Time sustains you, holds you, owns you, finally kills you. You consume and transform time, wear it on your face, show it in your frowns, fears, and fancies. You eat time like bread or bitter herbs to grow muscle, tendon, tumor. Time savages the bones of soul and body, leaving you a cripple, hobbling toward your home of dust. Time lights a match to your anger, makes you laugh though no one else does, and brands you with memories that singe and sear your heart.
Time chooses you to be the memory-bearer, calls you back into the darkness of the past, and shines its constellations of memories as if you knew how to navigate by starlight. Without a guide, you memorize the past’s patterned skies: the pinprick stars that cast scant light and the blazing suns that illuminate every detail. You have long done the work of remembering; but now, remembering is not enough. You must turn and face the darkness behind you, forsake today’s light and trudge backward. You must wake the sleeping dogs and steal their bones.
Though time has left you stumble-footed, you must cross terrain that shifts its shape with every passing. You must walk alone, by faith not sight in a moon-forsaken land, unsure what you are looking for, dragging broken shards of time back into today, unwrapping the remnants of time saved in secrets, believing that if you can find enough pieces to patch together, you can be free of carrying someone else’s memories.
The compulsion to bear the memories and to write the stories you carry, like the belief that you are called by a voice only you hear, is a form of madness. Both writers and mystics live outside the city, less by choice than necessity, hearing voices beyond the walls in the wilderness, so near the dark woods.
I didn’t choose to be the memory-bearer for my mother. For over thirty years, we kept a distance measured in silence. The day the words came, they scorched my throat and burned my lips; but the saying hardened them like steel, strong enough to span the pain. In all times past that place, we walked together.
Mother, eight years dead, comes to me these days, wearing the face of morning, sits beside my bed, and whispers me awake to remind me of my task. I have grown weary with my own reluctance. I hear the voice and have long walked in that wilderness, but oh, I fear the dark woods.