Years Like Smoke

You know the last five years of your life as if a binged series. You remember characters' trivia, plots, key scenes, but those brief memories of what feels like other people's lives dot a blank landscape of unremembered time you assume is there because your brain abhors the null hypothesis entailed by the alternative, and refuses to articulate it as thought.

Two events bookend those years. Between them there are no actual occurrences, just memories more known than lived. The more recent milestone is waking up from anesthesia, the Flow Engine removed from your skull. That memory is the first one with true solidity, a bulk made of the relief and fear you felt for the first time in half a decade. Circuits no longer yoking it to orderly efficiency, your mind was unproductive enough to be terrified of something, relieved of its distance, horrified that it could be put back.

The last true memory before that one, five years between them, is of signing the last of the endless forms so the surgery could begin. Now it's happening again, not in regretful memory but as you look at your son as he signs more airtight versions of the same forms, and something that was asleep in you - you would like to think otherwise, that something in you rebelled hopelessly but still went on, but you know nothing did - now is pounding inside your chest and at your temples, screaming at you to stop a son you won't really talk with for the next five years, a son whose thoughts will be constantly drawn to the flow of his job, a son who won't have memories of days, just recalled images and facts.

A son who'll be able to compete for a job he otherwise couldn't have. You silence the thing inside you and smile at your son, but the anesthesia is already working, and he won't remember.