I remember sitting in the backseat of the car that would become my car 11 years later. It smelled new like my dad's cars alway do. It was clean. The cleanest thing within the confines of the Fort Wayne house was always, and still is, my dad's car. I sat and waited for my parents to come out and drive us all to church, to dinner, to some Baptist church playground to get exercise, to burn off all the calories from tortillas and fruit snacks, all the same things we ate everyday that stunted our taste buds, stunted our "palates" and sent us into adulthoods filled with tortillas and fruit snacks. I sat and I waited and the light in the garage clicked off. I felt Alex's car seat digging into my arm. I wanted to elbow it. I wanted to elbow Alex's car seat and I wanted to elbow Alex's baby body. I could hear Ben chewing at his nails, making those wet sounds that I'd grow to become so intolerant of that I thought I had a mental disease wherein I was completely incapable of behaving like an adult when presented with anyone's wet sounds. I wanted to elbow Ben but I didn't want to unbuckle myself.
I remember the color of the wool. I remember the taste of the wool. An insufferable woman once stood in front of a classroom and told us all that we could guess the taste of most things due to the oral stage of development during which we put everything in our mouths. This made sense. We'd all seen babies putting gross junk in their mouths. Ben and I had a dumb anecdote we told about some girl who sat under the swing set at Yola's and ate the wet sand on mornings after thunderstorms. I see the twigs sticking out of her mouth. That dumb face kids make before they start to cry. I knew the taste of that wool before I put it in my mouth in the backseat of my dad's Saturn. I knew the sensation of the little fibers on my tongue would not be pleasant but I put the mitten in my mouth. I, at 5 years old, sucked my thumb through a pink woolen mitten in the backseat of my dad's car in a dark garage, listening to Ben chew at his nails and coupled with a ceaseless urge to elbow my baby brother.
I aged those 11 years. I drove that Saturn until it died in the Waynedale Elementary School parking lot behind the post office that I took little manilla envelopes to for years and years. I aged 6 more years and I sat in my Chicago apartment and crocheted mittens that maybe some kid will stick in their mouths with that overwhelming need to suck their thumb. I sit in this apartment, the light has clicked off. I want to remember every tiny thing that finds it's way to the forefront of my brain. I want to remember that urge to physically harm my brothers. Because it still comes back in new ways. I want to elbow my baby brother, only he's much bigger than me and not strapped into a car seat. I want to elbow Ben because he still makes disgusting wet sounds when he eats pizza and when I look at his hands I can tell he still sits in the backseats of cars and chews at his fingernails. I want to remember the urge to suck my thumb despite the little strands I'd find on my tongue while Father Mike chanted the consecration prayers in the low-ceilinged makeshift church I once fainted in. Sometimes I sit in my apartment and I'm overwhelmed with all these tiny memories that I want to keep and I start to write and I can't stop for the longest time. I am terrified of forgetting the way Nichole looked at me in my overalls during a server practice in church or the way Ali looked in that giant pile of concrete mixture pebbles we used to play in before all the houses were built and lived in and set aflame and rebuilt and refilled with strange faces.
I wonder what good it does me. I wonder why other people don't seem to be so consumed with remembering absolutely everything. If I'd kept all the notebooks I'd filled with memories and observations I could devote a whole room to them. I remember sticking that woolen mitten in my mouth and I remember, at 5, taking note of all the people in church. The man who wore light blue disco pants and a cowboy hat. The man who wore a leather jacket with the word "Solaris" written in shiny thread across his shoulders (I remember that being the birth of my obsession with certain words). It comes in waves, as most things do. I'm addicted to watching and more so to remembering. I want to remember the homeless man who tousled my hair on the train two days ago. I want to remember the faces of the couple sitting next to me, horrified. I fill notebook after notebook. I write furiously. I can't read some of it. I keep a box, overflowing, of little things that remind me of people that should have, given their stay in my life, gone from my mind. I have the soles of their shoes, I have the scarves they knitted, I have the silverware they stole for me. And all those little things and all those words in books are a heavy weight sometimes. All the things I want to remember are a burden. They give me anxiety. I feel stupid for them. I hide the notebook under my jacket when I'm writing and I keep that box of stuff in my closet, rarely opened.
Not in any sappy way, syrup spilling from my eyes, but then sometimes I sit in my dark apartment and I'm glad I can be preoccupied with these things. I'm glad I can sit and remember how I used to feel about my brothers and contrast it with how I feel now. I'm glad I can attach memories to other memories and to strangers and stupid anecdotes from babysitters' houses.
At any rate that's what comes to mind when I crochet mittens. I've been crocheting a lot of mittens.