Originally published on the website Weaponizer.
Memory is not a continuous stream or a single tapestry. It’s a series of individual moments and events, stitched together like scenes in a movie. Imagine trying to make sense of your life if those scenes were shuffled like a deck of cards. Over and over again.
It’s morning. I’m in a disgusting hotel room that looks like it hasn’t seen maid service in a year or two. The furniture is stained and I’m trying not to think about what made the stains. Everything is dark, the light bulbs are covered in a thick coat of nicotine. The blinds block out most of the sunlight, except where they’ve cracked and crumbled with age.
I remember checking in here. It was the night my wife threw me out. I want to say that it was fifteen years ago, by now. I can’t. My mind no longer works that way. I have to piece things together like a puzzle. Separate events from their perceived order and build them into a logical timeline.
All the while, wondering if any of the pieces to the puzzle are missing. There’s just no way to tell.
This can’t be the night after my wife threw me out. That’s impossible. I still remember her murder, whenever it happened. A week ago, a year ago. It doesn’t matter. She couldn’t have thrown me out after she was murdered. No way to make that work on the timeline.
So I’m here again. Back in the same shitty hotel room. Have they even changed the sheets? Why would I come back here? Isn’t this where…?
I’m in the hospital. They’ve got me hooked up to all sorts of machines. They all make faint little beeping noises. I’m strapped to the bed. Can’t have me getting up and walking away. I feel like I’m floating. Probably the morphine. I think I was shot in the head.
Molly is in a chair in the corner. She’s been crying for a long time. Somehow, that makes me feel a little better. She always looks so damn perfect. It’s nice to see her makeup run. I don’t think she’s crying for me, anyway.
This can’t be now. I remember getting better from this. I remember healing. I remember fighting with Molly and her going away.
I remember the hotel room.
Knock, Knock. Pound! Pound!
“Open up in there, Mr. Devlin.”
Yeah, this hotel room. This disgusting hole of a room. I think it might be my home. I wonder about the man outside. His voice doesn’t sound familiar. I start to reach for the door and notice the bruises on my hands. I’ve hit someone recently.
Blood on my sleeve. What have I done, now? Do I remember it? Some violent event shuffled into my past? He knocks again, but I stay very quiet. I hope he’ll go away. I hope I haven’t done anything too awful.
There’s a long pause, then a huge thud and a cracking noise as the wood splinters. I go… Elsewhen.
I’m in a bar in East Lansing. It’s full of college students. Most of them are pretty. One of them is stunning. A tall redhead, with perfect legs. She’s wearing a mini skirt and I can’t take my eyes off of her.
She buys me a drink. Tells me she has a thing for older guys. Especially married ones. I shake my head. “Separated,” I tell her.
“Even better.” Her name is Molly. She’s wearing a wedding ring, too. I don’t ask about it. That was probably a mistake. I make a lot of those.
The phone is ringing.
I’m in another hotel room, but this one is much nicer. Clean sheets, room service cart against the wall. There’s an empty bottle of champagne on top of the cart, along with two glasses. There’s a naked woman in bed, her head resting against my shoulder as she sleeps.
I can’t see who she is. The angle is wrong.
I answer the phone. It’s Molly.
“Jamie, what have you done?” She screams. “What have you done?”
My hands are battered and bruised. The woman feels cold beside me.
I’m in prison. It’s rare for me to be able to connect cause and effect. But in prison, they tell you why you’re here. They do it to shame you, although some prisoners seem to wear that knowledge like a badge of honor.
I’m here because I killed Molly’s husband. I remember doing it, although it seems like it was a long time ago, long before I met Molly. Impossible, I know. I have to keep thinking about the timeline.
It was an accident, I didn’t mean to hurt him. Not like…
They called it accidental manslaughter. I was defending myself. Neither of us saw the stairway. Either of us could have died in the fall. It just turned out to be him.
I’m standing in the atrium of Molly’s building. I’m on parole.
She never visited while I was inside. She said it was over, that she couldn’t handle anymore of the craziness. Of my craziness.
I’m pleading with her to give me another chance. I tell her that I love her more than anything.
Then there’s a cracking noise. It startles us both. I can feel something warm and sticky running down the side of my face. I go to wipe it away and I see the look of abject terror in Molly’s eyes.
She starts to scream.
It’s my first day outside of the hospital. Molly is explaining the damage the bullet did to my brain. The doctors have explained it to me before, but I can never remember it right.
Molly tells me that it was just bad luck. A drive-by shooting.
I don’t believe her. But I smile and nod in all the right places. She kisses me and tells me that everything is going to be okay.
I think she knows better.
I’ve just run into my wife in the hotel bar. She has a suite upstairs. She’s back in town for a meeting with a client.
I already knew all of that.
She’s drunk and she keeps apologizing to me. She won’t say what she’s apologizing for, but I know.
It’s not enough.
She asks me if I’d like to come back to her room with her. For old time’s sake. She puts her hand over mine and smiles.
Molly’s voice, on the phone. “What did you do? My god, Jamie, what did you do?”
The cold woman at my side, she’s not breathing. I think that’s my fault. And I think I know who she is.
The sound of splintering wood.
Two men burst through the door and into the squalid room. They have guns pointed at me.
“You’re very young,” I say. “You look nervous.”
“Don’t you fucking move,” says the one in front. I don’t. I let them cuff me and lead me from the room.
They say things. Lots of things. Most of them slip away so fast. One echoes in my head, over and over.
“You’re under arrest for the murder of Jennifer Devlin.”
Did I do it? I can’t remember.
But I think it fits the timeline.