Her name was Georgina, I know that. I used to pass her in the stairwell to the church basement when I’d be coming up from grief counseling and she’d be going down to AA. I knew her from this fracas at the grocery store, when a guy knocked a bottle of wine off the top shelf and it like, landed on her baby, who was sleeping in the stroller. This was a little while ago, before my girl left, and I’ve forgotten a lot since then, but there was a good chance the ‘pinot noir’ hit off my hand before it hit the baby’s chest, which made me feel bad, but not as bad as the baby. The whole thing went down because of an argument between her and a guy who can’t remember movies. They were arguing about the pollution coming in from the new city; about half of us think it makes you forgetful with details and memories, stuff like who-when-where-why, so yeah. I know I said it was a ‘little while’ ago, but it might’ve been a ‘while.’
This was at Yellow Market. I remember the lines were long that day, and that Georgina had dirt on her shins and knuckles from gardening in the garden. I started paying attention when she turned to the guy and said something like, “So here, tell me the director of your favorite movie, go ahead.”
Guy’s like, “There’s a difference between memory loss and just not being a movie buff.” He was a young guy, big kid, in those sunglasses with reflecting-lenses that make it look like you’re looking at yourself.
“Let’s start with the basics” she said. “What’s your favorite movie?” Georgina was small but she’d argue big.
“You know. I keep wanting to say it’s Momento, but that’s not it. It definitely begins with an ‘M’ though.”
She laughed through her nose. “And you think we still have our heads? You can’t even remember the name of a movie you like. This isn’t trivia, it’s more personal than that.”
I thought that was a killer line, more personal than that, so I chimed in, like an idiot, said, “One point for the missus, bud.”
Then Georgie really got going, talking fast, giving it to the guy like, “I mean next week I’ll ask what color eyes ya got, and you’ll look at me like I wanna know if Pluto spins a different way than it turns. Tell me, is forgetting a way to be or a thing you do? I’m all ears, but the other day I was driving down Main, thinking, didn’t the park used to have slides? Didn’t the creek used to have ducks? I mean it feels wrong, and if we’re all forgetting our ass from our elbow, who’s right? Would I know right if it was right here? And look at our beloved Yellow Market, a paradigm of normalcy, until they build a new city and now we got robots for cashiers and booze for produce. Soon they’ll buy the whole town, and how convenient, we’re too dumb to be mad.”
After that she turned away like she was done with it, but the guy had this big smile on his face, pushing his sunglasses up with his cheeks. And that’s when he reached over the stroller to the wine and yeah, the bad thing happened.
A few weeks after the thing with movie guy, I saw Georgie in the Market with an empty stroller. Could’ve been months though, who knows. This would’ve been after my girl left, cause I thought Georgie was pretty, so I did my old classic move—ring glancing—which I’d stopped when I bought my last girl a ring. But in the market that day, I asked her how the baby’s doing, and what she said stuck with me: “For this, little can be done, but from this, much can come.” She said that’s what the doctor told her. I didn’t know what to say to that, so I said I’d been meaning to tell her that for me it’s the opposite: how I know Paul Thomas Anderson directed my favorite movie, but I don’t know what the movie’s called. I thought it was just grocery store small talk, but then she started crying, face in my chest, snot on my shirt, whole deal. Might’ve been around then I told her to come to Group Grief Counseling with me on Wednesdays, down at Yellow Chapel. I said, “GGC’s free and I’ve been going since my girl left, and it might only help a little, but sometimes a little’s a lot.”
