I can see the crippled egg from across this expanse of blackened char; its withering form pinned beneath the metal flipper. The life-giving box a shattered ghost writhing in agony, its wounds fanned by the same light breeze that teases my hair. A hundred faded memories are oozing from the wrecked shell, and they dance across the pan before being liquefied; sizzling spots of forgotten pleasures now consumed in this ebony wasteland.
The flipper belatedly raises itself from the corpse, and the leavings of a thousand lives spill forth, flooding the scorched plain with 8-tracks and army men and rocks named “Bernice.” Yellowed newspaper clippings run amongst a pair of outrageous white boots, a flood of spoilt yolk unaware as yet of what it has lost. More ghosts are escaping this grounded ship: crayoned drawings and tarnished coins and postcards of famous buildings, the diaspora of “The Me Decade.”
And then come the letters; a hundred hope-filled, bicameral visions of life then and now, spreading like pancake batter across the empty, dark expanse of abbreviated nothing. They’re stories of family and friendship and vacations and birthdays and peace; haunting past lives of recovering stock markets and throwaway freedom. They’re twelve-step predictions of a future of happiness and ice cream and maraschino sunsets, and they disappear on the gentle urging of a warm breeze.
There’s a fuss around the egg now; the workers are belatedly moving to stop the flight of memories from the box. An empty shell, now noticeably filled with the void that was always there to begin with, the box sits awkwardly within the crowd, each unsure of what has really happened here. There are no procedures for this, no contingency plans, no twenty hours of in-service training yearly on roles and responsibilities. Just the total, fantastical shock of watching a stream of thirty-year-old clippings and photos and the crushed components of a Mattel Electronic Football unit gush from the fire-scorched earth; all of us dim red blips in a field of black, searching for understanding within this incredible convergence.
Your photo tumbles to a rest against my boot, the eyes of a seventeen-year-old you burning through my heart again, like they did so many other times before, in so many different moments, dramas and silences. You never wore a watch because you always treated time as a flexible, dynamic person, an ally in life, not a cold, concrete absolute. We might sit for minutes that would pass like the most wonderful hours; such was the density of our time. And now, in silent tribute to you, your interrogator’s eyes and your understated smile, time loses all viscosity and grinds to a halt, and I can only stand here and return your Kodak gaze. There’s men collecting what memories remain, but most are lost to the heavens, gleaming flocks of torn-paper doves in a still shroud of sky. Your photo remains, as do I, both of us unwilling to leave this place of our creation and destruction. Memories of so many breakfasts and phone calls and store-aisle meetings, elevator rides and Christmas parties, and Acapulco in 1984 flooding past, tumbling out to sea, and us caught at anchor within this rip.
I don’t know what time it is when I finally go home – it’s after dark and I’ve lost my watch. I make some eggs, cracking them with ease, pouring their contents onto the skillet while your wrinkled photo lies on the table behind me. They spit and sizzle and solidify into meaningless plastic splendor, and I fill my stomach and read the paper and go to bed. Your photo rests on my table, and the skillet sizzles in the evenings, and time goes on without us.