Memory is a Dangerous Thing: Fiction by Jaylee Alde




(A forty watt moon.  A throat wrapped with the slow turn of smoke.  Her head tilted towards the window. Every night these three things.  We were only the angle of nouns…  And she is always covered in dusk, I swear it.  And I have always been a man with a chest full of hummingbirds, I swear it.  It never would have worked but…  This is not about us.  This is about the angles.


At the knot are the diving of curves.  At the split in the road is the decision of degrees.  At the surprised bounce of light, through a banner of cloth, which cuts through it all, was us.  At our best angle, we broke through the dark like a knife.  At the end, or at least towards it, every “hello” was a snarl disguised in a music box.  An instrument, crumbling.  A music note that never left.  We were a flat line.  We lost our angle.  This isn’t about us.  This is about the angles and the night they all fled.)




That night, uncut banter led to a sloppy rant.  A sloppy rant is the noise of base elements and a base element sounds like “fuck you.”  A “fuck you” said at the right angle can dim the sun.


That night, bellied up at the crook of the bar.  I called her a liar.  I said she stumbles into our bed like a lost moth now.  I asked her “whose ceiling are you thinking about now?  What do the cracks in his ceiling mean in the old religions?  Do you only pray on your back with him or do you get creative?”  She stared into her hands like they held an answer.


She walked out.  I stayed.  The place was packed with half-heard words and the slap of laughter.


The burlesque show was set to begin.  It was always held on a Monday night.  I think it was a Monday night. The show was a promise of the slow sway.  I ordered a glass of water and turned in my seat to watch strangers pout with their entire bodies.  


“I can fall in love with everyone here at the right angle.”  The music begins.


Two fat men draped in old-timey garb stood on stage in front of old-timey microphones.  They introduced the show and they soon left.  (The fatter one was funny.  The less fat one was a giggling prop.  They were both commercial breaks.)


The music swelled across an empty stage.  A leg first, then a pulsing hip, followed by the entire body.  For three minutes, she rippled and winked.  Three more performers came and went.  The fifth act was musical.  The lead singer was mush-mouthed, her band-vaudevillian, her hair- bouffant, her S’s- mangled.  She sang about zombies with the accompaniment of zombie attired dancers.  It was all a glorious train wreck of voice and movement.  I purchased a drink.  A real one.  I forgot about earlier that evening.  I forgot about her angles for a moment.  I didn’t want to remember.  Memory is a dangerous thing.


Next to me sat a zombie.  Her face caked in white chalk and corn syrup.  Her teeth were rubbed black and her lips were full and busted.  Her white shirt blotted everywhere with red handprints, like she’d been groped by confectioners.  I turned to her and said she was beautiful.  That she had all the right angles.  She called me a dummy with a bad haircut and took her vodka soda somewhere else.

The show had ended.  The room of half-heard words and the slap of laughter gave way to the busy work of an almost closed bar.  The zombie walked up to me and apologized for the insult and I apologized for being weird. We talked.  She drove me home.  She came inside.  We were a straight line that evening.  It happens.  


I blushed at the mess and she said she didn’t care.  We sat at the edge of the bed and I could smell the sugar on her lips and clothes.  I lit a cigarette to cover it.  The moon sat big in my window like a radioactive stain.  She got up and traced a finger along the glass.  “It’s my favorite part of the day…when the moon is bright,” she said. I said, “I wish it were dusk.  I love that time of day.  Shadows against the red gold of a slow changing world. How, if you watch close enough, at the right angles, you can see the day split in half.  The present becomes the past and we’ll only know that day’s sun from memory.  Memory is when everything is at its most romantic.” “You’re weird,” she said.  “I know,” I said, embarrassed.  


She stood as I sat.  She unbuttoned the top of her jeans and stopped.  She peeled off her shirt and mine.  She looked down at me like a soft taunt.  I lay down below her and stared at the ceiling above.  I tried to remember the old religions.  I tried to decipher what the cracks meant.  I reached my hand towards her and the angles I knew faded away and all I was left with was the whole of it. 

Jaylee Alde has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Five Quarterly, Thrice, and others.


Curated by FORTH Fiction Editors.

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