotographed Memories

There were greenish and yellowish fields passing behind the window. They were not to be walked through in the warm wind. There were some old towns spoiled with modern buildings. They were not to be ever visited in a sunny summer day. There were some pedestrians strolling along the pavements. They were to remain anonymous and unknown to her.

She dropped her gaze and looked at her watch. The bus was to be late. She wished she had power over traffic, other people and, above all, her own life. She wished she were a scriptwriter and director of what was going on around her …

“Jane, you’re not going anywhere,” her mother said firmly.

“Why not? I’m an adult now.”

“The fact that you’ve got an identity card doesn’t make an adult of you.”

“I can also vote and drink and make love.”

“Jane!”

“I’m going anyway.”

“No! You know that you can’t.”

“You’re wrong. I can and I’ll go.”

“You know you shouldn’t.”

“Oh yeah? Why shouldn’t I?” her mother remained silent and Jane went on: “Say it? What are you afraid of? Do you think that if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, it will disappear or the like?”

… and inside her.

Finally, after an eight-hour journey, the bus arrived in a remote town. It was getting darker and she did not know this place at all. Next to the station, she found a phone box and tried to call a friend of hers. Nobody answered. As she could assume, he forgot to pick her up.

“I invite you to my performance,” he said to a group of friends.

“I’ll come,” she had only recently started to make snap decisions.

Having found a crumpled piece of paper, on which there was a hand-drawn map, she shouldered her rucksack, zipped her autumn jacket and set off. Actually, she could ask about the way in three languages so there was a possibility that she would not get more lost than she had already been.

She was strolling along narrow alleys. There was a black cat sitting on a windowsill. It was piercing her with its luminous eyes as if it knew something about her that even she was unaware of. Just behind the corner, there was a homeless person lying in a sleeping bag. Jane went by carefully and tried not to gaze at him. At the end of the alley, there was a well-lighted market square with a town hall and town houses in a variety of colours. Having reached a fountain, she sat for a while on a bench. At this point, if she were a typical tourist, she should take a few pictures. But she did not have a camera. By the way, she felt that all towns were the same until she could combine them with some memories.

The town hall clock chimed half past seven. A young student wearing wire-framed glasses and a shabby sweat-shirt showed her the way to the theatre. The street was straight but seemed to be lengthening. Time was flying and she would run if she had not been out of breath already.

Despite her great effort, she came late. The bell had rung a couple of minutes ago. She looked around in despair. Seeing a feeble pale girl, the gatekeeper let her in. It sometimes pays to look childlike.

She crept into the dark room and stood in the back. Actually, she could see more standing than sitting. In the next scene, she discerned her friend, who played one of the supporting roles. But it seemed to her that he stood out against the other actors. Did she come for him?

The performance totally engrossed her, dialogues invaded her mind, music penetrated her soul. She was hypnotised by the scenes unfolding in front of her eyes. No, she did not come for him. She came for the experience itself.

“Let’s throw a party!”

She did not protest when a group of actors took her with them. After one glass of wine she felt quite dizzy. Someone was laughing. Someone was taking photos. Someone wanted to pour her more wine. Someone was cuddling up to her. After a few minutes, she felt totally giddy.

Feeling a chilly wind which was making a pass at her, she tried to move her stony legs. She was pretty sure to see some stars in a puddle. Only in a puddle because she could not raise her cumbersome head. She was also quite certain that she was guided by someone.

“Jane, you all right?”

“Dunno,” she managed to mumble.

“I’ve made some tea,” he gave her a smudgy mug.

She drank greedily and did not complain that the tea was sugared, which she normally hated. Definitely, she needed some sugar. After a while she was able to take a look at the room where she happened to come round. It was lighted with a lamp, there were lots of posters on the walls, a pile of vessels in the sink, a guitar in the corner and a radio next to the bed. Her head was still throbbing and spinning around. But she could recognize a friend of her sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Is it your place?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry that I ruined your evening.”

“You didn’t.”

“But you had to leave and take me back.”

“I didn’t. You could sleep there on a couch.”

“So, why are we here?” she tried to prop herself on her elbows.

“I…I…it’s rather personal.”

“What do you mean by that?” she felt more sober at once.

“I don’t know how to talk about it.”

“Imagine that you act on the stage and it’s only your role.”

“Ok. So, actually, it’s quite dramatic.”

