Grandma walks around, covering her ears with her hands. When Grandma’s arms tremble, I know I need to lead her out to the yard, then hide behind her.
The first time one of my grandma’s memories escaped, the student-driver version of her sped through the parking lot at Publix in a baby-blue Ford Escort, clipped my dad as he wheeled a shopping cart full of groceries to our car. He left Mom and me as soon as he could walk again.
Grandma refuses to see a doctor. She doesn’t want to live the rest of her life as a science experiment. Mom tried duct taping earmuffs to my grandma’s skull, but the tape just ripped out her already thinning hair when the next memory escaped (Grandma smoking her first cigarette in the girls’ bathroom). Mom tried ear plugs next, but they shot out of Grandma’s ears like rockets when the next memory escaped (Grandma crying about the miscarriage that came before she had my mom). Grandma stopped cleaning her ears, but the memories that escaped after were coated in earwax (Grandma slow dancing with my grandpa, Grandma putting my mom on her shoulders, Grandma looking at me while I sprawled out in my crib). When she started covering her ears with her hands, Grandma could go days, even a week without a memory escaping.
After the latest memory escapes (Grandma making out with a man that isn’t my grandpa), I write on a sheet of paper the same question: “do you have any left?” She nods. Today, I write a new question: “do you have any left that you don’t want us to see?” She nods again. “I won’t tell anyone,” I say. She hugs me for the first time in months before covering her ears again.
J. Bradley is the author of the Yelp review prose poem collection Pick How You Will Revise A Memory and lives at jbradleywrites.com.