My only thought for the entire two months before going home for a one-week vacation was, I’m going to eat so many gyros and souvlakia, it’s not even funny. That was still when I was blissfully unaware of what was going on back home, before anyone from my family decided to sit me down and tell me the truth. That was before I found out I have Alzheimer’s running in my family—from both sides.
Then my only thought was, I don’t want to forget you.
It’s not the best news to receive, especially when I’m still recovering from our breakup, but I hear that’s just another way of saying, “That’s life.”
Personally, I think I have a better definition for it—a better way of saying it. I think it’s more of a case of making plans that are all squeezed into a glass bomb, and when God overhears, He cackles and picks up a slingshot, ready to start throwing stones at it with magnificent precision.
Up till now, that’s kind of what it felt like dreaming about a future with you. Someone up there must’ve heard my prayers that were filled with tiny little futures of us together and decided to make them a past I’ll only keep coming back to as if it just happened only a few moments of ago. Someone up there saw I was too busy making plans without knowing the words that were to fall off your lips, telling me we should break up. But I digress.
Going home and finding out Alzheimer’s runs in my family felt a whole lot like being in the middle of that glass bomb exploding, shrapnel tearing my skin. Finding out both my grandmothers were showing early signs of dementia only made my mind picture jagged pieces of a future which involves them calling me by the wrong name and then apologizing, then eventually turning into them calling me a name from the past, from the dead, calling on bones that have been long laid to rest and praying on saints that can no longer perform miracles.
Perhaps the same saints I called upon during the nights after you were no longer in my bed.
And when silence is the only answer, it will only lead to my grandmothers being afraid of me because to them I’ll be just another stranger; a nameless female who stumbled into their home uninvited. Just like I’ll be another girl in your past.
And when that home becomes just another house to them, I’ll be filling in the cracks with the ashes of my family’s present and future, not knowing how else to keep up the pillars they so loving breathed life into, creating a happy home for all of us.
Ironically, or perhaps that’s just the way life goes, I was editing a piece about dementia at work the other day. There are around 800,000 cases of dementia in the UK right now, right this minute, with two thirds of that number being women. Maybe I should be worried about that, but at 26 years old, I’m not—not yet, anyway. Maybe I never will be or maybe I should be—I don’t know. I haven’t researched it and I don’t think I will. I’m not even going to go get tested; that’s not going to change anything, anyway. Just like I couldn’t change your mind about our future, either. But you were my first thought as soon as I heard the news.
I don’t want to forget you.
I don’t want the disease to start nibbling at the memories of us that I keep buried beneath tombstones in the dusty catacombs of my mind.
I don’t want the disease to scream over all of our whispered promises.
I don’t want the disease to remove all the roots of the love that I have for you—even after all this time.
But sometimes—just sometimes, in the middle of the night, right between finishing my prayers and the breaths of the monsters I keep inside my head—I wonder what it’d feel like to forget about all the pain and suffering I caused you; all the hurt and heartache that sucked the life out of us. Maybe that’s the only way my demons will leave me alone. Maybe the threat of an attack from this disease will be my penance for hurting you; and maybe that’s the worst fate of all—forgetting you ever existed. Forgetting that I love you and that I was loved by you.
I’m torn between wanting to forget about all the times my words hurt you, about all the times I bled on paper that only ever succeeded in filling up your lungs and choking you, and wanting to remember all of it—every single scar. Because then how will I ever pray for forgiveness against a God that plays around with a slingshot, my heart the only target? Perhaps dementia is my destiny because I loved you wrong or not enough.
I tore you out of my smile the other day and was left with a scar. I can only imagine the wounds the disease will leave when it declares war on my body, making me lose you all over again. I lost you again the other day when my phone deleted all of your voicemail messages—and it hurt just as much as I first lost you on the day we broke up. I lose you every day, every time I finish reading your old emails; every time I find your old shirt in my hamper. And if that still burns my heart, then I don’t know how I’ll be able to handle the prophecy that has been handed to me, telling me I’ll have to lose you all over again every single time my memory will fail me in the future.
I don’t want to forget you.
So I’ve been trying to solve The New York Times crosswords on Sundays because that’s something we imagined us doing on future Sunday mornings—me reading while you play with your cameras. I also try to solve the Metro’s crosswords every day as I sit on the Central Line on my way to work, and even play Sudoku on my phone. It’s important to keep the brain active; it plays a part in slowing down the disease. I’m trying to keep my brain cells active, trying so desperately to buy a little more time with you, as I try to remember every touch and kiss; every fight and tear; every hope, dream, and fear—every single scenario of every future in every alternate universe that could’ve been ours.
And every time we found Gods under our sheets.
Having to listen to my paternal grandmother call my dad by her brother’s name three times in the span of 30 seconds was enough to paint a future I do not want.
So the only thing I can do, the one thing that is tangible and real and will give me power over this—that one thing that brings you closer to me, is to keep writing about you. About the way we made New York City our own, about the way you made Los Angeles seems so much closer to the East Coast than it actually is, about the way we cooked dinner on hot summer nights in Yorkville with the breeze pressing up against our clothes.
And about the way we tore each other apart; about the ugliness of love when it allows monsters of ghosts past slide their way up our throats and into the world. A tale of caution to future-me that will forget about every surge of pain I rammed down your spine and into your heart.
I don’t want to forget you.
One more letter and one more word; one more sentence and one more paragraph—one more pen that will create the world I’d like to remember instead of this one, breathing phrases into a crystal ball which will forever be suspending in time. I’m going to keep writing and pray you find immortality between my black-inked words, giving a whole other definition to the word ‘God.’
And I hope that one day, when and if my mind decides to go, I’ll read my words for you and think, “Now that’s someone worth writing about.”