“Why Memory is the First to Go”

Published in Extract(s) (February 7 2013).

Why Memory is the First to Go

There’s a guy—Phillip, 70’s, not my type—who I see milling around Empire Lounge on 26th and Rivers every time I’m there. He gets to me quicker if I’m at the bar, but he’ll spot me if I’m at a table, too; he extends his hand and asks my name, each time the same, his eyes trained on mine. When I finally told him “Cheryl” for the thirtieth time, his mouth bunched up and his hazel eyes went to slivers and got all glossy, so I told him he could sit down if he needed to talk—I mean, I’ve never seen him with anyone and he looked like he was going to lose it. After hanging his hat and pulling over another chair, he talked for the rest of the night—it’s kind of our ritual now if I come in alone: he’ll buy the drinks and I’ll sit and listen, wink when he tells good parts. We’ll have a dance or two, laugh as we move across the floor—I swear I can sometimes see who he used to be beneath his creased forehead and thin lips. He’ll speak about his wife who died about ten years ago, how I—despite the nose stud, the dramatic eyeshadow—look just like her with red hair. Every time he sees me, he says, he can’t help but believe that my name is really Laurel, that I’ve come back for him.

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