Believe it or not, this blog was not started solely so that I could post satirical content and tips on how to make your PC and its software work. I also had every intention of publishing some more serious work. Since it’s my seventh post (if you count the first one, whose title even fails to do it justice), I’ve decided to dig up an old short I wrote back in about 2012. It’s titled “Ame” which means rain in Japanese. It’s about 1400 words, which is around four paperback pages:
by J. McMaster
Monday. It’s raining again. No, not again because it hasn’t stopped. It never stops now. I can’t remember a time when it didn’t rain, though I know that such a time existed once, the same way I know that the sky was blue – just don’t ask me what kind of blue because I don’t remember.
There’s a lot I don’t remember, actually, like how I came to be in this hotel, how I aged so quickly, why time feels like there are pieces of it missing, and who that person in the photograph is.
That photograph. It’s the only possession I have besides my clothes. I don’t know where it was taken and, although I know the person next to that man must be me, I can’t remember looking like her any more clearly than I remember a day it wasn’t raining.
That man in the photograph. Who is he? I don’t remember him and, unlike the sky on a sunny day, I don’t even know what he should be. Was he my husband? My boyfriend? Just a close friend? A casual acquaintance? A cousin? A brother? Something about his smile bothers me. There’s something false about it. His eyes seem unfocused, too. It’s almost as if he didn’t want to be there. Then again, I don’t look that enthusiastic, either. In some ways my smile is more fake than his. Did I not want to be there either?
The place in that photograph. Where is it? There aren’t any clues. It’s a generic backdrop that could be any middle-class home in almost any country. I can’t even see out the windows because there aren’t any. I suppose it’s because in photography it’s bad practice to take a picture facing a light source. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally the light should be behind the photographer and the subject should be facing it.
Why do I know about photography? I’m sure I never did any, neither professionally nor as a hobby.
“Good morning,” says a generic-looking member of the hotel’s staff as she enters my room. I didn’t order room service, I don’t think. She didn’t knock, either.
“Morning,” I absently mutter back. My mind is too preoccupied for pleasantries. I know something’s wrong, I can feel it.
She sets the tray down on my bed. Something is wrong. Definitely wrong. This isn’t food befitting even a low-end traveller’s lodge. This is like a prison meal.
Thursday. It’s raining again. I shouldn’t say again because it never stopped. The hotel staff are quite lively today and they even bothered to knock before coming in earlier. Maybe someone complained about the dreadful food and service yesterday. Wait, today’s Thursday so how can yesterday have been Monday? I guess it was Wednesday after all. I tend to lose track of time these days because everything always seems so similar. It doesn’t help that it always rains or that I live out of an hotel, either. Well, to be fair, I can’t control the weather and renting or buying a place would be a hassle at my age.
There’s a knock at the door. Should I ignore it? Probably. Room service has come and gone so it can’t be anyone I want to see.
The knock’s persistent.
“Fine, come in then,” I call in defeat as a well-dressed young man enters.
“How are we today, Ellen?” he asks, taking a seat without asking permission. Why is he addressing me by my first name when I’ve never met him before?
“Um…” I pause hesitantly. Something’s wrong. I know something’s wrong.
“Ellen, do you remember me?” he asks, not bothering to give me a chance to formulate a reply. I would think, given my reaction, it’s patently obvious I don’t remember him.
I wish this man would stop looking expectantly at me. I wish he’d let go of that fake smile. It’s as false as the smile I’m wearing in that photograph.
“Ellen?” the annoying man cuts in, prompting me for a reply.
I take a long breath and release it with intentional exasperation. “I should think it’s relatively obvious that I don’t know you, or, at the very least, I don’t remember you,” I reply.
The man is frowning now, yet still trying to smile. What an awkward expression; the upper and lower halves of his face at war. Finally, the frown prevails. Why is he taking it so personally? Nobody remembers everyone they meet.
“Ellen,” the man begins extremely gravely, “do you still have that photograph?”
Of course I have it, it’s the only thing I own. I nod a hesitant affirmation. I don’t like where this is going. Something’s wrong.
“Ellen, can you tell me who those two people in the photograph are?” he asks as if the coming of Armageddon hinges on my response.
“Well, the woman is obviously me,” I reply. Who is that man with me? I can never remember him which makes me question the sanity of carrying this photograph around for so long. Then again, it is my only real possession and that in itself makes it sentimental, no matter who’s in it. “I don’t remember the other person.”
“Ellen,” the young man says grimly, “that’s not you.”
Like he would know. He hadn’t even been born yet when this photo was taken.
“Ellen–” he begins but I raise my hand to interrupt him.
“Look here, young man, you weren’t even thought of back when this was taken, you couldn’t possibly know about it!” I spit with a condescending confidence, though even as the words escape me I feel uneasy. Something’s wrong. Something’s always been wrong now that I think about it.
The young man shows no signs of offence at my reply. Instead, he continues to frown while scrutinising me. What is he looking for? What does he want? Why can’t I kick him out? Even if he is the hotel manager or someone similar, this is my room.
“Ellen, that photo is one of thousands and the people in it are just models. They only use them to sell the frames. We’ve been over this before,” he sighs before handing me a folder with my name, age and a few other details printed on a sticker on the front cover.
I open the folder and begin reading it. It’s hard to make out the words amongst the scribblings as most of the papers inside are hand-written. Phrases like severely delusional, brain damage and amnesia pop out the sea of words and complicated medical terms along with names of drugs I can’t pronounce and their dosages. So much for morning vitamins. So much for hotels.
I look up from the mess of papers at the young man, my attending doctor. I don’t think he’s supposed to show me this file. It may cause him trouble. Still, he did it anyway. He respected what was left of a person inside me enough to let me in on the truth.
“Ellen,” he begins with a shorter, but more sorrowful sigh than before, “I’m truly sorry. Every time it rains, you seem to gain some lucidity. I really hoped maybe this time things would be better.”
He’s young. He hasn’t been jaded by the medical profession yet. I’m thankful for that because each time he does this, I get my life back — if only for a fleeting moment.
“Thank you again, doctor,” I smile.
“Do you remember anything new this time?”
For a moment I’m lost. I can already feel the fog forming around my mind again. It’s thick, heavy, and hard to resist, but there’s something out there, a light, one I’ve seen before, that cherished memory.
That photograph. I don’t know either of those people in it. They mean nothing to me. Yet, this is my most important possession because it’s all I have left of that frame, that beautiful silver frame he gave me. I took this photograph out and stuffed it into my pocket. I was going to put a picture of us into that frame, but I never got the chance. It was raining that day, too.
“I remember! It’s not about the photograph, it’s the frame!” I cry with excitement. “I was–”
Tuesday. It’s raining again. I shouldn’t say again because it never stopped. It never stops now, but, for some reason, today I feel as though it’ll clear up for a while.
Well, there you have it. Bear in mind it’s raw because I wrote it for a short fiction competition (the limit was 1500 words), but lost my nerve the last minute so it never got edited, let alone submitted. Still, all comments and constructive criticisms are welcome.