Exercise 1: I don’t know why I remember…


The Goal: To pinpoint some previously unexplored material that remains “hot” for you in an important emotional way.

The Exercise:

  1. “Scan” back over your life and think of things that have stuck in your mind, but for no obvious reason.
  2. Render them precisely on the page using concrete details, beginning each one with the phrase, “I don’t know why I remember.”

This is the main point of the exercise.  I haven’t written it out entirely because it’s not mine to share, but I’ve added the important aspects so that anyone critiquing this will be able to tell me if I’ve accomplished this exercise and/or where I’ve fallen short of it.  My response to it can be found below.

I don’t know why I remember sleeping in the room my father rented when we were young, just after the divorce proceedings had finished and we were all done with the courts – the first time.  I don’t remember much about the tiny room with wooden floors, but I have a conception of emptiness.  I cannot remember there being any furniture in the room except a single bed that my father, both brothers, and I shared on my father’s weekends.  I always felt as though I would be pushed off its sides at night, but as the eldest sister I slept on one end, my middle brother sleeping on the other.  I have a vague notion that my baby brother slept on the outside a few times, but that he kept rolling off of the bed and smacking his head on the wooden floor.  He hadn’t grown into his skull yet, and his head was large and heavy and vulnerable at that age.  So we slept on the ends to keep him safely atop the bed, my father holding onto him in the middle.

The morning I remember, I woke up early, before everyone else.  I always do that when I share beds with other people, wake up before them with the strong desire to get up and do something – anything – but am afraid that I’ll wake them up if I move.  I was trying to get comfortable with minimal movement so that I could go back to sleep when movement from the middle of the bed caught my attention.  Not sure which of my family members was waking up, I stayed still, afraid that my fidgeting had brought someone prematurely out of slumber.  That was when my baby brother rolled out of my father’s arms.  He did not stop there, rolling first over my father’s body then mine and falling to the floor with a loud thump that indicated his head had collided with the wood.

Everyone still atop the bed was immediately conscious, our bodies tensing for the cry that was about to rise up and crash into our ears.  My baby brother always fell off of the bed, every weekend we stayed there, and we always woke up to him screaming.  He was young – it was the cry of a child who had scraped his knee, seen his own blood outside of his body for the first time, or felt a new kind of pain.  It was the scream of a mind that did not yet know this would not kill him.  We waited.

After a moment, we heard a tiny snore from the floor, an indication that my baby brother had fallen back to sleep, or perhaps that his fall had not pulled him entirely from unconsciousness.  My father’s chuckle shook the bed, and he sat up, pulling at one of the many blankets strewn over us and draping it over the fallen brother.  It would be safer if he stayed down there, for we all knew that he would fall off again if we tried to get him back atop the bed.  My middle brother overtook the space the youngest had just inhabited, and the two males fell quickly back to sleep.  Now surrounded and soothed by sounds of sleep and with more space into which I could spread, I soon slipped back into unconsciousness as well.

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