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The Inconvenience Of Memories

By Justin Bonsey

When I finished crying for perhaps the fourteenth time that day, I began again. Emotion won out over embarrassment. The other subway passengers stared at me, some with disbelief, some mockingly, some with sympathy. Uncontrollably, for the fifteenth time that day, I was crying and it was still morning.

Although I hadn’t really liked her that much anyway, I was incensed that my girlfriend would break up with me by email. It didn’t seem fair, because she knew that I didn’t check my email very often and, by the time I got around to checking it, she’d had enough time to screw another couple of guys, pack her bags, and leave town without the inconvenience of memories. I deleted the email, trying to delete my own memories as well. I wanted to go home and listen to depressingly bad music—not music about depressing subjects, just so badly written that I could feel better about my own failures. In the meantime, I looked around the subway car imagining that my problems were worse than everyone else’s and transforming their nonchalant expressions into silent Hallmark cards made out to me.

Her reasons for leaving were obvious enough: I am an unabashed depressive consumed by anxious guilt. I have nervous ticks and frequent impotence. I have a tendency towards forgetfulness and I no longer speak to my parents. I eat with my napkin and elbows on the table and chew with my mouth open to let the food air like a good red wine. Not that I haven’t been seeking treatment. But my psychotherapist, a former saleswoman, liked to make sarcastic comments about my past whenever I brought it up, although we tended to talk mostly about her problems. This was fine with me because all I could remember about my past was that I had a crippling aversion to it. The one time we did have a meaningful conversation was when she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I had to talk her through it. Otherwise, her unstable mental state might have jeopardized my dependence on her.

“Brenda, c’mon, how bad could it be? It’s not like he broke up with you over email," I said, handing her the box of tissues. She was incorrigible; a total mess, really, and she needed a haircut.

She told me that her chakras were blocked with sour energy and that her choker had become bitterly tight, a sure sign that the stress of the relationship had permanently stacked her with a bad mood and a few extra pounds. I couldn’t agree with her—that would’ve been counterproductive—but I couldn’t disagree with her either.

“Don’t think of it that way. Maybe you just have a goiter or something,” I told her.

She said she was sure that she didn’t.

“Well, then you’re just a well-rounded person with a big neck. Better prepared in case of a food emergency of some kind. Look, it’s not even noticeable.” I tried to persuade her but she wasn’t biting. I began getting frustrated. After a few more sincere attempts I lost my patience completely.

“God damn it! Quit complaining! Why is it so hard for you to understand that I have problems, too? Look at me. I’m well into the repressive, self-abrasive stage of childhood regression and I can’t even get you to notice me. You women are all the same!” I thought about saying that, but, instead I wrote in a note while she continued telling me how her boyfriend shat on her constantly. Completely ignored her greater sensitivities. Of which she had none, considering I was paying her to ignore me, too.

At that point, the aforementioned boyfriend telephoned. She excused herself and took the call. I excused myself and walked out, thinking that I would have to talk to my then girlfriend in the hope that she could help me sort out my problems. It was always a painful, involved process just trying to find her.

I stuck the note I had intended to give the psycho therapist in my pocket. Walking to the subway, the streets became avenues and my sadness grew at the lengthening dusk and the thought of another day lost. I stopped at a payphone and called my girlfriend.

Per the usual, I prepared my one-minute voice message. “Hi, baby. Just calling to see how you’re doing, but I guess you’re busy.” Pause. I couldn’t think of what else to say. I knew she was holed up with some much-better-looking guy with fewer problems than I. “I’m just walking around the block in circles trying to make myself feel better.” Pause. “It’s been a tough day.” Pause. “I’d like to talk to you…when you get the chance. Call me.”

***

The subway oozed more slowly than usual, making slow-motion bobbleheads of unsuspecting passengers. As the train came to a halt between stations, giving me temporary cause to stop crying and look up to see what was wrong, I noticed a familiar-looking woman across from me with her legs crossed and her lips pursed. I waved my arm, prompting tears to break loose from their ducts and roll down my cheeks. Whoever it was, she didn’t want anything to do with me.

Although I could no longer remember why, I once again began crying. The other subway passengers—all but the familiar woman across from me—glanced at me making an emotional fool of myself and quickly averted their eyes.

 

Justin Bonsey is a freelance writer, translator, and reporter living and
writing in New York. His stories and essays have appeared in City
Writers Review
, The Eastern Literary Journal, and WIN International, and
soon will be appearing in Thieves Jargon. He currently is working on a
novel on the imagined life of an airport bartender which he hopes to
finish by the end of the year.

Photo courtesy of Vanda Manprasert.

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