I couldn't sleep last night. This wasn't anything particularly new; I was expecting it. I suppose its being here that does this to me. I am restless and lonely and at night when its gets quiet I lay there thinking and thinking and thinking. I go over my day. Not in an orderly matter, there is no "then I went here and then I saw so-and-so," there is the things I remember in a mixed-up crazy fashion.
I remember the jewelry store I went to in Glencoe. The uncharitable mustached man who ran it and a woman who I think was some sort of relative. They had a quirkly relationship and weren't very nice to each other at all. The man in the back, who I think was from Russia, was the one I spoke to on the phone and who sodered the necklace for me. While I waited a lady came in to get a watch battery replaced and she asked about Mrs. Olnsky, apparently the former owner. Mrs. Olnsky died about six months ago I learned. I learned some other facts about her too: that she was rather pushy, that she has a son who is presumably still alive, and that she once ran a Glencoe jewelry store. All this information was provided by the customer who kept attempting to make conversation with the stuffy relative. Diane (mustache man called her that) was not at all interested in talking about Mrs. Olnsky. She knew nothing about her other than the last fact. And that her cousin, Howard (that was his name, they were cousins), bought a jewelry store from her. As I sat in the waiting chair with the cracked plastic seat, stuffing showing through, I started to wonder all sorts of things about Mrs. Olnsky. Whether she sold the shop before she died, why her son didn't want the store, and what it must have been like to run a jewelry store in Glencoe for so many many decades.
Glencoe is a cute little town. About ten years ago I lived there, nestled in a flat about six blocks from the downtown area. Our lives were pretty horrible then. The man who lived upstairs had a dog named Spike. It was one of those Spaniel types that yips and pees a lot. He also had a son who visited every other weekend and they would order pizza and watch Wayne's World over and over again. We got my cat Checkers while we lived at that house and she and Cody, our mild-mannered Bernese Mountain Dog, would play together. Cody died that year. Checkers hates dogs now. Jeremy and I would ride our bikes down Vernon Avenue into downtown Glencoe. We wouldn't have to chain them up and we would go into Parkside Drugs (which is still there) and buy candy. We would wander the little shops. There was a restaurant called Harry's that we liked to go to. One time my best friend Ashley and I went there and pretended we were adults. I actually remember thinking that we were convincing. Its amazing what young minds think is possible.
I will see Ashley tomorrow. I haven't seen her in 5 years and we had drifted apart four years before that. Now we will be spending Christmas together. I wonder if we will talk about the time we found my Christmas presents in the back of closet and opened them (the Anne of Green Gables series). I wonder if we'll remember those things or if we'll act like the cordial stranger adults we've become and talk about what we do now (I'm a journalism major; she is a nurse's assistant in Madison). I already have a feeling we will pretend that the past never happened. That is what we do with old memories. I don't quite understand why either. I have one old friend who is now just an acquaintance (funny how those things happen) and whenever I am with him I feel guilty if I bring up memories.
Memories are not bad things. I have been plagued with a memory stronger than anyone I have met. I can recount what you wore when we went to dinner a year ago and why you were late and what movie we watched after and everything we talked about. I can remember that you almost spilled your glass of water and that we laughed about it. I can also remember why I wore the black boots even though they hurt. Memories haunt me, though. Its a horrible feeling to know that something happened and I am the only one on this planet, the only soul that is thinking and breathing, that remembers it. Its as if it never happened, except to me. And that's why its not true that no man is an island.
I pulled out a box of old journals the other night and made the mistake of starting to read one. Crumpled in tears, I had to put the book down. I had recounted enough to bring back the memory of a conversation on the phone with my father, a few months after he had moved away. Him and my mother were in a fight and somehow I was on the phone between them. I wonder how long now that memory will stay fresh, no longer in a drawer tucked away behind graduations in the back of the closet, but now sitting in front of the doorway, something I have to step over several times a day. Memories haunt me.
When I could not sleep last night I came down to write. Instead I found a friend and talked for a few hours. We talked about the past and the future and joked. Nothing particularly deep or moving, no serious moments or epiphanies. Instead, it was a most pleasant simple conversation and brought me the peace I have in my room at home where I don't have trouble sleeping and I don't excruitiate my day and the past. While I was laying in bed, drifting finally into sleep, thinking about our conversations about the future, I remembered another conversation I had had with my dearest friend about our children. She is stricter than me in so many ways and already has all these rules and guidelines set for how she will raise them. I, on the other hand, can't wait to hand my kid a paintbrush and tell him to decorate the house. It would seem that our children will grow up so very different. However, they will probably grow up together. She insists that her children call adults "Mr." and "Mrs." exclusively in respectful tones. I have asked her to promise to let them call me Abigail.
The future is so far off and I know not if I will write a column for a newspaper, or start a law firm, or own a little boutique on a busy city street, or publish books, or start a school in a small town. Maybe I will do all those things. And maybe none of them. In the meantime, I think I have discovered that the future is more calm to me than the past.