Your Memories Grow With You

I walked into that coffee shop as the same man I’d always thought I was. I left as someone I did not recognize. Surely that’s the way life was meant to be lived, but I could not decide if I wanted to accept that. Really, it just left me with a sense of emptiness…

Here’s the thing: Julia and I met about seven years ago in an after school Foreign Film Club. I knew nothing about foreign films and was just looking to get an extracurricular credit. She knew a lot about them and was hoping to learn more. I was the obvious interloper of our bunch, and I seriously considered leaving for some other easy credit… But then I met her.

She was beautiful… Inside and out. We started learning about each other… She said she wanted to be a lawyer to most people, to appease her parents, but she really wanted to get into graphic design. I wanted to write for a living. She had a deep passion for caring for the planet and for appreciating diverse cultures. I… had a fleeting interest in those things as well. She battled depression and crushing high expectations. I never truly explored the emotion of “sad.”

It was clear she was way out of my league.

So we grew close to each other in Foreign Film Club. For reasons not fully known to even her, she opened herself up to me, when her life had been closed to everyone else. I bumbled along in regurgitation of opinions and worldviews I’d only heard and never taken the time to consider for myself. Somehow, that didn’t seem to faze her. We grew close.

It was the first time I thought that maybe… Just maybe… This is what love feels like.

We grew apart after graduation. I went to a no-name community college, and she went to dazzling NYU. And we lost contact with each other…

Until two hours ago. I ran into her at the coffee shop.

We were amazed at seeing each other again and sat down to recount the last seven years of events with each other. Laughter punctuated our thoughts as we connected in an impossibly strange and familiar way. And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

I could not shake this feeling that something was off. Something was different…
Is this what love feels like?

For the past seven years, every so often, her stunning face would float into my consciousness and I’d wonder how she was doing and what goals she’d been achieving. I never forgot her. But I never thought I’d be sitting across from her again. And now that I had, she was exactly as I remembered.

After thinking back to our conversations years prior, I made the startling discovery that… It was I that changed.

I was no longer the awkward teenager searching for meaning and purpose… I was a carefree man whose come-what-may attitude and fence-sitter lifestyle grew shamed of his former self. And until now, I would have thought that was a good thing. Change is inevitable, so if one has to do so, it should be towards a better outcome. And I felt that I’d reached a better outcome, with more growth on the way.

But did this matter to Julia? The truth is, I don’t know if she felt the same way about me.

We left that coffee shop with a “we-should-do-this-again” sort of vague plan that usually fizzles out to nothing and I could not help but feel a pang of sadness as we parted.

Change is inevitable, but you don’t usually know that you’re doing it. The question remains to be answered: Can you reclaim the magic your memories hold? Or is it destined to be lost as your memories grow with you?

Watermark (Part 2)

Author’s Note: I’m very humbled to have had a great response to part one of Watermark. I have had several people compliment me and ask me if there would be a continuation, which is a crazy feeling. I had no idea people were even reading my blurbs. But thanks to the power of a good cliffhanger, you’ve asked for more, so I present that here. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.


“The doctor will see you now.”

I followed the nurse through the hallway to the room I was in last week. Every step was slower, matching the sense of doom growing in my heart. There was nothing to indicate on the surface that this place was anything less than what it pretended it was, but I had my suspicions. I needed answers.

I sat in the chair as the doctor came into the room.

“Ah, Mr. Delavigne! It’s good to see you again. In need of another fifty bucks?” He chuckled slightly.

It was here that I should have said something clever, or simply called him out. What’s the real motive of your experiment, you chuckling psychopath? But instead, I said something that surprised even myself.

“Yes sir. In need of another research volunteer?”

He smiled. “I certainly am. And it’s good to see that you’ve come back. I believe that we played a rock song for you last time. ‘Show Me How to Live’ by Audioslave, if I’m not mistaken. Does that sound right?”

I had no idea. I just nodded, not wanting to appear unfamiliar with popular culture. Also, I genuinely couldn’t remember.

“Well, I think we may switch things up for you this time. We’ll go with a classical piece. I’m thinking Beethoven.”