“I’m all ears,”

“I’ve fallen in love with…” he hesitated. “An actress. She played Blanche.”

“Oh. She was amazing.”

“Yeah. She is always amazing. She was at the party. But she was kissing with another actor. Actually, he is my roommate. Don’t worry. He’s not going to sleep here. Perhaps he’s not going to sleep much tonight.”

“I see…”

Should she also bare her soul to him and brag that her life was more theatrical than an ordinary one? It seemed to be a perfect occasion to act with absolute honesty. Suddenly, she felt overcome by a feeling of nausea and threw up on a dusty floor.

Next day she had to go back to her everyday reality. Her stage was a well-beaten path. Her dialogues were seriously limited and repeatable. The script of her life was deprived of any breath-taking moments.

One day she received a letter from her friend. She opened it with both curiosity and anxiety. It turned out that he sent her a few black-and-white pictures from her memorable visit.

A group of actors was posing in front of the theatre and she was among them, on the right, between two handsome men. They were having a party after their performance and she was there too, between those who played Stella and Stanley. A friend of her, who played Euinice, was singing something with the others. What did they sing? They may have been pretending. It was only a photo.

In one picture, she was kissing with Mitch – she did not know his real name. Ok, it was only a pretend kiss. They were kissing an empty wine bottle from the opposite sides. They were only acting. Still, she got a picture of her first kiss.

That town was no more an anonymous and unfamiliar place. It evoked memories and she could even keep them alive in photographs. She could if they were ever real. She might if she were still alive.

The Insistent Rhythm

Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There were coniferous trees around. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There were sharp stones under the feet. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There was the setting sun above. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There was something behind. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There were some whispers coming from the woods. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There were blood stains being smeared on the stony ground. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. There was a vicious streak of darkness on the surface of the sun. Someone was stamping, running, pounding. Something was approaching from behind…

He woke up in a greyish room and immediately took a look at his mobile phone. It was an hour until his alarm clock started ringing. He could not fall asleep again, so he used this time to check facebook, twitter, his four e-mail accounts – one personal, another for domestic customers, still another for the foreign ones and the last one shared with members of a sports club.

Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There was a blue sky above. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There was muddy ground beneath. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There was a wooden wheel. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There were birds flying between clouds. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There were footprints left in mud. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. There were trickles of sweat all over the wheel. Someone was wrung, stretched, pulled apart. Someone was ripped…

He woke up in a dark room and reached for his mobile phone. It was the middle of the night. Night by night, he was able to sleep less and less. He could not drift into sleep again, so he used this time to check facebook, his mailboxes, his three bank accounts, the weather for the coming day and, of course, the air pollution level.

Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There was a starry night. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There was a full moon. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There were lots of residents in the high-rise block of flats. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There were lights flickering in some apartments. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There were pedestrians in the street. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. There were cars honking. Someone was falling, plunging, disappearing. Someone was smashed…

A sudden noise woke him up. He automatically grabbed him mobile phone. A customer from a different time zone phoned him. It was half past one. He knew that he would not manage to close his eyes and catch a few hours’ sleep before his alarm clock sounds.

The Taste of Chocolate

1st December 2008 – her world collapsed, her dreams faded, her hopes died. Everything lied in ruins. In the evening she managed to swallow a piece of chocolate. Then, she reached for another bit and another and still another. In total, she ate three bars of chocolate – all her supplies. Her heart was broken so she had to glue its pieces together.

1st December 2009 – she woke up in Betty’s house. She did not know then that it would be a life-long and very fruitful friendship. Her head was still rolling around. It was her first real party and she got drunk for the first time in her life. Betty prepared some chocolate sandwiches for breakfast. Yeah, they needed something sweet to hide hangover.

1st December 2010 – she was in the middle of preparations for her A level exams. To put it differently, she was in the middle of dying from fear and stress. Was she really a perfect exemplar of a swot? The world around did not exist. The only aim of her life was to pass the exams with flying colours. Whatever she did, the exam was always at the back of her mind. Eating a bar of milk chocolate, she crammed and crammed and crammed.

1st December 2011 – she woke up in a bleak rented flat. It was the first year of her studies. Actually, it was only the third month of her studies. But she was already feeling unwell, fed up and overtired. She could not gather enough strength to crawl out of the bed, even though it was extremely uncomfortable. She stretched her arm out of the duvet and reached for a small piece of a meticulously wrapped bitter chocolate, which was lying on her desk. She allowed herself to it only one piece every morning.

