I Know What I Saw (October 2020)

Imagine a heart ready to burst with joy. Christmas mornings as a child, passing your final exams, the thrill of a first kiss – all that and more. Imagine being able to reach and find those glorious moments whenever you want, the feelings fresh and intense, undiminished by time. Imagine sinking into them when the world grows heavy, always there whenever you call. If I describe my perfect memory to you like this, does it sound like a gift? Something precious, even something to envy?

<p2>I’ve been this way for as long as can remember. As a child, blissfully ignorant that I was different from anyone else, steadily more aware through my teens of how it made me special. It did feel like a gift back then, the way I could summon any moment of my life and live it again, fresh and bright and with nothing faded. Tests and exams were easy. I could remember – can remember, even now – everything my teachers said in the classroom.

And then boys. The day I first saw Declan. The look in his eye, the first words he ever spoke to me, the first time we kissed; that first summer when we discovered each other, the sense of a love that went far beyond anything I’ll find again. Even now, after a bad day, I can lie awake and relive those memories and it’s all as vivid as ever: the colour and the joy, the anticipation, the love that brings tears to my eyes. My mind is wired differently from yours. The doctors have a name for it and there are only a handful of people in the world who live their lives as I do.

But a blessing?

Imagine the moments that broke your heart and crushed you flat. A loss, a humiliation, a betrayal. Imagine every slight, every rejection, every disappointment, all kept polished for safe keeping in a little chest inside you. Imagine the things you did and wish you hadn’t; every word spoken or received in anger; every regret as fresh as the moment it was made. Imagine every mistake and all the words never said that might have changed your life. Imagine them forever lurking, never knowing when they might steal out and take you.

A gift?

They say that time heals, but for me it festers. Where your scars fade, mine stay raw. On good days, my memory will take me to places that others can only dream of finding. On bad days, it rips the soul from my chest and shreds it in front of me.

Right now . . . ?

Right now, the phone is ringing. My hand hovers over the receiver. Whatever happens next, I will remember its every detail for the rest of my life.

I close my eyes and force myself to breathe.

It’s been a long, long day and I have a sense that something terrible is coming.

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