He kept waving his clipboard as he gestured in time with his words. I tried to catch a glimpse of something pertinent, but the only thing I could make out for sure was the largest word at the top: DELAVIGNE.

“That sounds alright,” I lied. I didn’t really care for classical music either.

He left to go to the observation room as several men came in, going through the usual song and dance of attaching electrodes from various instruments to different parts of my body. There was a part of me that thought if I wanted answers, I should have been more direct with the doctor, but another part of me liked the thrill of this sort of espionage. Certainly, I had no idea what I was doing, or even if I would be able to gather any information this way. However, the main answer I wanted was why my hand was twitching. When it was twitching, I sensed I was in danger. But I was safe in my apartment the whole time. If I got home after the experiment with another twitching hand, I surmised, then I could blame this so-called research facility and demand answers next time. But if I didn’t, then it could have just been anything really. A lack of certain chemicals in the brain can cause all sorts of strange behavior.

When the song ended, the electrodes were removed, the check was received, and I headed home to await my destiny.

And that’s the last thing I remember.


I sat in the chair and put the headphones over my head. I’d taken hearing tests before and assumed this would be similar. The biggest difference between this and a hearing test was the electrode swarm the team had placed all over my body. Well that, and that I would be compensated fifty dollars for my time. I wondered if there was a way I could come back another time and collect another fifty, but the way the paper worded the experiment, it sounded like a one-time only offer. Still, I didn’t have any big plans for the day and figured this would be as good a use of my time as any.

The doctor spoke into a microphone in the room next to me, separated by a pane of glass. My headphones buzzed to life.

“In a moment, you are going to hear some music. The electrodes are going to record your body’s response to this stimulus. All you have to do is sit there and listen. Sound good?”

I gave him a thumbs up sign.

“Good. Here we go.”

I started hearing a rock song. It was probably some famous band, but I wouldn’t really know unless someone told me. I didn’t listen to rock very often. The sounds of jagged electric notes crashing against harsh thumps and gravel-dragged vocals did nothing to inspire. I preferred the dissonance of jazz or the slow simmer of blues. Still, I sat there as told, closed my eyes, and listened.

When the song ended, I blinked my eyes open and awaited further instruction. To my surprise, the doctor in the adjacent room had disappeared. Three men came into my room and started wordlessly peeling the electrodes off of me.

“So, am I done?”

No one responded. One of the men unceremoniously yanked the headphones off me, unplugged them from the box by my side, and walked out. The doctor who had spoken to me earlier muscled his way into the room as the remaining two men pushed their electrode-bundled selves through the doorway.

“Well, Mr. Delavigne, I sincerely thank you for your time. That’s all we need from you. Just see Cara at the front desk to get your money.”

I was shocked. “That’s seriously it?”

He nodded with a slight smile. “That is seriously it. Easy, right?”

“I… I suppose. Well, when will I get the results?”

The doctor tilted his head, quizzically. “The results?”

“Yeah. When will I know what you guys find out? This is for an experiment on how the human body reacts to certain stimuli, right?”

“Well, yes. But you are just one in several participants we’ll see today and throughout the rest of the month. It will be some time before we actually collect enough data and are able to decipher meaning from it. Besides, this isn’t a checkup, so you won’t be getting any results.”

I was a little disappointed, but I suppose that made sense.

“Can I come back?”

Something flashed in the doctor’s eyes. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but he surprised me. “You certainly can. It will be interesting to see how the same body reacts to a different stimulus.”

I thanked him and left. Cara had my check ready for me before I got to the front desk, so I grabbed it and walked out of the building.


Later that night, I was sitting in my chair, doing some crosswords. I do this nearly every night. There was nothing unordinary about it. And yet, there was this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The hairs on the back of my neck started to bristle. I tensed my body and waited…

Nothing happened.

I cautiously stood to my feet, slightly hunched, waiting…

Nothing happened.

What was this feeling? I couldn’t shake it. Something was happening, and I had no idea what it was.

I tried to relax, but then I started sweating. It wasn’t even hot in the room. I scanned the room, looking for the source of my uneasiness. Still, nothing.

That’s when it happened.

Suddenly, my left hand started to twitch…


Greener Pastures

The subway door couldn’t open fast enough. Had I really seen him?

