The car was covered in barnacles. Details and dates scare me to an infinite degree. The barnacles have suctioned to the smooth sides of my memory, sharp and white and parasitic.

I want to know what happened to our lives. I've looked through boxes and basements but I can't find our old Webster's dictionary, words sleeping beside an ancient accordion in a chest in a house we once called home. I want my diction airy. Because you won't remember all the definitions, and I won't remember all the moments. So I will break them up, insert, repeat: memory. I lost Webster, I lost you, I looked up memory. Did you find us in a Random House or an American Heritage? If I splice the two together, would the resulting definition be truer to memory?

Random House 11. Information subject to recall.

The space between thinking and doing is waterlogged. I stare at the wall for hours on end. I look for science to save me but it scares me instead. My fingers trace the curves of her love always. Eyes wide-open shutters of a never-ending exposure.

When a face is submerged in water, the mammalian diving reflex puts the body in energy saving mode. Bradycardia is the heart beat halving itself. Peripheral vasoconstriction sets in, slowing the blood flow to fingers and toes. Blood shifts to the thoracic cavity to prevent the collapse of the lungs.

People boil down to paper in the end. The death certificate said "drowned" and the newspaper said "suicide." The cards said "sorry." Her living will said my name because I'd signed it in February, after she promised me there was nothing wrong. The card I found in my mailbox two weeks after she went missing said "sounds like you're really on track, Linds" and was signed "Love Always." It was the only time in my life that she signed off with words other than "Love Ya."

Another tragedy on the six-o'clock news, where you change the channel unless you know the victim. The sinking recognition. Unless the victim is you. Unless you are on the news asking viewers "have you seen this woman?"

American Heritage 4. The length of time over which recollection extends: a time within the memory of living persons.

But American Heritage, how can a shattered skull can hold twenty-one years' worth of stories? When one memory drowned all the others. Our bodies are over seventy percent water; oceans flow through us. Nobody heard the splash.

Random House 10: The ability of certain materials to return to an original shape after deformation.

American Heritage 10: Such as plastic or metal.

On March 24th, 2006, I had an eye exam. My eyes had been zooming, panning, spinning for a few weeks, at an ever-increasing rate. Yellow drops dilated my pupils as I read aloud big letters getting smaller. "E, L, F." I called my mom on my way back to school to tell her my eyes were 20/20. It went straight to her voicemail, and I left a message saying "Goose, it's about time you turned your phone off during work. They said my eyes aren't the problem."

11:55 am: I was walking to class when I got the call. A Friday mid-March, four trash barrels to my right. Maybe you were right next to me, syncing footsteps with strangers. "When was the last time you talked to Mom?" The sinking recognition. She hadn't shown up for work, hadn't called. We were walking to class, you and I. She always called. Her phone was off, went straight to "I'm sorry, the person you are trying to reach is unavailable" for the next twenty-six days.

March into April held the whole weight of forever. We met with detectives and hung missing person flyers and traced credit cards and cell phones and drove to every place we could think of. I kept returning to the bird sanctuary on Plum Island, sure she'd be there taking photos of nesting pipers, bleeding sunsets. We watched a surveillance video at a gas station at midnight that first night we lost our mom.

We clutched at an illness called dissociative fugue, where a person's mind literally snaps, catapulting them into a short-term amnesiac state. They assume a new identity, completely unaware of who they were before, or that they went missing at all. Only two percent of the population has been diagnosed with dissociative fugue. We hoped you were this rare. Mom, I've begun a new life, too-fugue refugee aimless and wandering.

The things that say crycome in fast sharp bursts of light and color and sound. My dad and I cried when we saw that lightning rod, stopped in our tracks and sobbed over the infinite grace of what he said "only one in a million notice." He cried over the green curve of the copper; I cried that he and I had to be two in a million together.

American Heritage 1. The mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.

If the body is still conscious underwater, apnea-the suspension of external breathing-will kick in. When you're holding your breath, cells consume oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide. Higher amounts of carbon dioxide lead to an ever-increasing reflex to breathe.

