• Patrick King

The Memory Blink

Parking Lot

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Something to do with loneliness, though I wish I knew.

Memory past, present, future, colliding from blink to blink and it’s true that we’re all a bit like Billy Pilgrim, even my own mindfulness meditation teacher who tried so hard to live in the moment and experience the now and concentrate, concentrate. He meant well, but I think this life is a version of Slaughterhouse Five, like here we are projecting ourselves into the past and then an ideal future and maybe some present-tense for variety. Everything so familiar, discomfort with the whole thing brought to heel by humor as stupid as you will. You try, as Vonnegut says, to pick the best parts. But what do I know because my meditation teacher soothed us as he brought us deep into the present with a loving-kindness meditation where we concentrated so hard, eyes closed, visualizing a person we loved. I thought about Katie, my wife and only companion, and it made me so happy to think about her and my love for her so intensely that I cried after the thing was over. Maybe there was something to the meditation thing, and it certainly did its trick, keeping me rather sane during a depressive period until the depression became too much and I ended up in the hospital emergency room talking to a crisis counselor.

But I can’t shake the feeling that we were never meant to live linear. Nonlinear until the Big Break, of course, and that’s why my fingers type so fast. Sometimes it’s tiny razor blades through blood vessels. Sometimes your travels make no sense, like when you’re in line at the supermarket where you work and you look at a tabloid magazine and it reminds you, somehow, of the time you were in elementary school and you were in the bathroom with your friend Doug and the class bully Sean was there too and you told Doug in a stage whisper that Sean is an a-s-s-h-o-l-e, pronouncing each letter slowly, deliberately. And then Sean attacked you with punches and standing there in line waiting to pay for your groceries, you realize this is exactly what you wanted, to provoke the giant bastard into throwing wild punches and luckily you found out that punches to the face don’t hurt very much when they’re thrown willy-nilly. And then you realize you’re staring at a picture of Jennifer Lopez on a magazine cover and you think what-the-fuck and how did that face take you there and reality suddenly becomes a series of bleeps from the barcode scanner on the cash register. Bleep. Bleep. Monotonous and there you are again. But anywhere is better than those goddamn bleeps.

When I was ten years old, standing in the kitchen, having just finished helping put away some groceries, I was momentarily ripped into a terrifying present-tense, the thing my meditation teacher found so much value in, though this was a dissociative nightmare. I stood in the kitchen and my little brother Dave, seven years old, walked through the garage door and into the kitchen and he suddenly didn’t seem real. He seemed filtered, like someone on TV. I called out to him, desperate, “Are you real?” And he laughed and said, “Of course. What the heck?” But I wasn’t so sure. Was this someone fictional I was talking to, like a character on my Saturday morning cartoons, or was he my brother? Indeed, it shook me that I might never know the difference. I had become detached and it frightened me. This was present-tense at its most raw. Everything peeled away but I decided for now to accept that I wasn’t the only thing that existed in the universe or rather everything in the universe wasn’t some part of my imagination. But the panic of the present-tense was too much.

Andrew Licht, Acid King of Southbrook Apartments in Hoover, Alabama, had a freakout and the memory of his father and his father’s fears and the shock of being alive and drinking it all away was suddenly too much and his mind split down the middle. I was eighteen and he was seventeen, not quite adults and something a little more than kids.

His sanity was always on edge. But then the break came when he drank too much and blacked out and myself and my brother Dave followed him as he weaved around the parking lot, and I should have realized the seriousness of the thing but nothing was serious back then. And so his eyes wide and dodging fake bullets in the Southbrook Apartments parking lot in the sweaty Alabama summer night. It was eleven or midnight and his short and muscular body was illuminated in the parking lot lights as he jumped behind a car and said, “Fucking get down! It’s Charlie!” We were leaving ourselves exposed to enemy fire, standing there like that. And then he saw my ex-girlfriend Angie’s apartment, where she lived with her little brother and her mother and Andrew banged on the door because some part of his mind knew that within was sanctuary but he was still going on about the bullets and how Charlie was shooting at us. When Angie finally opened the door to see what was going on, Andrew looked around, backed stiff against the brick wall of the building, hyperventilated. He had no idea how he got there. He was coming down from his illusion and he barely believed me later when I told him what happened. But he believed.

Poor, sweet, hurt young Andrew. His father, not the stepfather who made a hobby of alternating between beating him and telling him how Christ was love and did he really want an eternity of damnation, had been on the front in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD and disappeared from his mother’s life shortly before Andrew was born in 1981. And so, back against the wall in that shitty apartment complex, coming down from terrible visions, Angie told him to come inside. And so he went in. No more living his father’s nightmare. For now, at least. The memory blinked, then fizzled out.

Bio: Patrick King has had short stories, essays, and a novel published in various places online and in print. As P.S. King, he’s had two short film scripts produced. He writes or has written film reviews for CC2Konline.com, TheRetroSet.com, Battleroyalewithcheese.com and Mugwumpcorporation.com. He is the film editor at CulturedVultures.com.