I bolted down the hall. Sure enough, there he was, ambling my way. We had not seen each other in years.

“Jon!” I shouted. His head snapped my way. “Hey, man!”

Jon stopped and let me catch up to him. “Chet? Is it really you?” He dropped his suitcase and grabbed me in a big bear hug. “Wow! It’s been too long. I was worried I’d never see you again!”

I nodded in agreement. “What have you been up to?”

Jon blushed. “It’s a little embarrassing to admit, buddy.” He stared at me, wondering how judgmental I’d be.

“Come on. It’s me. You know you can tell me anything.”

He looked around at the busy station. People were passing by on all sides, not staying long enough to hear a full conversation. Having sensed the passers-by were no threat to his confession, he pressed on. “Chet, I’ve been up to nothing.”

I stared at him, hoping for some elaboration. He provided none, so I prodded. “What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly that. I’ve done absolutely nothing. I’ve sat in a room watching the walls around me turn dimly grey, shade by miniscule shade. I’ve eaten the same burnt porridge-goo for every meal, every day since I’ve been gone. I slid every dollar I ever saved through that mystical slot in the wall until I had nothing left. Do you know what silence sounds like, Chet?”

I shook my head.

“It’s deafening. You can’t hear yourself think over how quiet it is.”

I had no idea what to say. My friend was making no sense.

“That is my embarrassing confession. I have been gone for so long, and I have nothing to show for it.”

I glanced down at his suitcase. “What’s in there?”

His eyes lit up. “You know, it’s crazy. Locked away in that room for years, there was nothing. But the train ride over here, there was everything! There was hope and fear, there was laughter and sadness, there were smells… Smells, Chet! Do you know that I had forgotten how to smell?”

“No, Jon. I sure didn’t.” I paused, waiting for more.

“So I captured it all.” He picked up his suitcase and patted the side. “Emotion, striving, yearning… The deepest reaches of what it means to be human. That’s what’s in here.”

Jon had always been a little eccentric, but this seemed different. Then again, it had been a while since I’d seen him. Maybe absence makes the heart grow odder.

“I’d love to share it with you.”

I glanced up at him, shocked. “Are you serious?”

He beamed. “If, of course, you’ll allow me to.”

I slowly smiled. “That would be amazing, Jon.” I then thought to the last time we spoke. “But you know, it can’t be like it was before.”

Jon nodded solemnly. “I know that, Chet. It’ll have to be better than before. Disciplined. Focused.”

I nodded in agreement.

We both let our words sink in as the crowd flowed around us. They seemed electric. Excited. They knew something special was happening.

“Hey, Chet.”

“Yes, Jon?”

Jon cleared his throat. “Could you promise me one thing?”

“What is it?”

“Don’t let me leave again. There is nothing where I went, and if I leave, that’s just where I’ll go again.”

I let the weight of his words rest on me for a while. I was equally at fault for his absence. There was no way around it. And wherever my friend went, it wasn’t a good place. Now if he left again, it would be as if I were sending him myself to this dreary existence.

I looked him in the eyes. “Alright, Jon.”

His face lit up. “Thank you, Chet. You always were a good friend.”

I smiled in return as we started walking down the hall toward the station exit. I had no way of knowing for sure, but this felt like the start of something better.

“So, what have you been up to?”

I shrugged. “Well, the same sort of stuff I’ve always been doing. Wake up, go to work, eat, sleep. That’s about it.”

He looked disappointed. “But you seem different.”

I looked up at him. “Really?”

He nodded. “I think you’re hiding something.”

“Well, not exactly hiding. It’s just that I don’t know if it’s worth bringing up. It’s just a feeling, you know? Nothing tangible.”

Jon lifted his suitcase. “Do you think I care?”

“Fair enough.” I looked around. We walked up the stairs among a throng of people. I had no way of knowing if they were listening, but I felt so foolish I didn’t really care. I wanted to share this new development in life with my friend. “I guess I don’t know how to describe it. I feel like I’m always searching for something, for someone. There’s a pull toward… something. But that doesn’t really make much sense. All I do is wake up, go to work, eat, sleep. That’s who I am.”