1st December 2012 – she was shopping with her roommate. They went to a nearby supermarket to buy some bread, cheese, pasta and tomato sauce. Suddenly, it started snowing quite heavily. They came back to the dormitory in soaked coats and tried to sweep melting snow from their shopping bags before unpacking them. Her roommate was utterly distressed. What to do with her roommate? She came up with an idea and played her “Snow is falling” but, as she hated winter, snow and frost, it did not work. Or did it? Only then did her roommate suggest making hot chocolate and they enjoyed it together.

1st December 2013 – she was woken up by German conversations. Who was speaking? Ah, yeah, her flatmates. Autumn, or rather almost winter, mornings in Germany were nothing but gloomy and dark. In spite of this, she relished every minute of her student exchange in this foreign country. As it was a weekend, she and her flatmates made up their minds to bake some chocolate cookies. It was the best way to learn language, not from a coursebook but by touching, smelling and tasting ingredients.

1st December 2014 – she was roaming the streets of Guildford. The dreary streets were getting icy. Wind was getting more and more freezing. Shop windows were lit with Christmas decorations. She could almost smell chocolate brownies but she could not afford them. It reminded her that she was stony broke, hopelessly lost in her life and totally alone in this foreign country. By the way, she had nowhere to go. Or did she?

1st December 2015 – she got up in a Cracow dormitory. She had already fallen in love with this town and all people around her. She wanted to stay there forever. Her day unfolded unhurriedly as her classes started at 12 pm. She was reading a book, still lying in the bed in her pyjamas. She could not help reliving memories of yesterday: they met in front of her dormitory, went for a long walk, drunk steaming hot chocolate in a café and then kissed in the park.

1st December 2016 – she was awaken by his lingering kiss and cuddled with his strong arm. Then, she had her breakfast served to bed: a bowl of sweet porridge with melting pieces of chocolate on the top. Spooning this delicious meal, she was thinking about where she happened to be and where she could be instead. She could be travelling around the world now. She could be living in another foreign country and picking up a new language. She could be self-sufficient, independent and … gloomily lonely. Yeah, chocolate tastes good only when you can share it.

On a Tram

Have you ever tried to count how many trams go throughout the city? How many trams run during one day? How many trams are on their way right now? How many people are transported on them? How many people commute to their workplaces at this very moment? How many people are currently leading their lives inside the metal bodies of city trams?

I stopped in front of a ticket machine to buy a piece of paper stating that I am allowed to board a means of public transport. I fiddled this small snippet in my fingers. How come that such a snippet is a valid permit to travel?  

The tram came. People flooded from the vehicle. Some of them should be reminded that this is a highly, higher with every day, civilized world and it is forbidden to elbow each other. Wearing my earphones, I got on the tram, validated my ticket and took a seat next to the window. Why to choose window seats? Presumably, you do not want to be expected to rise from your seat when an elderly lady, a decrepit old man or a handicapped person gets on. Supposedly, you want to isolate yourself from other passengers as totally as it is possible in this enclosed space. Perhaps, it is more comfortable when other passengers’ handbags, baggage and shop bags do not rub your limbs, when their dogs do not sneeze at you and their offspring do not kick you. Of course, all these things happen only by accident.

I squeezed my bag on my lap, bending my legs as close as possible and stuck my earphones even deeper into my ears, turning up the volume. My phone warned me immediately that loud music can be damaging to my hearing but I did not care. It was still impossible to deaden the compilation of noises made by the tram, traffic and people crowding the city.

While on the tram, I started to peep at other passengers. Of course, it could be considered inappropriate but actually they were so occupied with their electronic devices or immersed in their thoughts that they did not care who was gazing at them. They would perhaps not care what thoughts were popping into my head.

There was a woman carrying heavy shopping bags. Her hair was greasy and her clothes were scruffy. She must have done shopping for the whole family, that is her husband, several children and a dog. She did it in a large supermarket to buy the cheapest products. Running a household of five or six, she had to be careful while spending money to avoid being run out of it. Ok, she was able to save a few pounds but she had to waste a lot of time on getting to a distant supermarket and walking through a huge store. It must cover the area of 1000 acres. Customers could buy bread at the furthest corner and vegetables at an opposite corner. Finally, she went to the end of her shopping list and was struggling with the bags. She was late and she had still so much to do. Firstly, her children needed to be fed. Secondly, laundry had to be done. Thirdly, ….

