“This and Everything Around Us” by Michael Koh

They say that memories fade over time. That much is true. What they don’t tell you is what happens to the faded memories and what happens when we do remember them. Do we remember false details? Do we add anything to the memory? How faded must the memory be for us to start adding our own details to it? The clothes she wore that night: either a black racy dress or a black lacy dress. The words that revolved in my head while standing at her door: anywhere from “I hope my breath smells alright,” to “I should’ve taken a piss before I got here,” to “Am I at the right place?” The smell of her perfume: Dior or Chanel or Old Spice. The number of stars visible at that time sometime mid-summer in either 2008 or 2009: anywhere between 999 to over 9,000. The clicking of her heels against the soft thuds of my shoes on the crowded sidewalk somewhere in the heart of Manhattan. Was I really able to hear that over the voluminous noise that is New York City? So, as you can see, I’ve forgotten some of these once-considered important details over time. Hold on just a moment – my mother is knocking on my door asking me what I want for dinner.

My mother says I shouldn’t be thinking about this and instead focusing on studying for upcoming post-graduate exams, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I told her I’ve gone over the materials twice already, but as with most mothers, they are insistent that you get a near-perfect score to brag to her friends. How she’d be able to boast about your 25-year-old son still living at home getting an above average score on some aptitude test is beyond me. She wanted to make salad with kale and spinach for dinner. Why didn’t she go ahead and make it, I have no idea. Maybe I should’ve asked her for a fruit bowl. That sounds pretty good right now – it’s been a hot and humid, mercury-boiling kind of a day. Would she have objected to that? Probably not. She loves fruit almost as much as she loves me. But first, a question: is a fruit bowl enough to be dinner? I’m not one to say a dinner is a square meal with family, you know the drill, meat, carbs, and vegetables with a glass of milk. After all, my meals usually consist of 2 slices of rye bread, a quarter of an avocado, and dashes of hot sauce on the avocado spread, so a fruit bowl for dinner is obviously a welcome addition to what you would consider a banal, if not extremely ordinary meal. My friends think it’s disgusting, especially when I eat it in front of them. But this isn’t about them. It’s about me and a memory of how I met a person who thought it was an absolutely genius idea to put hot sauce on guacamole with toasted rye bread.

The memory of her has been fluttering about in my head for about three years now. I couldn’t find the right time to string words together; rather, I couldn’t find the right words at the time to string about. But now that there’s a fairly large distance between the past and now, I’m able to see a beginning and an end: how it all came to be and how it all came apart. Now, some of the things I’m going to tell you are true, and some are fabricated. I can’t tell the fabrications apart from the truths, so you’re going to have to believe me or not. Take the entire thing and tear it apart, I don’t care. Actually, I do care, but it’s really your role as the reader to discern what’s real and what’s not. Don’t worry; I too will be doing so as I write. I find that as I keep writing, the memory becomes clearer yet also further distant, as if I’m taking a dry towel and wiping away the steam from the bathroom mirror, only to have the steam return to where the towel had wiped the surface clean. Maybe as I write this, I’ll start to remember details, both minor and significant to me, but arbitrary to you, the reader.

My mother says the salad is ready.

Part 2 | 3
Profile: Michael Koh

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