AN OCEAN OF MEMORY • by Marie G Coleman

— trigger warning for statutory rape, ephebophilia, sexual predator —

Facts may appear solid. Jane knew they mattered, especially since she made her living as a lawyer. History happened, just as stone transmuted into sand, and memories drifted like the tides. Perhaps that’s why Jane woke up in tears often on Sundays, when there wasn’t an alarm clock to wallop her into the day. Her husband snored softly next to her, and Polly, the poodle, hadn’t even lifted an ear to suggest a walk was in order. Jane rolled over and remembered 1991.

On July second of that year, when Nantucket’s population quadrupled, Jane and her older sister, Alice, waitressed at the Downey Flake. On that same day, Donald Trump proposed to Marla Maples giving her a seven-point-five-carat diamond ring. Everyone at the Downey Flake yakked on about what a putz he was, because island regulars despised bling.

And when the beach roses withered on July tenth, Boris Yeltsin took office as the first Russian president. Jane was kissed by the guy with the handlebar moustache that same day. She craved his attention more than Marla needed that ring. So what if he was thirty-one? Jane was fifteen. Call him a pedophile.

“Willful,” Jane’s mother said often. But her mother didn’t even know about the guy with the handlebar moustache, because Billy had rolled over the top of a BMW, skateboarding out to Madaket, stupid kid brother. Still is, Jane thought, as she climbed out of bed twenty-seven years later.

Billy had been med flown to MGH. Back then they stretched it out to Mass General. Things were slower. There were more newspapers. Headlines seemed real. Ink came off on your fingertips as a reminder of humanity’s dirt.

On July eleventh, there was a total eclipse in Hawaii, but they were in Nantucket. So who cared? Jane let him touch her breasts that night. He reached for the zipper of her shorts. She resisted.

On July fourteenth, there was a failed military coup in Mali. That was the night when Alice and Jane drank tequila with their friends from the Downey Flake. Alice wanted to skinny dip at sunrise. All agreed. There was a convoy of cars, crazy chitchat, and not a parent to be found. Jane and the guy with the handlebar mustache rode alone. He made a wrong turn off of Surfside Road. Jane knew it was wrong, but Mom had always said that men needed to be in charge.

In the backseat of his Rambler, Jane’s underwear came off. She thought she wanted to lose her virginity; perhaps it was the tequila talking. He fumbled his way on top.

His penis frightened her, like a warped cucumber in a field of autumn pubic hair. Jane closed her eyes. Nothing that followed felt good. He dropped her off at home, before the others returned. They never spoke again.

On July nineteenth, Jane confessed to Alice. That same day Mike Tyson raped Miss Black America.

Tides surge, waves crash and life goes on. Jane’s grown up now. She left that wounded girl behind long ago. Today she enjoys a full life as a law partner and a good marriage. And she remains hypervigilant of predators. She even volunteers at a rape crisis center two nights a week. Jane knows how memories fade with time, but trauma lingers. In the silence of those Sunday mornings, when the saltwater tears appear with an ocean of memory, Jane takes heart, for she’ll be there to listen, and to bear witness to the facts along with the memories.  

But who really cares about memories anymore? It’s the facts that matter, right?

Marie G Coleman teaches English at Nashua High North. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in 2016. She is currently working on a memoir that juxtaposes walking the Camino de Santiago, a five hundred mile journey across northern Spain, and learning to accept a family member’s mental health diagnosis. She lives with her husband in New Hampshire.

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