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.

The apartment is on the thirtieth floor, the penthouse. Most of the inhabitants of the building forget that it’s there. She’s seen it happen, an out of town family showing up and asking "Who’s up there?" and the assembled – who’ve lived in the building for a decade or so – scratch their heads and crane their necks and look at eachother strangely, wondering, how did they forget this one?

Sarah dances as she showers. Dances as she applies a bit of makeup and eye shadow. Dances into the kitchen, then back, holding a cup of cappuccino. The machine beeped once to signal it was done while Sarah was washing up.

The cup is orange and blue, bright colors of UIUC, the logo mostly faded. The cup was bought by Sarah’s mom a few decades back, when the ‘rents came up for an impromptu visit. Sarah stole the cup a few years back.

A small but sizable portion of Sarah’s library – books, LPs, CDs that she or her parents had accumulated over the years – were similarly stolen from her parents, various friends who had borrowed her items, the boyfriend she was living with at the time of The Change. Sarah runs her fingers along a random shelf, a light touch running over the LPs.

The faded pink bathrobe she wears also had to be "reappropriated" from her previous apartment.

Sarah finishes her morning routine and heads out. She takes the elevator down. As the floor indicator counts down, she watches it with what has become a daily ritual of wishing and hoping. The numbers count down from 30 at a steady pace, passing 20, then 10, then 5, and Sarah breathes a sigh of relief as no one joins her.

Sarah exits the elevator in the lobby, waves at the security guard behind a circular desk, calls out "Morning Pete" and counts down to the inevitable frown in three, two, early smile. "Ah," Sarah thinks to herself, "he must have had a second cup of coffee." Then, spying a bottle of OJ on the desk, on Pete’s side, changes her evaluation. "Oh, he got laid last night, well done." Shoots the guard with matching finger-guns on her way through the main doors, back pushing against the door lever, the door swinging to the outside, and turns around after noting the guard’s bewildered expression.

She walks two blocks to the nearest coffee shop, a non-chain operation that sticks out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood. She’s heard some variation of "who doesn’t offer free wifi in this day and age?" countless times now and enjoys people-watching almost as much as the caffeine.

Not much of a line today, she’s second, and the baristas outnumber the customers this morning, so her order is quickly taken. They ask for her name and Sarah pauses for a second – during which the barista makes a face and quickly examines Sarah’s ears for sign of "those damned bluetooth headsets" – then answers "Patricia".

"Oh, that’s my daughter’s name!" The barista remarks, writes the name on a cup made of recycled paper, adding the mandatory heart over the "i", and sets about pulling the coffee. "You in Seattle on business?"

"Live here," Sarah shrugs, then before the barista can come back with her usual line, asks "How old is your daughter?"

"Oh, she’s six. Just turned." Steam hisses and for a moment the barista, Francine, is all focus.

Francine has worked at the coffee shop almost two years, and has chatted up Sarah hundreds of times. She has a husband Mark and daughter Patricia. They had a boy, Tim, but he died last year. Sarah attended his funeral.

"She’s just the cutest thing," the barista continues, "can’t wait to go to school. She’s still at that age, you know?"

Sarah nods along.

Tim was nine. A year ago he and Francine were crossing the street, about half a mile from the coffee shop, when a drunk idiot with four DUIs to his name slammed into Tim and flung his small frame into the air. One minute Francine was holding her son’s hand as they crossed the street, and the next the kid was yanked out and away. Flew through the air…

Sarah remembers, vividly, the scene that Francine described a year ago. If asked, these days Francine will claim that she can’t remember that sad moment, she’ll say that shock set in, that her memories have faded, if they ever existed in the first place. She won’t remember the reasons for the closed casket.

Sarah stands there ruminating on this and misses what Francine says about young Patricia. No matter, Sarah thinks with no small measure of self-hatred, Francine won’t remember this slight.

Sarah taps at her phone and calls up a ride, then grabs the coffee, waves her goodbyes, and heads out.

Her ride is outside and Sarah jumps in, exchanges pleasantries with the driver and settles into the thick leather. Her phone pairs with the sound system and the old rock that filled the penthouse now permeates the SUV. Thick black leather, dark wooden grain, chrome everything. Sarah stretches out, picks up a tablet and starts to work.

The car navigates the mostly empty streets and merges onto the highway into light morning traffic. It goes south. For a while, it’s relatively quiet, just the oldies blasting away, but neither the driver nor the passenger speak. He’s focused on the road, no GPS or auto-drive screens around, he’s operating the vehicle on his own. She’s reading from her tablet, tapping here and there every once in a while.

"Where to?" He says as they reach the city limits. The road continues on and for a while they’re both content to sit there and appreciate the open road.

Every three seconds a tremor works its way through the man, a literal shockwave that lights up his muscles and tightens his skin. He is accustomed to it. He glances in the back mirror and considers the woman with her tablet. Then goes back to watching the road.

"Veteran Affairs," Sarah says eventually and finally looks up from her tablet. She is referring to the Olympia office and its associated hospital. "We might have a full docket today. Sixteen? You up for that?"

"Of course, ma’am." He looks in the rear mirror and nods.

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