There was a businessman carrying a laptop bag and talking over the phone all the time. He was a typical commuter getting up early at dawn, taking a shower, spending the whole day at work, going back in the evening but still being wired to the business matters, eating readymade food from a microwave and watching porno films through the night because, otherwise, he could hardly sleep a wink. Ok, he did not have to look for a porno film. Every evening film has some erotic traces. It is enough to press the remote control and jump from one channel to another. He purchased a full TV suit so he could watch every brand-new Oscar film in HD on his plasma.

A young mother of four dragged a pushchair onto the tram. Three children followed her, trying to raise their legs high enough to get on board. A boy of about three (I might be wrong) was clasping a hamburger. His older siblings were trying to look after him, when the tram was making sudden swerves. Their mother was nibbling on chips and seemed to be so exhausted that she did not care whether all her little ones would successfully get off. Luckily, someone helped her with the pushchair, when she had to leave.

A Muslim sat just next to me. He took on his knees a little boy who was infuriated either because he could not have a seat on his own or because his mother had to take a different seat. The man was dressed in an elegant suit and a white shirt. His wife wore a white shirt and an elegant beige skirt. The boy was glowering at me. Fortunately, they got off only two stops later. The Muslim said something to his family in Arabic and dashed to the door dragging his son. His wife limped after him within a hair’s breadth of being cut across by the slamming door.

Two women got on the tram. One of them was in her forties. She had on a leather miniskirt and high heels, which reminded me of a little girl instead of an adult. The second woman must have been her teenage daughter. We was wearing jeans, a black jacket and dark make-up. “We must find seats. Here! Hurry up! Ok, you can sit opposite me. How was your maths test? I know, you’re not doing well. You must learn more. Look! There are empty seats next to the window. Let’s change ours. You are going on a trip at the weekend, aren’t you?  It’s going to be cold. You must take this warm red jumper and green vest and you must pull on tights under your jeans. Change the seat! Sit beside me!” They got off at the next stop.

An older man with misty eyes was swaying along the aisle, as if looking for a vacant seat. He tried to kiss teenagers buying tickets at the ticket machine. Surprisingly enough, nobody cared. Was he drunk? Was he insane? He collapsed on an aisle seat and was frantically waving to the girls, showing them that there was an empty seat beside him. Before the next stop, he stood up, grabbed the girls by the sleeves of their jackets and yanked them to the seats. Then he stood in front of the door and was pressing all buttons, these opening it and those for emergencies. He did not know where he was, where he travelled, why he lived. I could not shake off the impression that, although he was poorer, scruffier and more insane (was he?) than me, he was much happier.

The next stop, the door opened and a woman in her twenties sat in front of me. She was clasping the hand of her five-year-old daughter. The woman had dyed hair, a pink blouse which was both low-neck and low-back. It made sense because she had a tattoo on her shoulder blade. It depicted a spiky circle and a pink rose inside it. She was ignoring her daughter’s comments about the world around taking them for blabbering. Why was it like that? The woman got pregnant quite young when she was twenty years old. Quite young? Ok, in the twentieth century it had been considered an appropriate age to bear children but now it was called an unwanted pregnancy. She was left by her boyfriend, she did not finish her studies and she ended up with this curly-haired and, what she did not realized,  curious child. I did not know why but I winked to the girl and she smiled back. Did I behave almost like an old gentleman who was accustomed to kiss women’s hands and give children sweets?

An elderly man holding a stick sat just next to me. He seemed to be senile: he wore dirty shorts, shoes with holes and a denim jacket. Did this man stuck in time? Was he actually aware that it is the twenty first century? His brain must have stopped a few decades ago. Judging from his style, he had not bought anything new since the 70s. He denied the existence of computers and mobile phones. He only gaped at the window.

The tram stopped, the door slid open and a teenager entered. Actually, she might be of my age. She had long black hair and wore black clothes. Her heavy make-up was streaming down her face. She finished a phone call and sobbed a few times. Interestingly enough, all passengers were peeping at her from time to time. Some laughter at the back faded away. What happened to this girl? My first thought: someone died, her relative or a good friend of hers. She became an orphan and would have to move out. My second thought: she simply broke up with her boyfriend. It might be a tragedy at that age. My third thought: she was just diagnosed with a terminal illness and she would die of cancer in a few months or years if she was lucky enough.