Later, she showed up to counseling with a box of donuts in that empty stroller. Group was same as usual, fifteen or twenty of us sitting in a squarish oval, drinking Lipton, there to listen. One of us must’ve sat next to the other cause I remember whispering to her that you can tell who’s not going through much cause they’re the ones who talk most. I told her for a while the meetings’d been getting less sad—not that there were balloons and lap dances now—just that when it’s time to share, nobody does, which might have an effect on the sense of like, ‘communal suffering.’ But I remember what Georgie said that night, cause when the guy moderating asked what brought her in, she said, “You know, I don’t really know. But it feels like something’s missing. It feels like something’s off. Few times a day I flinch for a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. I go to call someone and I don’t have their number. Lately I’ve been buying Cheerios, has anyone else been buying Cheerios? I have this feeling they’re for someone, but not me. Even when I remember the thing I’m trying to remember, it’s like I’m remembering the memory, not the actual thing. And this stroller looks borrowed. Yoon, Jung, Freud, you tell me. Either way, whatever the city’s doing, it’s enough to change the color of the sky to this bone-white dome, the color of talc, and if they can take the blue out of the sky, they can take something from me. But it’s weird, not knowing what.”
The rest of us were nodding our heads like ‘I know that feeling,’ cause after she finished we all spoke at once, like, “Yeah even on a clear day the sky’s the color of milk spilled on a grayish carpet—Exactly, and then if you put Tylenol in a blender and poured the powder on the slightly off-white puddle—And if a cloudless sky is not blue at noon, it’s somehow harder to talk to God—Even harder to trust in God’s good and omniscient plan—No I completely agree—Really I couldn't agree more.”
Because lately in Yellow it’s been like that, not so much weeping for death and despair, but more how Georgie said it: a feeling that something’s missing, someone’s gone. Most of us can’t say who or what, you know, when or why, but you won’t hear me complaining, because whatever it was, I think it’s enough, knowing it’s gone without knowing what is. Or that’s what we usually say around here, but hearing Georgie talk made me want to say more, so when it got to my turn I said, “Little while ago I went to this funeral for a kid. It was awful, but the pastor, just doing his job, kept assuring the girl’s arrival to a heaven I’m not sure she believed in. Just cause she was young. But the guy’s strategy for dealing with death was to exaggerate the like, piety of a kid. Something about it made me think of my dad. That was the last funeral I went to, and it was the same thing there, lots of talk about a secure salvation. I just wished they’d asked him. I couldn’t help but think that if he could hear what the pastor was saying he’d sit up from that casket, tell people to share a few stories then go for a drink, get laid if you can. He said his life changed when he went to the catacombs in Paris, saw all those forearms and femurs stacked on top of each other, unable to feel. Said that’s why I was here: to feel what life is like, whatever it’s like. It was my favorite thing about my dad—he believed in life on earth.” After that I kinda blacked out, but Georgie said what happened next is the moderator told me, ‘And you wanted to be that for your daughter,’ and that then I attacked him.
Sitting on the church steps that night, Georgie told me that he got his and I got mine. The two of us were hanging out, smoking some weed. She skipped AA to stay with me.
I asked her, “Since the fog got bad, what’s the last thing you remembered? Like really remembered.”
She laughed like she does. “It came to me the other day at the market. I remembered something for you, actually. Does that count, if I remember something that someone else forgot?”
Georgie passed me the weed. At night around here the sky has this navy blue rim to it, no matter how late, like darkness is a thing that used to happen.
“What’d you remember for me?”
“That your favorite movie is Magnolia. It’s me who likes Momento. You used to love those Paul Anderson flicks. Make me sit through them, three-and-a-half hours, felt like forever. Why do I remember this? The things I forget, and here I am, talking about long nights on the couch watching movies I didn’t like.”
I shrugged; we sat there a while. There was blood on the end of the joint. I asked her, “You go to church here, right? Not just AA, but Sundays too.”
“Yeah I go. If I’m not wasted, I go.”
“You go for the people, or the faith?”
“Faith,” she said. “There are people everywhere.”
The weed went out; she gave me her lighter. I looked around. Out on the lawn, where the grass met the sidewalk, the church had a sign with those changeable letters, and that night it said:
IF YOU DONT GO TO HEAVEN BEFORE YOU DIE
YOU WONT WHEN YOU DO.
There was that, and I didn’t see her stroller. “Where’s the stroller?” I asked. “Leave it downstairs?”
She rubbed her knuckles on her eyes. “Jesus, Matty. It’s enough knowing she’s gone without knowing where to.” Then she stood from the steps and walked away. I remember that.