To Remember

Sadie took a deep breath, praying she didn’t make a complete fool of herself. She had searched out Cassandra Rosenthol through the coffee shop windows before entering so she wouldn’t stand in the middle of the shop looking around like a dope. She only had one chance to make a good impression. She approached the table and said, “Hi! I’m Sadie Bloom from the Eastdale Express,” and held out her hand.

Cassandra stopped her work coloring an abstract design of swirls. She shook Sadie’s hand with a smile. “You remind me of my friend Alyssa Green. Something about your glasses and blue eyes. We sat next to each other in Spanish class. One Thursday in December when we were freshman, Senora Sanchez—” She shook her head. “Sit down, please.”

Sadie sat, setting her backpack by her feet and digging out her notebook. She opened the recording app on her phone. “Do you mind if I record this?”

“That’s fine.”

After a few more arrangements, Sadie thought she was ready. She hadn’t done many interviews and she wanted to get this one right. It could be a big story, at least for her school paper. Cassandra was special. “My newspaper advisor Mr. Jones told me you used to go to Eastdale.”

“Graduated almost 16 years ago.”

“And you have a superpower.”

“He would say that. My brain just works differently, that’s all.”

“You have photographic memory.”

“Not quite. I have vivid personal memories. I can tell you what I ate for lunch on the first day of second term in eighth grade, but I couldn’t tell you more than a half-dozen words I learned in Spanish class the year after. I can recall every day since I turned 10, but don’t ask me what year George Washington crossed the Delaware. I have a horrible memory for numbers.”

Sadie wrote as quickly as she could but was still writing for too long after Cassandra finished. Sadie hated that awkward silence. And she realized suddenly Cassandra would always remember how slowly she wrote and if she asked any stupid questions. “How does it work?”

“Scientifically, go ask the neurologist. As far as I’m concerned, it just does. When I saw you, you reminded me of Alyssa. The association brought a flood of memories, like a movie playing alongside the present moment. I was back in Spanish class with her. If I let it, one memory brings another, and I can spend an hour enveloped in them. It’s like when YouTube keeps playing one more video unless you press pause. And it’s not always easy to press pause.” She lifted her coloring book. “This helps focus me.”

“Is it nice being able to remember everything?”

“Say I’m with Alyssa in Spanish class. Joel’s there, too, right behind me. I’m not a good student, I’m too distracted, and I’m always saying the wrong thing. I remember trying to answer Senora’s question. I’m even more awkward in another language. Joel calls me chica loca, whispers it just loud enough for me to hear it. That reminds me of him laughing with his friends at me in the hallway. I remember putting my science notebook, black, in my backpack and seeing them all looking at me. And that flows into him tripping me in the cafeteria. I almost don’t catch myself, and I want to cry, but I don’t, and the tears stay hidden, almost ready to burst out all lunch period. And at the spring dance he comes and asks me for a dance, but when I’m in his arms, all embarrassed and hopeful and terrified he’ll find me ugly, I see his friends’ faces and I know it’s all a joke. Then I start crying. I remember exactly how it felt, crying there in the middle of everybody.”

Sadie realized she hadn’t written any notes. She had never talked with an adult who remembered what it was like being a teenager, really remembered. She didn’t even look at her notes for the next question.

“There must be happy memories, too, right?”

“Oh, of course. But associations don’t always move in one direction. Sad memories can lead to happy ones, and good memories to bad. I don’t control them. So when I see Joel, sometimes I’m stuck on the dance floor, crying.”

“Do you still see Joel?”

“Every day.”

Sadie imagined reliving her worst days continually. “Don’t you want to get even with him?”

“Sometimes. More often than I should. Are you religious, Sadie?”

“Sure. I believe there’s a god.”

Cassandra shook her head. “That’s not quite what I mean. When you remember everything, you become cynical, bitter. People are horrible, and time doesn’t erase anything. But my God taught me to forgive.”

“How?”

Cassandra laughed. “I don’t know. It’s very, very hard some days. But he doesn’t forget and he forgives me.”

“And that’s what you do when you see Joel?”

“Yes, Sadie. Every day. Sometimes every ten minutes. Because I married him.”

Sadie looked at her, then scribbled out all her prepared questions and turned to a fresh page. “That’s the story. That’s the superpower. Tell me more. Please.”

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