Part 1: Volunteer of Life
Gary used to look forward to waking up in the mornings, but that was when he was still growing accustomed to his life. Once the feeling of new was gone he began to just deal with his days, and even dislike them. Sometimes he thought he just had to find new hobbies and get out into the world more, but that didn’t help much. Nothing he did helped much to make him enjoy living again. Gary was bored.
Gary worked at a gas station during the day and at night was a volunteer firefighter. Most people would never get tired of speeding through the packed streets of Brooklyn, running into burning buildings that are so full of smoke you can’t see two feet in front of you, breaking down doors with huge axes most people can’t lift, and saving lives. Somehow, though, Gary managed to get bored of it. Rescuing people once gave him a such a sense of doing his duty as a civilian but now he takes it for granted. The gratitude, hugs and kisses of the men and women he saves from having fiery ends doesn’t affect him anymore. Gary helped other humans now because he didn’t know what else to do with his life.
Gary’s friends began to sense his dissatisfaction with life and went out of their way to try to help him. One suggested that he go to a psychologist and try to see what they had in store for him. Gary did, in fact, see a psychologist and much to his surprise, it did help a bit, but only for a while. Eventually he was back to being depressed. Another friend, a closer one, recommended that he take a look at drugs. Gary had been exposed to the world of narcotics before but he didn’t like it. The temporary euphoria left him feeling worse off afterward, and he also did not like relying on outside substances to give him happiness.
Friend after friend, suggestion after suggestion, Gary didn’t hear one he liked until he received a call from a woman he didn’t immediately recognize the voice of. She asked him where he was and what he did these days, but she never told him her name on the phone. He asked her what it was when it was time for him to hang up and instead she demanded they meet up. Gary agreed, and they decided they would the next day. Although he shouldn’t be doing something so blindly, Gary was intrigued by the mystery caller and wanted to find out who it was and what she wanted, so he went.
Part 2: I Forgot to Remember to Forget
It was a hot – close to 90 degrees – day with not a single cloud in sight when Gary and the mystery woman met. Gary wasn’t in the mood to sweat in the presence of a woman so he wore khaki shorts with a plain white shirt and white shoes. Because he felt his outfit was a bit dull he brought along his grandfather’s relic of a watch. It was old, but it was gold and he loved that watch. He did little to his naturally spiky jet black hair.
They planned to meet at a coffee shop which is where, apparently, the woman worked. It was near noon when Gary walked into the shop. so when he opened the door the sun shone into the store and alerted all employees. This, of course, included the barista Gary came to meet. When she saw Gary trotting in, looking around confusedly, she whispered to one of her co-workers, and then stepped around the counter and approached Gary. She was standing in front of him when he noticed her.
And there was a lot to notice, after all! She was about 5’5 with flat shoes on. Her long, wavy hair was a dark brown with highlights that ranged from light brown to blonde. The highlights were obviously natural because her skin was sun-tanned to a bronze complexion but some areas higher on her arms were slightly lighter. With the sun so bright right behind Gary, he could see her eyes very clearly and they were the most beautiful hazel eyes he’s ever seen. The rest of her heart shaped face was average: her lips not any more full than the next woman’s, her freckled cheeks having the occasional blemish here and there, her nose a little bigger than ideal for her face, her eyes, aside from the color, were less than perfect. All these features gave the lady a very silly, cartoonish appearance.
When Gary finally stopped looking the woman up and down, he realized that she was doing the same to him. Clearing his throat brought her back to this world. She led him to a table with two seats in the back corner of the shop and told him she’ll be back with drinks. He only told her he prefered his coffee black. She chuckled and hurried off to ready the coffee.
After about five minutes, the woman returned. For a while they sat there, awkwardly with
neither daring to be the one to say the first word. Then, the woman randomly asked Gary if he knew who she was.
“You don’t seem to ring a bell, no.” Gary said this matter of factly and without much personality.
“Oh. So, you don’t,” the woman took sips off her coffee in between words, “remember me from college?”
“I knew a lot of people in college and if I were to see them now I doubt I’d recall who they were.”
“Well, it has been six years.” Hanging her head, the woman chuckles and says, “And, I do remember your memory was never too good. You probably forgot all your professors’ names.”
“How do you know that?”
“We both majored in philosophy. We had nearly every class together. We used to be really close.”
At this point Gary was racking his brain frantically for any memory of this lady. No matter how hard he tried, he could not find one. “No. I don’t know who you are.”
“Gary, we used to take walks together. You would etch our names into trees and benches.” Gary could see the frustration on the woman’s face. He tried to remember walks with her and they were not things he had done before.
“I’m sorry but you must have the wrong person. Listen, I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to… take the toast out of the toaster.” Gary stood up and prepared to leave, “Will you at least give me your name?”
The woman hesitated at first, as if thinking whether it was worth giving him her name or not. Finally, however, she handed it over. “Giselle.”
Part 3: How to Remember
Gary was sitting on his rocking chair, listening to the creaking and groaning it did trying to support his weight, reading the comics section of a newspaper. He would normally be outside enjoying the summer heat but he felt extremely weak today. It wasn’t easy any more for this 70 year old man to move his old bones the way he was able to when he was a quarter of that age. He was fine with living a sedentary life, though. He was always on the move when he was younger and never got to just sit down and think. Thinking didn’t get easier as he got older either. Not only that, but his memory deteriorated to the point where he’d forget to eat sometimes.
On days like these, he would let his brain shut down and just listen to the breeze outside his small farmhouse (that he has no memory of buying). He would have done just that except that he saw something that forced his mind to turn on. It was a word on his wrist. After putting the newspaper down, he examined it closer. It wasn’t just any word, but a name.
It was the name of a woman from when he was younger. It was the name of the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with, but just couldn’t. It was the name of the woman that had broken his heart not once, but twice. It was the name of the woman that he could never stop loving. It was the name of the woman he wished he had never met but knew his life wouldn’t have been the same if he hadn’t. It was the name of the woman that he never wanted to forget the name of and so he got it tattooed on his own flesh.
It read, “Giselle.”
And then Gary slept…