Jon lifted his suitcase again, agitated. He pointed at it with a menacing look. “Longing doesn’t make sense. Yet, it makes perfect sense. It’s one of these emotions.”

“Hm. Is that so?”

“Yes, it is. And all that stuff you do is not who you are. It’s what you do. So now I know what we will do.”

We stopped as we reached the city sidewalk in the radiant sunshine. “You do?”

“Yes, my friend. We’ll do what makes us human.” He paused, dramatically, before continuing. “We will chase that feeling!”

For the first time in a long time, I felt something real. I felt excited. I was ready to chase that feeling.

And that’s exactly what we did.


Santa Waits at the Mall

Progressive Santa Does His Thing


Santa Claus had finally had enough. As the years advanced, much of the world became increasingly antagonistic towards him, as if he was some sort of religion. The general sentiment of “believe if that works for you” was championed throughout this yuletide season. He was cast aside—a relic of an archaic world which had outgrown him. So this year, he figured he’d meet the demands of this new society. Those who believed in jolly ol’ Saint Nick would find an expertly-wrapped package from their wish list under their trees. Those who did not would not merit a Christmas Eve visit.  No more Naughty or Nice lists. No more lumps of coal. This was the new Santa. These are his stories.




Santa Waits at the Mall


It was a fact that most businessmen in the shopping mall industry were believers in Santa Claus. They had to be. That’s how they contacted Santa to get him to sit in their rotundas for hours on end. There was a time Santa thought he’d have to stop doing mall visits because of his bad knees, but now he found them indispensable. Belief in him was reaching an all-time low. He needed the publicity. But Santa learned something. Not only was belief in him plummeting, but so was belief in shopping malls. He looked around the dimly lit corridor, festooned with “SPACE AVAILABLE” signs. There were maybe four people within view, none of whom were kids.

Santa sighed. He didn’t like leaving early for fear of a kid coming in vain, but he felt the need to indulge in his selfish desires today. He gave a few presents to Marge, his contact at this particular mall. Marge reluctantly accepted the gifts, but she understood why Santa wanted to leave. She’d leave if she could. The place was a dismal relic of a better time.

He thought back to just a few weeks earlier. The Christmas season kicked off right on Thanksgiving Day with the big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. So many children (and some adults!) were ecstatic to see him. The excitement waned fast. He couldn’t recall a December where he felt sad. How could he? There was joy and merriment to go around, right?

Santa looked back to his schedule. He had three more malls today, all at the same time. Though time constraints usually weren’t a concern for Saint Nick, he thought to himself that he’d only have time for one.

When he traveled to his destination, he saw more of the same. Boarded up shops lined dimly lit halls with meager lifeless faces patrolling their length. He sat there for a little while, anxiously hoping someone would come for a picture, but no one did. He left early and headed for the second mall on the list. Again, no one bothered to visit.

Begrudgingly, Santa went to the third and final mall. He wanted to return home to give his wife at least something that was hopeful. The North Pole needed hope.

This time Santa didn’t leave early. He sat there on his fed faux suede throne, surrounded by cardboard red and green gifts, feeling miserable. Not a single child came to see him. The only interaction with people he’d had were his contacts at each mall. But they were busy—too busy to chat with. Too busy to ask them if they’d been a good boy or girl (he’d still ask this, despite the new rules), too busy to pose for a photo, too busy to give them a small candy cane… He glanced at his watch. He’ll need to be leaving soon.


The yuletide saint looked up from his chair at see a young girl smiling at him. Little Suzy Arbogast. He beamed. “Hello there! Why don’t you come on up here and talk to me a bit?”

Suzy skipped over to Santa and jumped onto his lap. They had a marvelously long chat. He asked if she was a good girl (she was), they posed for photos (ten of them!), and she ended up taking the basket of candy canes home with his blessing.

Santa smiled a smile he’d been needing since the day after the parade. The entire day, he decided, was worth it, to bring that kind of joy and excitement to Suzy. He’d sit through another week of depressing mall visits for a chance like that again!

Santa got into his sleigh and went home for the night. Hope rang true at the North Pole that night. Though the number of believers kept dwindling, the bad times could always be weathered.