An elderly man sitting next to me dared to ask the girl: “Miss, what happened?”

The girl did not reply. She wiped her eyes and was impatiently waiting for the door to open.

“There is no point in crying” said the elderly man.

The girl must have thought that this grandpa acted as if he were a know-it-all. Why did the older generation take it for granted that they had gained more experience than the youth? This fucking granddad could not even imagine what she went through.

The door slid open and the girl jumped out.

The elderly man rose from his seat clumsily, leant on his stick and lumbered to the door. As a rule, he should get off and do not care about the people getting on. But he cared and made way for a woman. Before he managed to get off, the door slammed. The woman tried to press the door opening button but in vain. At the next stop, the elderly man took the second attempt of leaving the tram. The door started to close and almost squeezed his shoulders. He used his stick to block the mechanism. He managed to step onto the pavement but the door slammed shut and the tram went with his stick poking out.

Bryan and I

[PDF: CW28.Bryan_and_I]

for Ania

I was fourteen when my grandpa died of cancer. I know that it sounds typical and you probably want to put this text aside right now, but, believe me, this story is far from usual. Even if it’s meaningless for others, it is very important for me.

When I was twenty one, I still couldn’t stop thinking about him. It’s not like I thought about him all the time, but when I saw an old man or an old couple, I always reminded myself of childhood and our plays and trips. At first it stroke me as if I wanted to start crying, but later it got more calm and I knew I was somewhere in the city and other people saw me and perhaps it was not the best moment to sob.

What was strange was that he often stayed with me when I was writing. Whenever an old wise man appeared in my stories, he was always more or less similar to my grandpa. I did it instinctively. I just couldn’t help writing about him. It was weird because I had probably forgotten his real self by then. His image in my mind was just my representation deformed by time and other experiences. I was afraid the face I could recall was fake to great extent.

However, we had some things that were true and real. When you were in my grandma’s house and you went to my grandpa’s room and you opened his wardrobe, you could see his shirts and pyjamas. They laid there just the way he had liked to have them. You could take one of them, hold it close to your face and smell. Okay, the smell was also a bit fake after all those years, but you felt as if it was not because the room had not been redecorated. By the way, you could take a look at the desk to read some international documents. If you were lucky, you would find a couple of love letters to my grandma. But shhh, they were secret. I guess they were. Time does not affect secrets, does it?

That’s what my life was like when I met Bryan.

He was thirty one when his best friend died of cancer. And he also couldn’t stop thinking about him. Once he found himself next to a pub where they had spent evenings together or walked along a street where he once hadn’t had to wander alone, he couldn’t help recalling his past. It was some important for him that he decided to tell me his story. Not his whole life, of course. It would be difficult to narrate one’s whole life, wouldn’t it?

He described a bunch of situations connected to his friend. How they had met in a college, what they had been reading, how they used to work on their own texts. Where they had travelled, what girls they had met. And what happened when his friend died.

I remember we were sitting on a bench in a park when he told me his story. Something strange was happening to me when I was listening. I got so engrossed that I kept forgetting to change my position on the bench from time to time and I didn’t move until I started to feel pain in my legs. Sometimes I put my hand on Bryan’s arm and he knew that was our sign to stay silent for a few seconds.

It’s cruel, but there were moments when I was no longer sad, but pleased. I can’t describe it properly, but it’s true. Some couples want to be in love, exchange kisses or something. We didn’t. We just needed our bench. When Bryan finished telling his story, we were still sitting there. He kept repeating his “and does it matter” from time to time and I stayed silent drowned in a kind of emotion or atmosphere.

There are some moments when you don’t need to say or do anything. You just are.

[Author: Katarzyna Biela]

An Old Radio

[PDF: CW27.An_Old_Radio]

„Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went. Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go…”

“Well. It works,” he said turning off a switch.

“I wouldn’t say that it works.”

“I programmed it to choose whatever passage it wants to.”

“And?”

“And it’s just done it.”

“Well, duh! But still it’s meaningless.”

“No, it’s not. It’s a real song.”

“It’s a meaningless nursery rhyme. Your robot has nothing to do with AI.”

“You can’t deny that it can choose a song and play it.”

“Even a radio, what’s more, even a pretty old radio can do the same. Well, duh! Let’s call it a day. I’m going home.”

