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spasms of irregular thought

by Anshi

“I will always be afraid of forgetting. 

“When I was younger, I was afraid of sleeping in the car for two reasons. The first was because I thought I’d disfigure my face in a horrible accident; the accident remained an overwhelming burst of fire akin to that of a TV set explosion in my dreams, jet streams of oil running down my sleep heavy body as it hung limp over my seatbelt. We would crash into a large transport truck—or so I speculated—and I would be asleep so I’d remain oblivious to my mauled face, the wall of flame amplifying cries of anguish, and the puddle of sticky blood dissolving into gasoline tracking a slimy trail through the gutters. I often sat back in my seat as my eyelids began to close, shaking myself awake with the vision of what my pores would look like when they screamed against my burnt brown skin. I forgot to account for the smoke, sometimes, and the absence of smoke scarred me on long car trips more than the fierce gales accompanying thunderstorms we often encountered on our way to the beach. I am rooted to my memories. 

“The second reason I couldn’t sleep in the car was a reason cultivated from ingrained instinct: prediction. What if I won’t make it back to the house ever again? I still grow patches of stories to feed my undying anxiety, keeping my posture ramrod straight so the world cannot break my spine into clean halves. If worst comes to worst, what should I take with me? I replayed the same scenario in my head while confined to the accursed car seat, rerunning moments of indecision, hardwiring my memory to circumnavigate through the same situation via a series of planned events. I would take my favorite books, the cat lamp my grandmother gave me for my fifth birthday, my new phone, and the pack of ‘be your own feminist’ stickers my aunt had bought me for my tenth birthday that I was ‘saving for later.’ On my way down the stairs—or if the fire or quake or firework gone awry happened to originate or amalgamate in my bedroom, I planned to crawl under the debris by keeping my figure slimmer than the average skeleton—I would take the steps two at a time to avoid getting caught in the toe with a protruding nail or other bit of shrapnel. 

 “In my sleep, whenever a spasm caught me off guard as silent scenery whirred past me while strapped into my car seat, I jolted awake, feeling around my seat and my surroundings for a grasp on my senses. I melted into the rough fabric of my plastic-formed seat, the smell of caramel candies my sister would be sucking on, and the abandoned laundromat overlooking the steady rush of traffic. 

“The lists came soon after my memory traumas extended beyond the average road trip. First, however, came the thunder and diaries. 

“Every time a flash of thunder chanced my bedroom window, I flew out of bed before the deafening crack, clutching one of my mother’s tote bags for dear life as I listened for the soft rustles inside the bag. My books, phone, stickers, and a photo of my family in case I would never see them again. I didn’t leave the room, my emergency plan stripped of all logical reasoning and abandoned at my feet as I sat with my back to the closet with the monsters, trembling because I had already lost.

“Soon after, I decided to clean my closet and stumbled upon a collection of journals bound by a single thread of twine and empty sandpaper pages. The world is too vast, the duration of my existence too fleeting. I trembled at the thought of losing my connection with the world, its veiny thread awarded to another individual, halfway across the globe consisting of seven million flesh beings. 

“In that magnified moment, I decided to gather them in my hands and sweep them to the center of my room. I collected them and wrote a sentence in each every day, documenting a single aspect of my existence I deemed memorable from each twenty-four hour time block. The smell of gasoline reminds me of our old home; it always smelled like rubber and sometimes the herbs from our neighbors’ home where she did tai chi in the morning. 

“I wrote the lists in these journals, too. They took up more time, scavenging through lost time and peeling back layers of  fading memory. I’d read a book and find the words I didn’t understand, or the words I’d read before countless times but forgot the meanings of. Then, I would make a list of their definitions in the waxy journals, the twine snapping its hold on my loose inscriptions so they danced around me, effortless in their recall, in their documentation. I shoved these journals into my emergency tote bag, pushing their crisp edges to the bottom of my carved ocean. On the nights when thunder appeared on our horizons in bright, silent flashes, I slept with the bulging bag on my bed, setting alarms in five minute increments. The next day at school, I counted the smoothed white bricks dancing across our walls, the amount of tiles I stepped on that day, or the amount of steps I had taken in total. I managed to convince myself the numbers soothed me. Perhaps that is the problem—the self-manipulation, the self-destruction.” 

I do not know the woman sitting across from me in her leather-backed chair, cerulean blue glasses, and kind eyes with faint creases framing her angular face. She’s pretty, severe, and professional, as I can determine using menial strategies and basic cognition, but I will never know her story. I may document certain aspects of her life, but her life will be hers to command and remember, and one cannot afford to fail such a duty to their body, to their elevated soul. To dispel her quiet gaze, I cycle through the same facts I wrote on the palm of my hand. 

I am twenty-four years old, and I cannot face the world if I don’t count to a thousand within the confines of my room, because sometimes I forget number 20. I walk with a limp on purpose; I tell myself I am limping so I can force myself to slow down, to ingest the world and understand what makes it tick. Every night, when there isn’t a severe thunderstorm and I have to drag out the tote bag, I sit on my bed and wait. In these abstracted vessels of time, I forget my name. When I reach that point in my descent, I weep, because I forget numbers when I count. If someone asked me to name three countries in Africa, I’d falter before responding. The faltering sends me into spasms.

The woman across from me will not understand my ailment, though she might cure its impossible presence settling around me like a choking fog. She hands me a waxy, leather-bound journal with flowers engraved onto the front cover. Our time is almost over. She pulled the journal from thin air, commanding the atoms around her to part ways for my cure. I receive it in my paunchy hands, and move my eyes up from the creased pages. 

My new therapist speaks for the second time since our session started. “I want you to tell me why. Write it down in one sentence,” she hands me a pencil, “and the sentence must speak for itself.” Her instruction sends a chill up my spine, twanging as if I am a screwed-over instrument. My sweat clings to the pencil; the one-syllable question sending tremors spiking through my knees. 

I forgot.


Anshi is a high schooler from Maryland who has work published in several literary magazines such as the Eunoia Review, LEVITATE, and Mobius Lit. When she’s not writing, Anshi enjoys reading while drinking (too much) coffee and listening to music.


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