The coffee shop buzzes around me and my best friend, Kris. The regulars are oblivious to the fact that my best friend may have gone loony. I stare into the clear jar she’s placed on the table, full of tiny paper slips. Pink and orange and blue folded paper fill the jar like tiny fortune cookies, supposedly written with the memories of the past year.
“Seriously, Kris. What on earth…?”
Kris, blonde and typically put together, shakes her frizzy curls and runs her wrinkled silk scarf through her fingers once again. “I don’t know. Beth, this is the weirdest thing. I spent all year writing everything that happened on the pieces of paper. Saw it on Pinterest. I put them in the jar and started taking them out this morning, New Year’s morning, and it’s like they never happened.”
“I don’t understand.”
Kris sucks in air and presses her lips together. She takes a moment, bites her lip like she does when she’s picking which guy to hit on at the bar, and lets her breath go.
“Okay. Open the jar.” She pushes the mason jar toward me with one press-on nail, as if she’s afraid to make skin-to-glass contact.
I wrap my hand around the pink gingham covered lid and twist. The lid resists, then pops and releases its stronghold on the jar. Scents wash over me and for a millisecond, I relive some of the past year. The day Kris and I went ring browsing, just in case Tag popped the big Q to me on Valentine’s. Drinks with Kris the night after Tag dumped me and jumped up and down on my heart, making sure to burst every single artery. Kris bringing me flowers and pouring the vase full of water on my head when I refused to get up and shower.
A year of memories of my best friend saving my life.
I lick the sudden nervous-sour taste off my lips. What if she isn’t making this up? What if taking out these slips really does make it as if the memory never happened? What if this jar can erase the past?
“Pick one. Just one Beth, okay. And try to make it a small one. Or a really bad one.” Kris wraps her hands around her teacup and holds so tight her rings scrape against the porcelain.
I reach in and pull out a small blue slip.
Kris shoves her hands under her legs and rocks back and forth.
“Do it.” She says and closes her eyes.
I open the slip.
March 27th, 2013; Dad died today. I’m going to miss him, but I’m so glad he’s not suffering anymore. What does a little girl do without her daddy?
I remember that day. Kris had called me crying and then…
My mind goes blank. I try and reach for the memory I know I was just having, but…
I read the slip again.
Kris’s dad died?
The loud murmurs of the coffee house fade away until all I can hear is Kris’s staggered breathing, all I can see is her too still posture, all I can know is this-is-impossible.
“Kris, March 27th. Do you remember what happened?”
“Nu-uh. Why? Is it bad? What happened?” She grips the edge of the table, her hot-rod red nails strain against the fake wood.
My heart lodges behind my knees and a giant fist punches the inside of my throat. “Your dad died.” My voice scrapes out as a whisper.
“Dad…no, he’s still in the hosp–” her words fall into oblivion and I can see her searching for the truth, but, just like my own memory, it’s gone. Truth has disappeared, taking our memories hostage.
I slide the blue slip across the table to her, so she can see, in her own handwriting, her father’s death.
“Oh my God.” Kris hovers her fingers above the slip, not touching, as if touching would somehow make it more real than it already is.
“Maybe we can put it back in the jar, and you’ll remember again.”
She shakes her head. “I’ve already tried that. I-I’ve gotta call Mom. Maybe she remembers.”
But she wouldn’t. From what I’d seen, that jar made everyone forget. The past ceases to exist.
I sit the jar on my kitchen table, after Kris insisted I take it home with me. The jar scared her. And since she was the more accident-prone of the two of us, she thought it’d be safer with me. On the top shelf of my closet. In a box. With a lock.
But here it sits. On my kitchen table.
I fold my arms on the table, rest my cheek on my hands, and look through the glass. Between the gaps in the papers, I can just make out a picture on the other side of the room. The one of me and Tag at Disneyworld. He had put a princess hat on my head and told me he’d make me his queen.
That was before he found some other princess to screw.
I get up, yank a glass out of the cabinet, and fill it with grape juice colored wine. So what if it’s ten in the morning. If it looks like grape juice, then I say it’s grape juice.
The wine hits the back of my throat with a slight burn. It’s about a week old and a little rancid, but who cares. It’s New Year’s Day and I’m alone, ringless, and manless. I down the full glass like a double shot.
“Round two, anyone?” I eye the two stuffed animals Tag won for me at last year’s carnival. “Just me then? Party poopers.” I fill the glass again and plop onto the couch next to Bonnie and Clyde, also known as Party Poopers One and Two.
