The Train

He takes two more of Rosemary’s Memantine, shakes them onto the floor where he’s sitting and swallows them dry. Memory pills. Coat-hangers for the latch on his brain. Just over the lip of the window down into the lock of the car. He’ll snag the memory back, the name of the vested, name-tagged man.

He’d like to turn off the TV so that the lights won’t shine through to his eyes. The dark room makes the TV brighter, everything flash-bathed in the shifting colors of the evening news. The remote is out of batteries and so he’s stuck on yesterday morning’s volume. The kind that sounds good in sunlight, with the smell of coffee, but makes the neighbors complain. Somewhere on the slick box is a panel. Something he should push or pull, a skinny piece of plastic that hides all the buttons that make it work. The periphery of the TV is covered in oily prints. Aged prints. Circles that laze on the pads of his fingers, misshapen and tired.

On days like this Minneapolis feels less like a city, manageable, navigable. There are short distances you can walk in the streets before the cold sets in. Everything breathless…

He waits for the Memantine to work. He doesn’t believe in it.

But he’ll try. For Rosemary it didn’t do a damn thing. He told the young doctor over and over again. She imagines people. Sometimes she doesn’t recognize her son. The same goddamn things out of her mouth. What can you do? He tried to explain the predicament to the kid, the goddamn kid of a doctor. The pills conduct the electricity of the brain along the quickest route. Or maybe you can understand, it’s like water running in the same ditch, the same grooves. See what I mean? Everything pours along the same ditch and what spills out is the same memories.

The doctor shook his head.

“You’ve lost me.”

“The pills are the flood. Her head is the house. Only after the flood the same things wash out.”

“Sir,” the doctor said, “Sir.”

Raymond knows he’s right though, because here in his hand is the picture. And even without his thumbs over bodies his eyes narrow in on Rosemary’s worried face. Lazy pills, he murmurs. Rosemary is an easy memory. Take me to the man. But he’s caught up in the crease across Rosemary’s forehead and her faraway look. Oncoming train in your eyes, he says. And for a moment the evening news casts shades of afternoon light across Robert’s head, piercing the thin defense of his wrinkled lids. Out of his head washes a spring afternoon. There’s a lunch counter, their young bodies perched on stools. Rosemary, he tells her: you have an oncoming train look.

“A what, she asks?”

“An oncoming train look,” he repeats. “Like this,” he says, and he turns his head sidelong down the counter, creases his brow, crosses his eyes.

He’s young and giddy with the day, the February day. There’s still snow, but something like a summer breeze too, skipping across the ice-filmed streets. On days like this Minneapolis feels less like a city, manageable, navigable. There are short distances you can walk in the streets before the cold sets in. Everything breathless — the pushing open of doors to crispness, the plunging back through more doors to warmth.

“I look like a lunatic?”

“Let me start over,” he says.

He looks past her again, creases his brow. He lets his eyes go soft and unfocused, as if he’s imagining something in the distance — hands fall open slightly on the counter.

“That’s how you look.”

“All the time?”

“Sometimes.”

He’s watching her face, the first woman that’s allowed him to watch, follow the long line of jaw, the soft expanse between wide-set eyes. Irises like rubbed wood, the kind found at bank teller stations or train depots, bits of curved and oiled warmth. He can see that she’s deciding, deciding whether or not his description is small math, meant to subtract from her.

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