American Heritage 3. The act or fact of retaining and recalling impressions, facts, etc.; remembrance; recollection: to draw from memory.

Sidewalks are flooded with the footprints of old ghosts colliding. Aquarium full of greasy fingerprints on glass. "When was the last time you talked to mom?" That instant, on repeat, passing those four trash barrels, you were next to me, a phone call, you didn't know, that instant, everything changed, the trash barrels, rearranged, Trash, Mixed Paper, Bottles, Newspaper.

Grief is a word without windows, a style of architecture I can't understand. Five letters can't hold the weight of forever and family and "they found mom's body." So don't call my mind a black hole in an office without windows. Peer, pier, please disappear.

American Heritage 3. All that a person can remember: It hasn't happened in my memory.

Being told that my mind is a "black hole" is harder to swallow than the prescription pills. I lurch into memory's quicksand when I walk out of that psychiatrist's office without windows. Heavy hang of midnight, Providence, insomnia, fog. Here and there are the safe black dots of a sentence's end, but somewhere between the big letter and the dot, my mom drove off a pier.

The breath-hold breakpoint occurs when too much carbon dioxide is excreted in the body, and the victim cannot hold their breathe any longer. Water floods the airways, and the conscious victim tries to cough it up or swallow, thus inhaling more water accidentally. Laryngospasm causes the vocal cords to constrict in the throat and seal the airways.

Last fall, I fell down a flight of stairs. It was only a fracture. Bones bending from wood to water, sky to sea. Between the big letter and the dot. Onto the cold concrete of someone else's basement. Dissociative fugue. Onto the ocean floor.

American Heritage, give me a word that goes farther than falling. Define a mind careening off a pier, and tell me how many alternate definitions that word entails.

I was half-dead by day twenty-six, bones all bent like branches in black night rain. Brad called me five times before I picked up. I was on the other line with my uncle, who'd just visited a psychic and learned that my mom was "on the dark side." Those five missed calls were the last time I was alive. "Couldn't you have left a message Brad?" Silence. "Linds, I love you." No, fuck you, Brad, we don't say that to each other. "No, don't." I knew. "Linds, they found mom's body." Zooming panning spinning no fuck you Brad no sliding down the wall no, bones break now, why are you saying this no, what in the water no, what the fuck no, what no what brad no fuck you zoom pan spin-


Numbers tempt me to throw my words to the wind: April 19th, 2006, 8:08 p.m.: the moment I crumpled, writhed, gasped for air because underwater she had no more. A four-week missing-person case, the rest of my life missing, fifty-four years old, alcohol content 0.4% after an estimated twenty-one days in the fifty-degree water.

My mom drove off a pier, it's true. But don't ever look at me like that. Like you know. Don't look at me like you don't even want to know. Don't look at me like I'm crazy; like you're glad you're not me; like my family must be really fucked-up for this to have happened; like you don't give a damn because my story will make you late for your appointment. Because I've gotten all these looks and I took photographs of them.

American Heritage 2. The act or an instance of remembering; recollection: spent the afternoon lost in memory.

The day before her funeral, we packed up my mom's apartment in slack-jawed silence. We didn't know what to keep, what to donate, what to discard. Throwing out the rotting contents of her fridge meant opening and closing a door covered in photographs of myself.

Weary of hauling heavy things down three flights of narrow wooden stairs, I started hurling things off the deck instead. Watching her wine glasses shatter on the grass far below felt appropriate. But my brothers yelled "what the hell do you think you're doing?" and it was back to dragging trash bags down all those stairs. Words are something steady to hold onto when memory can explode at any moment. The things that filled those trash bags were even heavier than words.

The laryngospasm prevents water from entering the lungs by redirecting it to the stomach. In most victims, the laryngospasm relaxes after the loss of consciousness, and water floods the lungs. This is called a "wet drowning."

