Caught by the safety net of blackness. Cheeky chappie. Salt of the earth. The Knowledge to get you home. Safe and sound. Sounds keep playing though. You remember the argument over which tube station was nearest. You went separate ways. There may have been a bar, music, a toilet, a moment of panic on the road. The panic stopped for you when the black door swung open. You could relax. Just how much you’ll never know.
You’d heard about these women, drunk and falling over themselves to believe the lie of the lottery win. The free champagne and Rohypnol on the extra-long ride home. You heard yourself ask the obvious question. Why are you working if you’ve just won millions? You’d thought this when you heard about them, why don’t they ask the bloody obvious question? Not that you were judging. Why are you working if you’ve just won millions? Last shift apparently. Final job. Maybe you only thought about the others asking the question afterwards. Maybe asking the question wasn’t enough. You hadn’t touched alcohol for months and were already reeling with the unreality after flooding your system with the memory of booze. His constant checks of ‘are you drinking it all up there love?’ bothered you but it just felt easier to down the whole scenario and slump back to seethe about Warren Street station being closer. That was an incontrovertible fact in your sodden mind.
You sat on the back seat. You had a recent memory of being thrown back on it from the floor. Your zip was down, the button undone. You must have been sleeping. You must have dreamt it. What ‘it’ was you weren’t quite sure. The unreality grew stronger. You focused on the route. No back streets. No disused warehouses. No empty waste grounds of the unlicensed cab. You were officially safe and sound and on your merry way home.
You got him to stop outside the house 3 doors down. Just in case. Some memory of danger told you to do this. You couldn’t remember if your address was anywhere in your bag. Your pockets. Your clothes. Your person. You refound your sense of self. You joked about getting a discount. You suddenly worried that made you sound like a prostitute. It just came out. You clarified. The Lottery win. Why would an unasked for sex discount be worse? you wondered and then immediately forgot the thought. He barked to just give him 20 quid. You did.
You wondered how your partner could be sound asleep in bed before you last night when you got a cab and he took the slow route on the last tube from Oxford Circus. You asked questions without explaining why. Without knowing why. You smelled last night’s knickers for clues. You tried to remember. The more you tried the more unlikely it seemed. You had too much detail. You had too little detail. You told your partner the cab driver had won the lottery. He shrugged, still annoyed by your drunken righteousness. Maybe it wasn’t that unusual after all. You tried to remember if you really did notice the time when you left the cab. You tried to remember.
Each time the news flashed it up you filled your head with trying to remember. Every new detail was added. The google search that now put a black leather jacket on the checked shirt. The voice that now spoke for longer and deeper in your head. The ideas sloshed around in your still woozy mind for months. What would be worse, the knowing or the unknowing? The happened or the unremembered? The meter of this runs and runs in your brain until all is syncopated nothing. You shrug it off as another vividly intoxicated dream. You blank it out completely. You get on with your life. You get in black cabs. You buy Lottery tickets. You still can’t remember. Your partner can’t remember if you told him about the Lottery win. You would surely remember?
The details of the women who did remember start to seep into the cracks of doubt. The new mum out for the first time since the baby was born. The solicitor out celebrating winning that big case. Another drunken woman arguing with her boyfriend. The blind drunk. The blindly trusting. The blindly dismissed. Not seeing is not happening; not remembering is not being you think. So you thought. Except he started to crawl through the spaces. He knew where you lived. He knew what you didn’t. He had your memories. You stared and trawled and stared at pictures of him. Looking him in the eye daring your memory to be truthful. Denying him the words to say differently. Misremembering him as a face on a screen only. Detached, detained and not on duty that night in your mind.
Like a teenager panicking at the possibility of unwanted pregnancy you search and scan and match up dates in your head. You know his trademark was condoms so you’re not pregnant, but were you there? You play truth or dare with other parts of the story. If you really had that conversation with a work friend in the toilets then the rest must be true. You test the hypothesis. It was months ago. They can’t remember, they were drunk, maybe less or maybe more than you, you’ll never know. Your photographic memory is failing you. You’re failing yourself with half alive memories of possibilities.
Possibilities of a future not the balance of probability of a past that you can’t ever be part of. You think about contacting the police to see if there is a photographic reel of your unremembered lying casually labelled in an investigation vault, recorded for posterity. Another trademark. You think that they’ll label you with Munchausen’s by sexual assault instead. You don’t bother. Instead you go through your own tapes. You remember all that you can about that night. You write it down in columns of your brain labelled fact and grey areas. It all sinks into the matter as putty mush. There is no way to retrieve it without damaging the brain of your future. You decide to edit it as another drunken nightmare. It could be true. It could be false. It could be both. Either way you are slamming the cab door firmly shut and running your house keys along the side. Your memories are home with you again. Where they belong.
About the Contributor
Clare writes all kinds of stuff and likes to collaborate. She was chosen to read at Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Storyshop for emerging writers in 2014, the story from this was a runner up in the Hysteria competition. She has an audio/text installation in the Project Afterbirth art exhibition which opens in England in October 2015 and will tour internationally for three years.
The Bone People - Keri Hulme
It's a novel that is equally brutal and beautiful in confronting loss, destruction and healing. Its rooting in the landscape of New Zealand and the Maori culture underlines the different levels and forms of loss and reclamation. I've chosen it because it is the only book that I've experienced on a physical level to the point where I wasn't sure I'd be able to get to the end even though I knew I had to. Reading it becomes a uniquely personal meditation on your own experiences of loss and hope and she manages to blend the physical, emotional and artistic with such beauty that it leaves an imprint whereby even 20 years later I can physically feel it.
More from Issue Six:
- Give Sorrow Words by Anna Vaught
- Pull me in by Melissa Fu
- Variations on Girl with a Red Balloon by Tessa Torgeson
- Written in Advance by Nathan Fidler
- Mrs Fox by Marian Womack
- Tomorrow by Vivienne Burgess
- The Kulaks Of Chelsea by Tadhg Muller
- Some Kind Of Happiness by Heidi James
- Dust Covers and Margins by Jennie E. Owen
- Sitting, Standing, Mending by Alison Jean Lester
- Ghosts by Catherine Mitchell
- And I was filled with such delight by Catherine Edmunds