Forgotten Moments; Look Back on the Past?
I look upon the pages of the photograph album in front of me, the pages that are filled with the long forgotten moments of lives I’ve never known; moments of happiness, sadness, laughter and pain. Every now and again I see a face in a photo I almost recognize, but the memory fades and I am left once again with only a book of unending moments I can never understand.
“Are you alright?” the nurse asks, wiping a teardrop from my cheek and holding my hand as she sits down beside me.
“I don’t know them,” I tell her. “These aren’t my memories.”
“Of course they are.” She smiles, turning a page and pointing at a man in a grey suit, with cropped black hair and a stern expression. “There you are, you see. He looks just like you, except for the attitude. You have such a happy face, and he looks a bit angry. This is your dad, right?”
I stare at the photo, the details popping out at me like a 3D movie I once saw which put me off the new technology for life. His hair is indeed like my own, and he has the same eyes that I see on my face every time I look in the mirror. His expression and suit suggest a rather shrewd and solitary man, but there is a hint of brightly coloured socks, and I can just make out the shape of a teddy bear in his blazer pocket.
“He could be my father,” I muse. “But why don’t I remember him, Helen?”
“Don’t try too hard,” Helen smiles. “You wouldn’t be in here if you weren’t having problems, so just try to keep your head and it’ll come to you in time.” She walks away, leaving me alone with my thoughts and the photographs.
I look around the room at my companions. Jade, in the corner by the door, was found close to death by a railway line a year ago, her wrists scarred from years of cuts. She’s happy now, but says she can’t leave because she doesn’t trust herself not to lose it again. Danny is a drifter. He wanders around aimlessly, drifting from one person to the next, asking them where he is and why he’s here. Nobody knows who he is, and nobody’s come to claim him, so he’s stuck. Haydn looks like every long-term patient in any psych ward in any movie ever. Smith (nobody knows if that’s his first or last name) looks like the Joker in The Dark Knight. Nell is my roommate, and while she doesn’t actually wear a foil hat, if this were a movie she might.
Back to the photo album, I look for more photos of my ‘father’. There’s one of him in shorts at a beach I don’t recognize. It could be from before I was born, or on another planet for all I know. Then he’s being kissed on the cheek by a pretty young woman who I suppose could be my mother, but I just don’t know the face. Further on he’s with another young man, smiles and elation in graduation robes. Then again in ridiculous Christmas jumpers. And again on a carousel at a fun fair. On the same horse. Another where they share a kiss, and another in matching black suits with carnations in their buttonholes. And again, cutting a cake – their wedding cake.
‘My father’s gay?’ I ask myself. ‘How could I not know something like that? Why can’t I remember?’
“Helen, this is confusing me,” I call to her as she potters around near the door. “How can I forget something like my father being gay?”
“Your father’s gay?” Helen smiles again, she’s always smiling. “That’s nice! I’m glad you’re starting to remember.”
I flip through some more pages. More of the same. The two young men getting older and older, so in love, so alive. On and on, their faces so youthful despite their advancing age.
One last page in the album, and there on its own is a single photograph. That same young man, alone at a gravestone, marked to a beloved sister.
And then I understand, he’s not my father, he’s my brother. The toy in his pocket was a gift for my twelfth birthday, when he was already grown and working. My wonderful older brother, so bright and happy, how long has it been since you last saw me? How long has it been since I died?
Helen lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Well done, I’m so proud of you,” she whispers. “It’s time for you to leave.”