Ben was left alone in the computer science centre. He was left alone but a new robot that he had been working on for months. It was designed to think independently and select data available in the internet. It was the first time when he switched on the speaking mode and was impatiently waiting for the first words uttered by the small gherkin-shaped robot. Unexpectedly, it started to sing an old nursery rhyme. To make his disappointment even deeper, his colleague started to laugh at this failed attempt. How did it happen that he had constructed an amateur singer instead of a highly intelligent scientist-like robot? Probably, he was not talented enough to design anything better. Could this robot be used as a babysitter or a nursery nurse? Let’s face it, children showed no interest in out of date nonsense rhymes. They would be bored with such a robot. So, he had to redesign this failure.

His mobile phone rang.

“Hi! I’m waiting for you. Are you going to turn up?” asked a cheerful female voice.

“Oh. Yeah, right. I’ve totally forgotten.”

“I’m waiting only a quarter and I’m leaving.”

“I’ll be in the café in five minutes,” he said taking off his working uniform at once.
He was so engrossed in his work that he forgot about the date with Sue. His girlfriend seemed to be a complete opposite to him. He was interested in computer science, she was a history freak. He liked most innovative technologies, she preferred artefacts from previous centuries. His personal goal was to develop artificial intelligent, hers was to preserve past. He seemed immensely enthusiastic about technological advancement, she seemed concerned about the unfortunate consequences.

He entered her favourite café. It was decorated in an old-fashioned style. There were black-and-white photographs, retro-furniture, vinyl CDs and an old gramophone. If Sue had not shown him once a box which used be called a gramophone and huge LP records which were once used to store music, he would not be able to identify them.

Old songs were lingering from the old radio. Sue was sipping hot chocolate and talking like a chatterbox. Ben was trying to listen to her but his thoughts were preoccupied with his new robot. What did he do wrong? How to improve this silly device? Is it possible to make it canny and reflective?

“And how was your work?”

“What?” he asked absentmindedly.

“Ben, you’re not listening at all. I asked how your work was going on.”

“I did a trial today but, unfortunately, my new robot is rubbish.”

“Why? What happened?”

“It talks rubbish, or rather sings rubbish.”

“Does it sing?! Wow!”

“I programmed it to process and select information and it started to sing. I have to dismantle it and build it once again.”

“No! Don’t do it. Simply, you created a singer. Your robot has a unique personality.”

“It doesn’t matter as long as it sings rubbish.”

“What does it sing?”

“A sort of nursery rhyme.”

“Which one? Did it compose it itself or is it a real song?” Sue was growing curious.

“I don’t remember exactly.”

“That’s a pity,” she sighed. “Or maybe you don’t want to sing. Be honest with me. As far as I know you, and I know you quite well, you remember every word of the lyrics but you are afraid of singing.”

“Ok, you got me.”

“So, will you reveal this mysterious rhyme to me?” she smiled cheerfully.

“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb,” he recited clumsily. “Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow and everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went. Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go,” Sue’s face turned from flushed to pale. “You’re alright?” he asked, having finished the song.

“This is the first song reproduced by Thomas Edison on his cylinder phonograph.”

[Author: Alicja Lasak]

A Childhood Memory

[PDF: CW24.A_Childhood_Memory]

It was easier.

You learnt to tie your shoes, dot your i’s and cross your t’s. You got to ride a bike with four wheels. A scraped knee was the worst that could happen. As for accomplishments, getting most of your food in your mouth was considered a success.

You learnt to borrow, to give back, and then to give. You learnt that there are highs as well as lows. You didn’t just get bigger, your skin got thicker too. You learnt how to take care of yourself, then how to do that for others. You discovered something new almost every single day, before the days become too much alike.

Now it’s all a blur. A parade of moments clutching the frames of the old photographs which do not hold the memory of their maker. They say that if you want to know what a person cherishes, you ought to look at what their camera is pointing at. The camera is pointing at my niece, learning to ride the bike all by herself. There were a couple of false starts, but now she’s determined. She put her game face on. She says ‚watch me go’ and everyone does, and everyone cheers. Another success, totally worth the scraped knee. The shutter closes and opens.

She drove all the way to the oak tree and stopped to take stock of her audience. She is looking at me from a distance. What will she remember of a man with grey hair wearing a flannel shirt? Does her future self even see me, standing with the camera next to her father? Or am I simply not here? She gives me a wave and I wave back, from across the time. Another vanishing memory.

[author: Tomasz Trela]