Installment 36 considers the particulars of sense memory. In recalling scenes from a distant past, Larry D. Thacker focuses on the physical sensations surrounding emotional events (rather than the emotions themselves). Sensory details are what bring his memories to life.
The sawdust floor always felt spongy with oil. Though he was long gone, hints of the horse’s rich manure lingered in the stall, mixed in straw shard and pressed to sweet rot under cardboard boxes stacked beyond remembered contents. Walls lined with gravity pulled chains and tools, the Coke sled. Sweet heady canisters of gasoline. The tubs of used oil. The wobbly round rung ladder up to the cavernous loft. I never dared venture off the top rung of the ladder more than a step or two for fear of how lightless a place it was, even as the motes of daylight strained to brighten little spots where I heard crawling noises.
I grieve the old car’s lost alchemy the most. The 1948 Chevy Coupe resting in the midst of it all. A lovely rusting metallic fade of blue galaxy. I miss pressing my nose to the ripped seat fabric, to the dust of foam, and inhaling that unrealized act of documentation. That wasn’t just an act of a child’s adventurous, overwhelmed senses. I was breathing amazement. Accidental memory.
My mother is coming home again
from a second stay at the hospital
after open heart surgery. I’ve driven
their car to Knoxville to get them
and now my father is driving us
and she’s in the passenger seat.
I’m in back, which feels strange,
riding in the backseat of a car,
let alone with my parents up front.
It’s raining and the sun’s down
as we wind our way from Knoxville
toward Norris Lake. In my drifting
between careful watch of the road
and the pull of sleep, memory
sprawls me on my back again,
something I loved as a child,
long ways across the boat-like backseat
of my father’s turquoise ’68 Chrysler
Newport, face up, free of a seatbelt,
hypnotized by the zoom of streetlights
converging and parting their reflections
through the wet glare of the window,
comforted by their quiet conversation
over an even quieter radio, back-dropped
by songs of passing cars, rain, and road.