evelyn maguire

content warning for allusions to sexual violence

Ever since my skull was cracked, my memories have found passages to sneak out of my head, fissures that allow them to wiggle out of their once-sealed jars and into the world around me. They ricochet off my bedroom walls leaving greasy smears like snails in their wake, but unlike mollusks they can be as quick and spritely as a smack or as lethargic and gravitational as my ex-boyfriend, drunk in front of the television, beer bottle beckoning me closer.

When they are asleep, I plug up my head with insulation, with a fresh coat of paint and new locks on the door, stuff dried lavender under the beds and burn sage. I give them stories to keep them occupied, I offer them treats to keep them full, I lay down soft things for them to rest upon. I never know when they'll tire of the pleasant cage I've offered them, but they always do.

At a whiff of a woodsy cologne from a passing stranger, they leak out of my nose at a party, swimming laps in the punch bowl until I ladle them up and drink them down again, trapping them in the acid of my stomach for a time, until they claw their way up my throat and into the toilet. At the first, tentative notes of a melody that they know well, I press my hands into my ears, but the recollections playing like silent movies just drip out of my eyes instead, dancing shadows that never tire of the same performance, and even after the song in the vegetable aisle has ended, they linger on the sidelines, wondering after an encore. When I nick my thumb with a paring knife cutting garlic and I press the bead of blood to my lips in reflex, the metallic tang heralds them out of my mouth in a gasp; I snatch them back, pin them down on the wood board and chop them to bits, and then, as they wriggle, realize with horror that I have multiplied them.

Remember the biting cold from the AC unit on your exposed hip, remember the callouses on the hands as they held you down, remember the cigarette smell of the pillow that muffled your cries, remember the sharp poke of the golden cross pressed into your nape, remember the warm comfort dripping down your face until you realized it was blood from a crack in your head, remember the song, remember the smell, remember the taste, remember the feeling, remember the pain, remember, remember, remember.

There is one memory that drifts out sometimes when the others are quiet, a waft of pink smoke that floats around my shoulders, that cradles my head and caresses my cheeks. Unlike the others, this memory asks rather than demands, suggests rather than shows. Unlike the others, this memory still brings soft tears to my eyes. With a whisper, this memory recalls the time before the remembering. This is the memory that kills me, but I lean into its gentle touch.

Evelyn Maguire is a writer and educator pursuing an MFA at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work has been published by North American Review, Cypress, and Coffin Bell among others. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine Overheard, and can be found on Twitter. @evelyntweeting.