There was a time when he trusted his memory well enough to keep all the important things stored there. It offered him instant, ready access, much as his new computer had when he had bought it – oh, how long ago was that? But things were a little different now. In fact they had been different for a while.
It had been a thing that had crept up on him, like a cold that starts out in November but doesn’t finally unleash itself until perhaps January. You know the kind of thing; you are vaguely conscious that something isn’t quite right, but aren’t able to put your finger on it…
In any event, it had been slower than that. Much slower.
He would have liked to be able to recall the incident that had given it away; where it has shown its hand if you like. But of course he couldn’t. Somewhere he had the bizarre notion that it was something to do with forgetting the lyrics to a Rick Astley song – but how could that be?! He couldn’t remember. And that was the point.
And so he started to write things down. A bit like ‘To Do’ notes; little squares of fluorescent paper, stuck together. Of course they were more ‘Done’ than ‘To Do’…but they helped him nonetheless. They gave him a feeling of security, and – if he were honest with himself – a sense of triumph over his faltering memory.
After a while the little squares of paper became sheets of A4, and the jottings expanded to full sentences, and later, paragraphs and then – well – almost stories. He almost gave up on his memory altogether; after all, with a more reliable alternative, where was the need?
Soon his bits of paper turned into notebooks and a collection that needed a home. And that was when he splashed out on his four-drawer, soft-close, lockable filing cabinet. He found himself segmenting the drawers, labelling the hanging inserts. One evening, just before bedtime, he imagined his wife, bless her, saying “You’ve got your whole life in there, Freddy” – which of course he had. Enid had always been right, after all.
But now, and really without warning, he found himself needing to recall something rather important. It wasn’t in his head memory, he knew that; and it wasn’t on his computer – that had stopped about the time he had bought the cabinet! But he knew exactly where it was: second drawer down, half way back.
If only he could remember where he had put the key.
The last time he saw her
had been on Waterloo Bridge,
collars up against an autumn chill,
pretending the theatre glow was enough to keep them warm.
Had it been an insignificance
that sparked disagreement?
Perhaps the wind had been too harsh,
the theatre glow too cool;
perhaps there had been a fracture
like a current in the Thames below.
Could he perhaps recall another chill,
an abruptness in her voice,
a coldness in her eyes?
Perhaps there had been a tone,
a hint, a note, a colour.
Red. Her coat had been red.
He had complimented her shoes,
her elegance, the way she wore her hair.
No blame there. No blame there.
Looking down into his open palm,
he feels again that night’s cold
captured in a red coat button,
her only legacy to him
unwillingly gifted as she ran away in tears.