Saturday, May 2, 2015
Other People's Memories and The Number 2
Yesterday I completely forget about the Story a Day Challenge. So today I have written for that and managed to get the number two in there for that challenge as well. I really enjoyed writing this piece. It took me longer than it should have. I found that I needed to stop from time to time to collect my thoughts. I am pleased with how it turned out but also see a potential for it to be longer and better. Hope you all enjoy it.
Story a Day Challenge – Day 2 and The 1 – 31 Number Challenge
Prompt: other people's memories
As a college student, money gets a little tight. Okay, it gets a lot tight. So one morning while sitting in the cafeteria trying to drown out the cacophony around me with the music on my iPod, I grabbed the newspaper from the table beside me. I pushed my plate aside, still harboring the yellow foam called eggs, and spread the paper out to see what it offered as far as part-time jobs. I sipped my tepid coffee as I glanced the pages, not expecting to find anything that would be even remotely interesting or worthwhile.
Someone from my Journalism class taps me on the shoulder and nods his hello at me as he walks by, interrupting my peace. Of course I have to look up from the paper to nod back. It's the proper thing to do even though I can't even recall the guy's name. When I glance back at the paper, a large ad catches my eye.
The ad takes up half the page and is in color. It is printed on a yellowed parchment that has a couple of holes that look like burns. This is the only thing in the paper that is colored. “Memories Needed” is printed across the top of the parchment. Intrigued, I continued to read. “Will pay $100 per memory. No limit”. An address was penned in at the bottom and signed in script.
With the size of the ad and that it was the only thing in color, every person with the paper would be interested in this. How could they not? I sat there contemplating about whether to even give it a try. I downed the last of my coffee, now cold and gross. When I looked back down at the paper, I noticed something new. The ad contained my name, first and last, scripted in at the top.
I was a bit spooked to see my name there, so I folded the paper, tucked it under my arm, and took my dishes to the kitchen. I threw my dishes in the garbage after scraping them off at the dish wash area. I bumped into the person in front of me, and nearly fell down the stairs heading out of the building.
I could not stop thinking about that ad. As thought, I walked. I was not aware of anything I was doing until my music stopped playing. When I looked up, I realized that I was at the address in the advertisement. I stared looking at the door of 222 22nd Street Apartment 22. I wiped my clammy hands on my jeans, debating what to do, when the door creaked open. A middle-aged man smiled at me. He opened the door wide and motioned for me to come in. Not knowing what else to do, I went in. What could it hurt? I certainly needed the money.
“Please come on in, Steven. We've been expecting you.” The man wore a white lab coat, the kind like a scientist or doctor might wear. He carried a clipboard cradled in the crook of his left arm. His eyes jumped back and forth from me to the clipboard and back again.
“You have?” My voice cracked as I took a step further into the room.
“Of course,” a new man strolled into the room from behind the first. “How could we not expect to see someone at our door today after the advertisement we placed in the paper? I must admit that I did expect to see more by this time, but you will do just fine.”
This new man stepped around the one in the lab coat. He was holding a pipe to his mouth even though it did not appear to even be lit. The creases in his pants were pressed with care. His jacket hang to just below his belt. It hung open in the front showing the pristine care taken when tucking his shirt in to avoid wrinkles.
“My name is Professor Manford.” He extended his hand to me. I wiped my hands on my jeans again and accepted his hand with a tremble that ran to my toes.
“This is Doctor Donnell.” He motioned to the man in the lab coat. I extended my hand but was not greeted with a hand to shake. Awkwardly, I drew my hand back and absently wiped it on the seat of my pants.
“How exactly does this all work, Professor Manford?” I was glad it didn't all come out in a squeak. My hands would not stay dry and I could feel sweat starting to bead on my upper lip.
“Come this way, Steven. We will show you.” Doctor Donnell leads the way. I follow him in. Professor Manford comes in behind me, thwarting any thought I may have had to leave.
The next room is stark white. What isn't white is either black or metal. My eyes instinctively squint at the glare. Once I can see without being blinded, I am in awe. Wires and electronics surround what looks like a dentist chair. I turn back to the door. Professor Manford smiles down at me and shuts the door behind him.
“Please, take a seat in the chair. Everything will be explained as we go.”
“Could you please explain a little more before I get in that chair?” I managed to stutter audibly enough for the Professor to actually hear.
“Of course. Once you sit in the chair, you will close your eyes and think about a memory. Some days we will ask you to think of something a bit specific. Other days you can think about any memory that comes to mind. While you are relaxed with your memory, we will record it and save it in the computer system. Pretty simple process really. Doesn't take long and you get $100 for each memory.”
“The money would certainly help. I just don't know.” I think out loud while scratching my chin with one hand and wiping the other on my pants yet again.
After several minutes, the Professor looks at me. “What's the verdict, Steven?”
“Let's do it.” I exclaim heading for the chair. I slide into the chair with a squeak and get myself comfortable.
“Lean your head back and just relax. Doctor Donnell is going to place a helmet, of sorts, on your head. Once it is on, I want you to think of a loved one that passed away within the last couple years. Do you have a memory that will work for this?”
“I do. My granny. She was so amazing. I loved her so much. She passed away five months ago.”
“We're sorry that she passed so recently. Will this be too difficult for you?”
“No, I'm good” I manage as I wipe a stray tear from my eye.
Doctor Donnell fits the helmet snugly on my head with a strap under my chin. It's snug but not too tight. He then attaches some kind of electrode things to it in several places. I try to watch him with my eyes but I just can't roll my eyes far enough to even get a glance.
Doctor Donnell gives the Professor a thumbs up. “Ready, Steven?”
“Ready” I say putting forth great effort not to wipe my hands on my pants.
“Great, now just sit there and think about your granny. Think about all the things you did together. How amazing she was. Now, remember how still she was when she passed. Remember as much as you can about that day. Feel everything you felt.” He pauses. “Good.” He replies seeing tears run down my face.
Moments turn into eternity as the tears stream down my face and neck. I wished I could have my granny back. “I love you....”
“All done.” Professor Manford interrupts. My eyes flutter open as he hands me a $100 bill. I quickly stuff it in my pocket. “You may come back as many times as you like. I hope to see you again.” He motions me to the door.
Wiping what wet tears are left from my face, I walk out the door.
When I return to my dorm room, I have a nagging deep in the pit of my stomach to call home. I wipe my hands on my pants, waiting for mom to hurry up and answer. Why isn't she....
“Steven? Are you okay? You never call. What's going on?”
“I was thinking about granny and wanted to call. How is she doing? She's still doing well, right?”
Silence roared in my ears. “Mom?”
“Steven, granny passed away five months ago. Don't you remember?”