They say that smell is the sense most connected to memory, but I don’t remember any smells from that day.
What I remember most is a sound. The squeaking of their shoes. Close your eyes at a basketball game and you will hear it: a new high top on a smooth parquet floor. The staccato squeaking of a sneaker. I heard their sneakers approaching. The squeaking of their sneakers.
I remember other sounds too. The mumbled demand for my wallet. The timidity in my voice as I swallowed a reply. The snagging of a zipper as I fumbled for my money. The fist connecting with my cheekbone, the sound of it just like in the movies: a swoop followed by a crunch. The cacophony of the bones shattering in my right hand. Kicking feet muffled by the insulation of my down jacket, the noise of a pillow fight. Their laughter. Sneakers again, this time running away. Keening, raging sobs, crying for my broken body and for help that came, but late. “Hey!” The call and then the gentle command of the man who found me: “Hold still, honey.” The questions of the ER doctor. The words “gang initiation.” (Their source, I can’t remember – the doctor? the police officer? the social worker in the exam room?) My mother’s voice on the phone, wanting and not wanting to know what had happened.
I remember sights. The almost apologetic mien of the subway station elevator operator as the door closed on the full car. The face of my watch, just starting to crack from where I hit it against the chalk ledge earlier that day. The peripheral glimpse of an approaching group: dark, puffy jackets, Michelin men. The gel, like shellac, in the hair of one of the boys. Metal. A gun? a knife? a soda can? An uneven circle forming around me, like dancers in a depraved Matisse painting. Crimson rivulets on my hands. The impossibly bright lights of the exam room in the hospital. A first glance at my face, a map of injuries, in the mirror of the bathroom. The instruments in the police car that drove me home.
I remember a taste: the alkaline tang of blood in that part of the sinus somewhere between the nose and the throat, a place reserved for only the most elemental flavors.
I remember feelings. The dry stillness of the cold air on that December evening. The softness of my turtleneck, slightly damp from the condensation of my breath. My heart skydiving into my gut when I understood what was about to happen. My stomach tightening, bracing. Pain. Searing pain. Bones splitting and splintering. The rough wool of the gloves worn by the man who helped me. The wetness of the corrugated paper napkin he used to try to stop the bleeding. The coarse cotton of the hospital gown. The tug of the thread the doctor used to sew my face. The ache of the squad car seat belt against my broken ribs.
I don’t remember any smells from that day. Sights, a taste, feelings. But mostly sounds.
Mostly squeaking sneakers.
Ten years later sneakers squeak and I always turn to look. Always a little too quickly. Looking to see what is coming this way.
What sense do you most associate with memory? Do you connect different senses with different types of memories (the good and the bad)?
Please visit Momalom for more entries in their Half-Drunk Challenge.