System Fail

There was a question once that used to haunt me.
I can no longer remember it.
What does that say about me?
Is time such a great healer? Or is it a destroyer?
Memory fails unless you are machine, and even then…
Hardware crashes; memory is overwritten, corrupted.

We stand in the middle of a field of wheat.
Golden, crisp sun rays heap down upon our upturned faces.
Bathe in the sunlight; breathe the dry summery air.
Cicadas drone in the backlit horizon, splashed in red and yellow.
There was a memory here that I cannot recall.
All I remember are the sounds and the smells.
Like the charcoal burning, a smoky and warm scent.
The sizzling of meat and oil blending in harmony.
The dog barking as he scrambles for leftovers.
A baby’s happy squeals and her mother’s delightful laugh.
Who were these people? Did I know them?
Or was I a bystander.
A witness to a portrait of life.

Sometimes there is a woman in my dreams.
Raven hair spun in midnight curls, her hands—
They reach; they stretch, tapered fingers shaking
I think she was trying to touch me.
Then she disappears and I wake.

What’s in a name when the mind inevitably crumbles?
You cannot remember it; why should others remember it?
Useless pride in the face of an anonymous reflection.
Should I cry? Should I laugh?

Blood splatters against the wall.
I nearly slip as I enter the room.
A woman with raven hair sits at the center, hands tied.
Tears fall from her…
Her hands shake with coiled tension, stretching, stretching.
A metallic stench floods, the radio counts down.
Tinny voice, imagine a toothpaste ad smile.
A car screeches to a halt outside, disgruntled honks ensuing.
Hear the gagged cries from the woman with raven hair,
Her face streaked with tears, red nose from crying, her…
I look away.
A false scene, but who really knows anymore.

One life, a million choices, a million identities.
I could have been—
A doctor, a serial killer, a writer, an arsonist,
A husband, a rapist, a philosopher, a philistine…
A man. A woman.

Bright day.
I look at the wall and see a picture.
A woman with raven hair smiles happily,
Hands placed gently around the shoulders of a man.
Underneath is an inscription written in gentle loops,
“Who am I?”
The mirror shows me an unfamiliar reflection.
Several seconds hesitance, a second glance to the picture,
Her blue eyes dance, and the man beside her stares at me—
“That is me,” I say.

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