I grab Bonnie by her hot pink tail and hug her bear body to mine. My apartment is filled with memories of Tag.
“Tagged by Tag,” I giggle and hiccup. Wine must get stronger with age.
I eye the jar. I knew, the minute I took the jar from Kris, that I would do this. Erase Tag, erase this past year, erase the good and the bad. Because if there was no good with Tag, then the bad wasn’t bad. And if even the bad was gone, then maybe, I could start over.
For the past year, I’d been stuck in an endless loop of having my heart broken every morning I woke up without Tag by my side. Every night I tried to avoid going to sleep, because I knew I’d only wake up having to remember he was gone.
I should be glad and I should be ready to move on. But when you give your heart so completely to someone else, sometimes, you never get it back.
This was the only way.
The only way to save my life. To get a life.
I take another drink, grab my notebook, and write.
April 12; Meeting Tag at the bar.
June 16; Tag said he loved me.
September 21; Tag moved in.
December 25; Christmas at Disneyworld with Tag.
February 14; Tag dumps me; admits he’s found someone else.
February 20; Found Tag banging my boss in her office.
February 21; Quit my job because of Tag.
January 1; Every memory associated with Tag. I want, I need him, to be erased.
I get tired of writing it all down. The last one should take care of the rest.
I tear each memory into a little strip. Eight memories written on white lined paper, folded into less than a handful of slips. Eight memories that had taken the power to control my own heart.
Eight memories I could erase and get my life back.
I stuff them in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Refill my glass. Watch a movie to give the jar some time to work its magic, or whatever. Watch another movie to procrastinate. Start in on a new bottle of wine.
Time to take control of my life.
Four p.m. My apartment seems strangely empty. Photos of my trip to Disneyworld last year, stuffed animals I won at the carnival, everything seems in place. But something is missing.
I look down at the table. Seven blank strips of paper are unfolded on the table.
One strip of paper has something written on it.
Every memory associated with_____. I want, I need him, to be erased.
I picked up the phone and call Kris.
“Hey, it’s me. If I were to erase a guy from my memory, who would it be?”
“Beth, you didn’t.”
“Apparently I did.” The room started to waver. “And apparently I’ve had too much to drink.”
“It’s not even five yet.”
“Yup.” I hiccup.
“I’ll be there in twenty.”
Fifteen minutes later, Kris unlocks my front door and walks in, not even bothering to knock. I’m laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, and tossing a hot pink bear into the air with my feet.
“You stupid idiot. Why would you do this?”
“I guess I thought it was a good idea at the time.”
She walks over to the table and picks up the slips of paper. “Even his name is erased from the slips. So we don’t know who he is, what he looks like, nothing.”
“Yup,” I laugh. “I think it’s a good thing, though. I haven’t felt this happy in forever. We’re going out tonight. And I’m wearing that red leather skirt you bought me last year.”
“Why would I buy you a red leather skirt?”
“Who cares?” I jump up from the couch and twirl into the bedroom. “Where’d you get that jar, anyway?”
“Back of some antique shop. I think I should’ve left it there. Damn Pinterest.”
“Beth! Kris! My little chicas!” Sam, the bartender older than the ancient margarita machine, clears a space for us at the bar. “Haven’t seen my two favorite senoritas in too long. Where have you been?”
“We’ve been cheating on you, Sam. Going to the Corner Bar for the past few months.” Kris wiggles her hips onto the barstool.
He grabs his chest. “No, mi amor!”
“Don’t worry. We’ll never leave you again.” I speak up and scoot onto the empty seat next to Kris. My leather skirt rides up my legs and earns a few glances from the group of guys playing pool.
I turn away. Tonight’s girl’s night. But tomorrow’s a new day.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
A warm male voice tickles my cheek. I turn and fall into a pair of hazel eyes.
“Hmmm…” I pull away and take a good look at him. Tall, goes to the gym, but doesn’t live there, can put an outfit together but nothing too metro. Cute. Not bad at all. “I’m not sure yet.”
He smiles and my heart does a quick two-step. “What’s your name?”
“Strange name. I’ve got a bad feeling about you, Tag.” I say, and strangely enough, I kind of do.
“Funny. I feel if you don’t let me buy you this drink, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
“Well, since you put it that way. Sam, this gentleman will be buying my drinks this evening.”
“Whatever you say, chica.”
Sam slides our drinks across the counter.
Kris raises her glass. “A toast. To a Happy New Year, and new beginnings.”
“And may the past be a memory, best forgotten,” I add.