In this big cracked mirror of sky and sea, we sift through the wreckage and make families. She was my Goose and I was her Gander. The mirror's cracked, words bouncing from shards. Between brothers and fathers and sisters, death means paperwork. So we scrawl the names she gave us, stick a thirty-nine cent stamp on the pain, and send it to other states.

But a writer can't send words away. Let alone the only one she gave me, Lindsay. I was her "Linden tree by the sea." She was my Goose. We took the Bible's "from dust to dust" and went swimming with it.

A eulogy is a slack string of words pulled taut by all those eyes, watching, waiting, wetting. Of those words, no memory remains, save, 'she drove with all the windows down on the highway in the winter. When I called her crazy, she said, I like being out there; it's less crowded.'

The space between asleep and awake. The freedom of that moment upon waking when you almost forget. The snap. That moment is gone and then you wake up-the fire-and remember that your mom drove off a pier. The release.

American Heritage 9: Statistics. The set of past events affecting a given event in a stochastic process.

After falling off a skateboard while she was missing, falling down a flight of stairs when she was dead, and slicing an absent-minded cheese knife into my index finger while she was still dead, I've begun to wonder if there is truth to the scientific correlation between emotional grief and physical accident. I think about graphs snoring in whispering libraries, but just the thought makes me too tired to wake them up. Could a case study come close to catching us?

In ten to fifteen percent of drowning victims, the vocal cords remain sealed

until cardiac arrest. No water enters the lungs. This is known as "dry drowning."

Best intentions rain down from the sky and leave puddles of regret. Goose, you should've put the windows down. Stepping in puddles reminds us that this is real, and this is all we have: she took her life into her own hands, and now memory has taken mine.

Random House 2, 3, 4, 5: to have a good memory, to draw from memory, a time within the memory, one's earliest memories

Time bounces. Gives and takes. I've worn her watch since the spring. Did she take it off because it wasn't waterproof? I'll keep the time for you. Shining a face to blind hands beneath glass, or, what I can't touch. The hours unravel.

Random House 5: a mental impression retained; a recollection: one's earliest memories.

Trauma wipes out memory in waves, leaving driftwood grief on the sand where it turns from dry to wet. Where the seagulls drop their dinner-crack!-and the whole mussel is splayed open like the six o'clock news. A diver was checking moorings in Rockport Harbor last May when he saw a white shape shimmering deep.

How foot found pedal, I'll never know. On and then off of a pier made of wood and named after granite. I wonder what gear, what music, what time, what wearing, what drinking, what thinking? Why flies and floats, sinks and swims. My snap-fire existence resides in the well of that word, three letters, a lifetime, a mother, a suicide, what comes after. Why. The question mark that always follows.

Random House 4. The length of time-

In forensic pathology, lungs full of water indicate that the victim was still alive at the point of submersion. Dry lungs mean the victim died of hypoxia-the lack of oxygen to the brain-followed by cardiac arrest. I never read the autopsy results.

Random House 4. -over which recollection extends: a time within the memory of living persons.

The slow-fast existence. Think fast, do slow, or don't do at all. Or trip, or slice, and have done to you, so fast, and face the consequences slowly, one by one by always one more. Snap. Or do fast, without thinking, like hurting yourself but on purpose that time, and face the consequences faster than you could ever imagine, like being fired from your job, having to move in with your father for the first time, hiding shame with sleeves upon your brothers' furtive glances in August. Fire. How a shooting star seems to happen so fast, how you fell in love last summer after your mom committed suicide and you were in shock and then it hit you and it cut you. Release. Because really that light is millions of years old and has already gone by. It just took so long to reach your galaxy.

So we lose ourselves in the haze of days. Find moments tripping on what happened that was never supposed to happen. Dissociative fugue. Time giving, time taking. Memory is-the memory of-hands spiraling asunder. Falling off where it's flat. Careening under couches. Where your arm is never long enough. Dry drowning. Just a bit further now. Where dust motes divide-particles settling on memory-the page splayed open by the window in the afternoon's fading half-light; but for a moment, suspended, diction airy.


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