Memory Fail, 3

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The woman from the video is named Sarah Shinpei. She lives alone.

She wakes up to a soft alarm that goes off at 6:45am. Sarah picks up her phone, slides a finger across its face and silences the ringing.

The sun shines in through the floor to ceiling windows. The blinds are set to open at the same time as the alarm, and they rise slowly and fill the room with a bright yellow light. Sarah is surprised at the sun, but pleasantly so. She’s always pleasantly surprised by sunlight, which makes her a battle-scarred Seattleite.

She stretches and half-falls, half-crawls out of the bed, playfully stomps along to the bathroom and begins her morning routine.

Speakers mounted into the ceiling and clothed in faux book bindings on the shelf start to play old rock that Sarah picked up a passion for recently. The shelf is full of books and CDs and takes up one long wall of the bedroom. The wall opposite is glass windows. The bathroom is at one end, the bed at the other. The bed looks over the city.

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Memory Fail, 2

[Previous]

What was going on? Who left me these books? Was I dreaming this?

I took the books, tossed them in the back of my car, then walked around the library. Didn’t have a plan in the least, but I thought that walking would help. Maybe my head would clear. Maybe I’d stumble onto an answer. Or fucking anything.

The forest was a young one, lots of thin trees, the carpet of needles just too light. It was a recent library, who knows, maybe this was a recent forest as well.

I walked around and thought about our impermanence. Then it started to rain, so I got back in the car and made my way home slowly, on backroads, preferring new turns to familiar streets, with GPS silently and dilligently routing and rerouting me, while I paid it no attention and relied on circumstance.

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Memory Fail, 1

Last week I found a card in my wallet. A white business card, stiff paper, blank on one side, blue ink on the other, lined up in curves to form a phrase. A sentence. Eight words that spoke a simple concept.

I have tried for the past nine days to memorize these words, in this order, this idea expanded in my head.

It is impossible. I’ve sat in my room for hours and stared at that damned card. I’ve read it over and over a thousand times, ten thousand. The idea makes sense and for a while I understand the message, the concept, the whole damn thing.

And then in fifteen minutes it is gone, puff, disappeared from my mind as if it were ashes, on a windy day, blown away, out, into the ocean, towards the infinite horizon.

I haven’t been able to work, to eat, to sleep. Not much, anyway. I’m a walking zombie, one hand wrapped around a bottle, the other heavy with the wrinkled parchment. I am lost.

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Crystal Math

[Editor’s note: this story has been in the works for way too long, since at least 2014, and I’ve finally decided to publish it, mostly as-is. The tenses change a few times and there are some other issues with it, but I also need to be free of it. So here it is.]

10 years ago, your average Joe Six Pack didn’t have a damn clue what L4 meant. This is still true for poor Joe, though now his kids probably do. Do you? No, it doesn’t have a thing to do with the lumbar vertebrae, or the Bren Gun, or whatever else . It’s a damn point in space.

Ask a kid in elementary school about the L4 and he’ll wax poetic on the subject, much like the previous generation could be relied on to blabber about dinosaurs or sharks or Pokemon. Nowadays, every damn kid knows that L4 stands for “4th Lagrange point”. Which, in turn, means that if you’ve got two large bodies, like the earth and the moon, there are 5 “stationary” points. 5 points where you can put something, like a rock or a book, and it won’t move. L1, 2, 3… those are about as stable as the tip of a needle. Yeah, put something there, it won’t move. Look at it the wrong way and off it goes, sailing into the night sky.

4 and 5, that’s where the money’s at. So to speak. You put something there, it sticks around. Maybe not in the same place – it wobbles a bit, in an orbit, you see – but it’s not flying nowhere.

“Come on dad, let’s get some ice cream! We can talk space later!”

10 years ago, I had a thankless job at the University of Chicago. Which is to say, I was that PhD student who worked the night shift, stuck in the lab while the rest of my high-school graduating class was attending dinner parties and art-house openings with their families. Or the DINK weekend warriors, climbing Mt Rainier, unwinding from some mind-numbingly boring IT gig they scored along the way. Ha, those suckers. They’d never know the true pleasure of staring at electron microscope scans, processing data, setting up simulations in a dire attempt to replicate the… Where was I going with this?

10 years ago, I’d have given anything to be where I am now.

10 years ago, I was a damn fool. A silly PhD student.

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