Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fluid Memory by James Bezerra

Here is a story that I wrote a little while ago. It is about a fish, though not really.


Fluid Memory
by James Bezerra

The goldfish had been called Junior and had belonged to a girl called Elena whose parents had been among the disappeared. Junior has nebulous memories, distorted by the water and the concavity of his fish bowl. He really only remembers the colors of Elena’s wavy face and dark hair, and then the food flakes.

Those memories come floatingly to the surface of my mind often, because there is only a very small amount of room inside of this fish brain where they have stored me. I can feel my own memories decomposing. When I try to think of my daughter, I can almost remember her face. I remember that she had a bright and big smile, but I do not remember it. When I try, all I recall are the ripples when the flakes of fish food fall onto the surface of the water and I am suddenly ecstatic with Junior’s memory of the food. He was really a simple creature. He was excited by the colors of Elena and by the food. He liked when the sunlight would hit the water in the afternoon and it would get warm.

The water never gets warm anymore because they have me on a shelf in the laboratory. But I remember - because Junior did - the warmth of the water on those summer days.
I know that I went to the University and from there the Army and I remember that the uprising happened. I remember that the war happened, but I do not remember it.

Sometimes I have heavy moments of clarity and I can remember memories that I know are my own. But now, I do not remember my name. Even Junior’s memories are being supplanted now, fading away, because when they take me out of Junior’s brain, I experience something else and when they put me back, these new memories push Junior’s out.

The new memories are awful. They begin and end differently, but somewhere there is always the bag, it is always coarse on my face. And I am always terrified. My name is George and they come for me while I am working in the public library. They come for me because I have been handing out leaflets. They pull the bag over my face and I am hit over the head. The pain is sharp and when I come through it my wrists are bound. It is cold and wet. There is whispering and the wet smell of dirt. They tug the bag off. It is night. A small clearing. They have dug a hole in the earth. There are bodies in it, limp and fresh. A man approaches me and tells me I am guilty of sedition. I cry out and pee. They roll me down into the hole, still bound. A soldier approaches, he aims his rifle at my face. He begins to squeeze his trigger …

I am back suddenly in Junior. I am in the water, my tail is flipping happily from side to side. I would cry if I were in a human, but I can’t. I can only make wide Os with my mouth. Why do they store me in a fish?

When they come for me again, they psychically suck my essence out and then I am Gracie. I am not alive in her memory, I am her and I am worried that I have been discovered. There were agents at the factory today. They were asking people questions. My palms are wet and I wonder if I maybe I left a fingerprint on the bomb. The bomb did not go off. Maybe I didn’t connect the detonator correctly. I call Sergio on the phone, “They were at the factory today …” and he hangs up quickly. When I ring him again he does not answer. I throw some clothes in a bag and take all the money I have. I wear my leather boots, thinking I might be able to hike out of the city along the aqueduct. I take the lift down to the lobby. They are there. In their distinct hats and dark jackets. They see me. I punch the buttons, but the lift continues to descend. My heart is pounding. I scream at them because it doesn’t matter now anyway … I am in a room underground when they pull the bag off my face, “Where is Sergio?” they ask me. I spit at them and they beat me … I haven’t eaten in so long. My left wrist is broken and my face is fractured … I can take the beatings, but they offer me warm soup and I cry. I sob and I sign their papers. They bring me the soup but as I dip the spoon, I hear behind me the click-click-click of the hammer rolling back on a pistol …

I am Junior again.

I can remember the exhaustion of Gracie. I can feel it still in my tiny goldfish body, but it is not in my body. It is only in my brain. A memory.

There are so many memories in me now. I am James, a clerk who bled to death during questioning. I am Moses, and they nearly drowned me a thousand times, tied to a board. I am Elizabeth and they raped me. I am Mario and they hooked me to a truck battery. I am Regina and they couldn’t use my signed confession because I spit blood on it from my broken mouth. I am Gerard and I confessed without torture, so they killed me quickly.

I am Junior and I can’t remember … what was her name? The wavy girl who gave me flakes of food? I can’t remember her. But I can remember the rutty faced soldier who stopped me in the Plaza de Sol when I was Sarah and asked for my papers. He hit me with his gun when I said I didn’t have them.

I am a fish. I do not remember my name … I am an amalgamation of torturous memories and my water is cold. Sometimes there is a heavy clarity in my brain and I remember that I was a soldier. I was an agent. And I remember! I remember that we lost the war! I remember! I was arrested by the new police and they said to me, “We will not kill you. We have a new way to punish people like you. We will punish you with their memories.”

I remember! Then they brought the bowl into the laboratory and in it there was a goldfish.

I remember … wait … No! I … no … it is gone.

I remember that I remembered something.

Not now though.

My name is Junior. I am a fish. I am hungry and I miss the warm.

The goldfish picture was borrowed (in an appreciative and well-meaning manner) from

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