What We Remember

by Desiree Bailey


     We don’t remember what the sun feels like. We can see it through the window pane of the living room in the morning when the curtains are pulled back. It warms the room, but we cannot remember how it felt when the sun licked our skin. There are many things we can’t remember, or things that we remember only in a fog, the edges of images fading until we’re not sure if they were ever really there. 

     When we’re bored, we quiz ourselves. “How big was the shopping mall?” or “Remember the playground in the park? How all the girls begged you to teach them to double-dutch? And they were
mad when you said you never learned?” And for a second we can feel the asphalt beneath our sneakers and see the girls scowling in disbelief. We open our mouths to ask another question but quickly close it when we hear the floorboards creak beneath mom’s feet.

     The world comes to us through the t.v. It’s our eyes and ears. The t.v. brings us Jeopardy and hip hop videos. It brings us the loud sounds of the outside, the rage of bridezillas and the crowds roaring during basketball games. It brings us old cowboy films and on nights when we can get away with it, blond chicks in bikinis with their asses pressed against the screen. The local news tells us a little bit about our town. Like how last week a lady was attacked by a raccoon that snuck through her cat flap. And how our mayor is determined to keep the peace within our town by doing everything in his power to keep strange, suspicious people out.

     The world seems like such a funny place, with its crazy rules and colors. What’s even crazier is that most of the people don’t really look like us. And the ones who do don’t really feel like us. They are like our bodies and voices but with something unfamiliar stuck inside.

     Once in awhile grandma comes into town to see us, but mainly to throw a fit with mom. She spits out questions between her tears. “Why you don’t let them go outside? Look at their skin! I’ve never seen brown look so gray.” Or “Honey you need help. Let me help you. The three of you can’t go on like this.” And mom just stares out the window and shakes her head. Sometimes she says, “I just can’t trust the world with my babies.”

     We like grandma. She brings us clothes and CDs and all sorts of gifts. But we don’t really like it when she comes. She stirs things up. She’s the cause of all kinds of yelling, so loud that we can’t hear our favorite shows. And after she leaves, mom doesn’t talk to us for weeks. She just looks at old photos of dad, with his low haircut and gap-toothed smile. She just looks and looks and looks.

     We try to block out her silence. We turn up the volume. We quiz ourselves. “Do you remember the lake down by that old house?” or “How soaked do your sneakers get when you run in the rain?” We ask long questions and short questions until mom breaks her silence with “Quit that goddam yapping!” And she throws something heavy against her bedroom wall.

     And we try to block it out but we are forced to remember. How that man got scared when he saw our father’s shoulders. The same shoulders he used to lift us on and spin us before we dove into the backyard pool. How that man got scared when he saw our father rushing to pick us up from school. How that man got scared, pulled out his gun and pointed it at our father. How that man got scared and our father was not strong enough for what was in that gun. And we are forced to remember how our t.v. didn’t say a thing.


Desiree Bailey is from Trinidad & Tobago and Queens, NY. She has received fellowships from Princeton in Africa, The Norman Mailer Center and Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and is a recipient of the Poets & Writers 2013 Amy Award. She is currently the fiction editor at Kinfolks Quarterly and an MFA Fiction candidate at Brown University.