THE MEMORY COLLECTOR

lily sized

Since Dawn of Time’s first chilly mists were devoured by a greedy, rampant Orange I have been collecting the apt recollections of those poor wretched souls about to lose their minds to the unforgiving void.  By preserving such memories I ensure that upon departure at least a snippet of the mort being is not lost to the nothingness.

Mostly, there is little of note to gather up. Just random details of new-borns, love lost, torn petticoats and fine sand between toes, yet every so often as I gather up such memories I unearth a golden nugget.  Such was the case with Lily. She was Parisian insofar as I was aware, of advanced years and was cursed with a wilting mind when we met. By then she had become a bedbound glorified wizened carcass in a spick and span care home within the Quartier des Invalides.

Before the war a then sweet, wily Lily wore the ballerina’s tutu, danced in the grandest of venues, yet come the days of ‘needs must when the Devil drives’ she became a hip waggling, leg kicking streetwise showgirl who favoured skimpy costumes decorated with spiky pink dyed feathers performing her art in a seedy, yet not without a certain panache, Revue within the 9th arrondissement. For a while she was the talk of the night-time revellers, her cancan on the raised dance floor ending in the splits deemed legendary by one and all. She counted Chevalier himself as a former lover!

I listened intently, captivated by the antique ivory framed racy, almost erotic photograph she had of herself in her heyday upon the bedside table, as with rattling breath and muted speech she recounted the tale of that part of her life she treasured above all others. Uniquely in my experience that time was when she lived her life as a dream when in a short-lived coma following an unfortunate ponderous tumble from the floodlit stage back in 1939. With eloquent words, given her condition, she uttered thus;

“Initially a nightmare, my dream, out there in the ‘somewhere, everywhere’ heavens above, under the accursed extra-terrestrial bleakest canopy of violent intent, a giant shock wave storm held sway over all that was known and unknown. In the rusting wrought iron and peeling leaden painted ruins of last season’s insolvent fairground I was a redundant fortune-teller, speaking clichéd platitudes to deafest ears clowns, long lost to the rogue taxidermists witless alleged craft. Then, as I worried for my sanity, my very being even, within the blink of an eye, a paradise was mine for at the far perimeter of this place I noted an elegant timber doorway with ironmongery furnishings and a key intact.  

Upon opening the door I found myself in undulating pastures green. Sitting comfortably in the Vale of Near Distance a snow-white marble château of immense proportions. It was in that château, abandoned it seemed, that I discovered in dreamland anything was possible. Young obedient handsome fellows to waltz with me until dawn’s first light, bathing only in champagne bubbles, saddle horses to carry me hither and yon, a scarlet macaw to discuss the politics of the left with, even a chandelier sturdy enough to swing naked from as the fancy took. Most of all though I could be the eternal prima ballerina.  From romantic to classical I was mistress of all styles. I recall I even danced that silly Harlequinade, me Columbine and…” Lily suddenly and surprisingly paused at this point, turned her life weary head my way, stared into my quizzical eyes and continued, “…you, you were the Harlequin. What a wedding night we had,” she sniggered, “I could have happily stayed in my coma with you forevermore. Never once did I think we would meet again, at least not in this terrible debilitated world, yet now here you are looking so well, so young, with me time ravaged and at death’s door. What must you think?”  

“I think Lily, you are the most beautiful creature that ever lived, I remember you as if it was just yesterday.” Of understandable necessity I lied, for the here and now was the only occasion we had ever met. I afforded her a kiss upon the forehead, then at her sleepy eye’s behest, a smacker upon the lips before taking of my leave.

I shed more than just a single tear for Lily when journeying back to the place of primal chaos I call home. What is life if not an extravagant aspiration?

Footnote: A version of this tale I blogged back in 2016. In truth I had almost forgotten it existed. Only when stuck for words working upon a recent project a recollection drew me back toward this particular post. Good fortune smiled for it fitted like the slipper upon Cinderella’s delicate foot thus saving the day. I live in hope that it still stands alone.

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38 thoughts on “THE MEMORY COLLECTOR

  1. Mmmmm, this is a fine wine at the end of a cold, bitter day, Master Steeden. I imagine now the collector, silent as the snow in the middle of night’s street, slip of paper in the hand, on the haunt for another address, another mind…

    1. My Thanks, Ms Lee. Another time perhaps another place I could do something with the Collector. In this instance it is Lily’s tale I was trying to put a bookend on. Is was stuck for what seemed like an age, then ‘bingo’ I remembered this old post. A change of name and hours of thinking not required. All that remains is the removal of 19 million commas and I’m ‘good to go’ as you Americans might put it. I’m not entirely sure why yet my brain hurts this morn. I live in hope winter dies soon.

  2. I enjoy your flights of fancy, and I am happy that you have recalled this one. I have a few memories that plague me, and I was thinking that lovely rememberings like this drive the old ghosts back and away.

    1. That’s a truth if ever a truth there was. By the way, while I still follow your blog you are among approx. 60% of those I follow who don’t appear on my Reader – even my son’s blog never shows up. Most annoy, that’s for sure! Best wishes, The Old Fool

    1. You are correct in your observation regarding reworking. Given my age…114 years old…the mind suffers as much as the body. Reflections are the safety valve…well they were this time around. Regards, The Old Fool

  3. I love this Mike. I can’t praise your writing enough. While reading I had flashbacks of A Street Car Named Desire. Though you brought this back from the vault I don’t recall reading it before. A remarkable and moving tale.

    1. What a splendid comment to read when starting the day. My thanks. Holly. Such words lessen the mood that aflicts having, as I just mentioned to another blogger, managed to put my back out of kilter in the most tragically pathetic manner. If I ask my dear wife nicely she promises to assist me don my socks and shoes!

      1. Oh dear Michael, I’m sorry to hear this . Were you back up on the roof? Please be careful. And get well soon! I’ve found that Aspercreme is helpful if you can get the wife to ( or a neighbor) to assist with it. 🌷

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      2. My thanks. Sadly I cannot entrust the task of massaging ointment upon my lower back to my dear wife. Given her track record it would be a risk too far. For example, in recent times she has snipped off my ponytail with those long scissors they use to cut cloth…the name escapes me…whilst I was unaware of her close proximity; then there was the incident with the hairdryer I am none too keen on recounting. Next door, a formidable, muscular lesbian lady who I understand regularly is victorious when it comes to outlifting her male Turkish counterparts weightlifting. She would likely turn down any request for assistance. Best not to even ask her. We get on famously and I wouldn’t wish to change that. It is thus that I shall suffer a little longer.

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