Do Not Despair

for Dave

Memory’s an untrustworthy thing.

Looking back on it, did all that really happen? How much was subjective, how much objective? What is objective reality, anyway — he stops himself from falling down that rabbit hole again.

Start with what you know.

He came to town with his father, that much is certain: his father is still alive, still here, they are still in town, good. He had an arranged marriage at what now feels like an irresponsbily young age: he’s married now, reasonably happily, doing fine so far. The rest of it — the fighting, the contests, the love triangles, the baking — that’s where it starts to get foggy. Looking through old pictures, they’re all so much smaller than he remembers, so much skinnier, so much more awkward. He is startled to realize that the woman he thought was ancient, centuries ancient, could not have been much older than he is now; the old man that plagued his father not nearly so shrunken as he recalls.

He finds a tape of a contest he’d been forced into — he can’t quite remember why — something that seemed like life and death at the time, two wild thunderstorms tearing at each other and the gym a shattered ruin afterwards, and it was just two gawky kids self-seriously flailing at each other. The gym is fine.