Memory: It’s the year 2000. It seems no different than 1999. Music is the same. Politics are the same. There’s a presidential election, but that means nothing to me. I’m not old enough to vote. I ask my parents who they’re voting for. They act shocked, like I should know. How should I know? They never explain anything to me.
Memory: It’s November 2000. My friend’s mom goes out of town, so he throws an election party. We drink all the beer and eat all the Jell-O shots and get high in the woods. We form a crude assembly line at his mother’s coffee table, spraying Cheez-Whiz onto Triscuits.
Memory: It’s still November. Something went wrong. We don’t have a president.
Memory: It’s September 2001. No Child Left Behind has passed. Now it’s harder for me to graduate. I don’t even know where I want to go to college or who I want to be. And now this shit.
Memory: It’s September 2001. My teacher tells us that someone flew a plane into the Twin Towers. No one believes him. He turns on the TV.
Memory: It’s September 2003. No Child Left Behind did not serve me well. I dropped out of school, ran away from home, and enrolled in an alternative school to get my diploma. Now I’m worried there will be a war. Isn’t everything bad enough already? Please don’t let there be a war.
Memory: It’s March 2003. Now there is a war.
Memory: It’s May 2003. I graduate from my alternative school and make plans to attend a mediocre state school in the fall. Boys my age don’t know who they want to be either, so they will probably go to war. I love someone. He goes to war.
He doesn’t say good-bye.
Memory: It’s September 2003. My freshman class is over-enrolled. The chancellor states that “larger class sizes make good cash cows.” Some kids dress up like cows to protest. The cow-protesters accomplish nothing. They turn single dorms into doubles and doubles into triples. They pack us on top of one another. I go to class the first week and then never again. When I’m not high I’m on pills and when I’m not on pills I’m just drunk. Sometimes it’s a combination of these things.
Memory: It’s October 2003. I go to New York for the first time since 2000. It is the darkest place I’ve ever been or felt. At the party, everyone is on either cocaine or LSD. The kids on cocaine dance in front of a mirror in the dark, watching themselves. The kids on acid all start having bad trips. They go outside and sit in a circle, crying on the sidewalk. They tell us it is the end of the world.
Memory: It is November 2003. The screen is missing from my window. I look down at the sidewalk and wonder if it’s high enough. It seems high, but not high enough for my purposes. I do more drugs. I am not high enough for my purposes—
Memory: It’s some month in early 2007, somewhere between winter and spring. I no longer know what month it is, anymore. I don’t go to school and I don’t have a job. I move to the middle of nowhere to write the Great American Novel but am now so fucked up I no longer know the day or month. I have spent every year since 2001 in a state of darkness and fear. I would like it to be over. I accidentally overdose. My heart feels like it will explode in my chest. My heart can’t take any more.
Memory: It’s November 2008. Election Day. I don’t leave my house. I don’t see the point. I lie to my family when they call and I say that I voted.
Memory: It is November 2008. The America I live in would never in a million years elect a black president. The America I live in is so racist it can’t see straight. They will elect a white man, because there’s nothing America loves more than a white man in office.
Memory: It’s November 2008. My boyfriend calls me up: “Can you believe it?”
“What are you talking about?” I ask. I was reading 1984 (again).
“You don’t know?” he says. “Turn on your TV.”
Memory: It’s November 2012. I work two jobs to pay my bills. I’m young but I don’t feel young anymore. I have not felt young for the last eleven years. I wake up in the night, scared. It’s two o’clock in the morning. Who won the election? I turn on the TV. Everything is okay. I can go back to sleep.
Memory: It’s November 2016. I wake up sick and don’t know why. My brain tells me to get up and keep going but my body needs to lie down. I feel strange and not at all good. I get out of bed at six and drop off my ballot. I don’t want to be alone tonight so I go find my people.
Memory: I feel shocked and like someone took the air from my lungs and there’s nothing to replace it.
Memory: We hold each other in a circle in the living room and we cry.
Memory: We cry on the kitchen floor.
Memory: Someone I’ve never met before tonight holds me while I cry.
Memory: I can’t believe this is happening again. I can’t believe I have to live through this twice.
Memory: Nothing happens the same way twice.
Memory: I’m alone in my apartment and I cry. I sit in the dark with the blinds drawn and listen to music and I cry. I’m not ready to call my family yet.
Memory: I get out of bed.
Memory: I go everywhere and do everything. I go to Denver and I party. I come back to Boulder and I party. I party like the world is ending. I party like it’s 1999. I get drunk, wake up hungover, rally, then do it again. I go to meetings, I go to auditions, I go to shows. I act on impulse. I overdraft my account by nine hundred dollars. It is a truly heroic overdrafting. I don’t care. I’ll work later.
I can’t get enough of people. The people I met here, the people I now love, I can’t get enough of them. I go to a place where there is nothing but music and loudness and people. My roommate is there, I didn’t even know, we didn’t even plan it. I run into her Study Buddy and then I run into her and then we all dance the rest of the night with people we have never met before and will never see again.
I meet someone in a bar in a band and we spend the whole night in Denver and miss the bus back to Boulder and don’t get home until five in the morning. He tells me that he doesn’t care what happens next, that it doesn’t matter because he’s not afraid.
Memory: I go to my friend’s house and we sit under the moon and talk about our work and how much it matters now. We talk about our process, and how we came to be here.
Memory: I walk home under a massive moon and a clear sky in weather that feels like it’s giving me a hug.
The streets of Boulder are empty and quiet and clean.
-By Shelly Robinson, Cynical Beat