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No Title: ch3 - Look, Learn, Act
I stayed still for a long while, soaking in what little I found out. The tears continued to fall and I felt myself begin to shiver.
“Steph!” there it was again.
I closed my eyes trying to keep it away. When I opened them I heard a new voice.
“Stella!” After that one call to me, came silence. I was still paralyzed in the small corner I sat in. Then, breaking the silence, came a loud piercing scream, followed by, my name called in a hoarse scream. The voice, I didn’t recognize. The voice continued to call me. I began to scream too because it was the only way to block it out- to not hear or listen. I was scared. I was alone.
As I rocked myself back and forth, my eyes closed, my voice screaming, I felt myself get lifted. I opened my eyes and found Chris. I recognized him by his beanie. He never took it off, but this time, seeing him, I did not see his long wavy hair beneath it. He continued to run, holding me tightly against him.
I couldn't tell where we were going because he hid my eyes against his chest, making vision impossible. But when he let me see again we were on the street far away from my bedroom and farther away from that awful screaming.
I couldn't hear it anymore.
“Stella. Stella it's okay now.” Chris said putting me down. He wasn't panting. He wasn't even tired.
“No it's not, Chris.” I heard myself say. I wasn't here anymore. I was only watching. “It's not okay.”
“It will be, St-”
“When?” My voice was sharp with an edge of doubt. “When will it be okay? When, Chris? Because while I stand here and run away, my mom and my sister are out there... out there-” I chocked back a sob. “They're out there practically dying for me! And what do I have to offer? Love? Companionship? Pity?”
The sobs began to flow out pathetically. I dropped, but Chris caught me and settled me at the edge of the curb.
“Stella, look up.” He said, but my face was buried in my hands.
“Why?” I snapped, not moving. “Is god here to save us? Did the light finally choose to shine down on me? Well, you know what God? I hate you. You did nothing. It's too late.”
“What?” I yelled lifting up my face.
He looked into my eyes earnest.
“They aren't coming for you. They won't hurt you while I'm here.”
“I'm not the only one, Chris. My mom, my sister- what about them? I can't do it. You can't do it. We can't save anyone, Chris.”
“They can take care of themselves and I will take care of you.” His words felt true and I believed them. I believed them as true as I did my own name. But in my heart, as true as anything I had ever felt, I knew I loved him, but I also knew that it was still too late.
“Wake up. Wake up!” With each sentence came a sharp tug on my arm.
I sat up with shock and relief. Shock: because it was real and it happened. Relief: because it was over. I blinked twice and looked around. I was in my bed, in my room. He was there- the same guy from my memory.
Chris Deon was there and this time I didn’t want o to run away and I didn’t want to stick my tongue out ate him. I wanted to hug him- and I did. I hugged him tightly- imprisoning him in my arms.
He stayed still for a long while- frozen in shock.
“Tell me. Tell me what happened, please.” I begged.
Chris pulled away and looked me straight in the eyes. Confusion swept across my features. “What?”
“I know that you know about me, so tell me! Tell me what I forgot!”
“You forgot, Stephanie. You don’t know and you’re not supposed to. So just forget about it.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to or else you’ll just forget everything else. You’ll just keep forgetting like you have the past 14 years!” he yelled at me.
His face was pained and he began to walk away. I grabbed his arm before he had a chance to take a step. He didn’t turn back. He didn’t look at me, but he didn’t leave either.
“Why?” I whispered. “I want to know.”
He pulled away sharply and whirled around to face me. “If you want to know something then know this: NO ONE WANTS TO REMEMBER! And YOU shouldn’t either! You FORGOT all of it for A REASON, Stephanie! YOU FORGOT SO YOU WOULDN’T REMEMBER!”
“Stop yelling,” I whispered. I was frightened by him. “Please.”
He relaxed a little, but was still panting heavily from his outburst. Chris grasped my shoulders tightly, holding me firmly onto my bed.
“It’s not time to look back at the past.” He said quietly. “People have sacrificed a lot for you. People let go and never looked back. So should you.”
“Listen to him, Stephanie.” I saw my mom behind him standing by the doorway.
I don’t want to, I thought. I looked down, refusing to face them.
“Everything that happened… you have no reason to remember anymore, honey. It’s already over.”
“It happened to me, mom. That’s enough reason to remember.” I argued.
No one answered. The seconds ticked by in silence.
“Fine, Stephanie. Beg and plead all you want, but I promise you one thing: We won’t tell you.” Chris shook his head at me, evidently agreeing with her.
“You both know!” I screeched. “You know everything, don’t you?” I asked Chris. He nodded.
“I do, Steph. We were close.” The flash of remembrance in his eyes had me launching toward him. He lost his balance and fell to the floor with me standing over him.
Angry tears rolled down my cheeks, falling at his feet. “You say we’re close? I saw that in these flashbacks I’m having,” I said pointing my forehead. “And YOU promised to take care of me.” I saw the shock in his eyes.
“I am.” He replied, turning away from my gaze.
“How?” I asked bewildered. “How are you taking care of me?”
“I’m protecting you-“
“Protecting me?” I scoffed. “By what? Not telling me? What are YOU protecting from?”
I fell back, my back leaning against the bed. I was tired- way too tired. Lies, betrayal, secrets- they just all seemed to have been thrown at me all at once. I felt an ache at the pit of my stomach. It was of not knowing- like a hole.
It ate me up inside and I felt it.
I felt it just by remembering- just by looking at their guarded faces. Although their faces were guarded, the aura of the room itself was left unprotected. I felt it in the air: the unease, the pity. The apology I felt should have been given hung in the air in silence.
“Chris,” mom called. Chris looked at her curiously. “Tell her-“
“Tell her everything that Vincent knows. I don’t want him telling her something wrong.” She said and walked out.
I turned to him and I knew that the curiosity burned in my eyes. He looked at me doubtfully. Then, seeming to have accepted that he needed to tell me, he spoke. “You have Systematized Amnesia.”
“What?” I knew what that was. I knew completely. Because I read something about it from a Holocaust survivor:
I want to remember my past
To see before my eyes
The image of my parents
The house in which I grew up
The village in which my family lived for generations
I don't want to remember my past
I fear for what my memory
Might bring before my eyes
I wonder whether I can continue my life
If I'll rescue from oblivion
What I want to recall.
Itta Benhaiem-Keller, 1996,
This person had forgotten it all, but I… I had forgotten three important people: my father, my sister, and most importantly, myself. I forgot so much I didn’t even know my real name. And my own mother- she fed me these lies. Who I was and who I wanted to become, what I felt and my knowledge, intelligence, stuff like that she had held away from me. I took so many extra classes just to catch up. If I had remembered the littlest thing then maybe I could have remembered me. I could have remembered Stella.
But I’m stuck here with words hanging in the air, with this truth lingering in my past, and betrayal stuck in the path before me.
“What’s her name?”
“My sister. What’s her name?” I whispered.
“Naomi,” I repeated rolling it off my tongue, trying to remember. “Was she a good sister?”
Chris paused not answering and when he did he spoke in a low mumbled voice I scarcely heard. “Yeah, the best.”
“I wish I knew.”
“Me too.” And slowly I felt his hand slip into mine as if silently saying, "Your not alone."