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Do you ever have pesky memories? You know the ones I’m talking about.

The memories you try to keep in the maximum security prisons of your mind. The ones that come from experiences you don’t want to think about. Sometimes they slip past the guards, climb walls, dig tunnels, and get out right? Pesky memories – they’re annoying because they’re always trying to escape when your guard is down, when just for a second your mind wanders, it looks the other way. They slip out in the vulnerable moments: when you’re on a long drive through the countryside, or lying awake at night trying to fall asleep, or hugging someone for the 1,000th time who makes you feel safe. I get them when I’m on planes, when I’m left with nothing but music in my headphones and thoughts in my head. I can feel the locks turning in my mental prisons when we take off, the searchlight turning off in the prison yard, the excitement of all the escaped thoughts who want to run free. By the time we reach cruising altitude, my eyes are closed and the memories are wreaking havoc.

Maybe your pesky memories are like mine?

Maybe you remember the ones you’ve lost that left a mark on you. Do you think about having a cup of tea on the roof with your uncle, watching the sun set over grazing buffalo while he recounts his shipyard days? When I stand on my balcony now with chai, the memories make me wish he was still there to tell me stories. Surely, you think about playing video games and eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with your best friend, the one that was taken too early? I remember him when I watch a movie that he would like, when someone mispronounces my name in some way that would’ve made him laugh. Or,

Maybe you remember the land you left behind when you immigrated. Do you think about those moments at the train station, when you roll away from the longing faces who wonder when you’ll be back? They come to mind at the end of every Indian meal, every road with too much honking. You at least remember the nights spent next to your grandparents right, talking about their hopes and dreams for you? I think about those in the quiet moments after a shower when I wonder whether I’m a good person. Or,

Maybe you remember the relationships you left behind. Do you think about the first awkward kiss you had on campus? What about driving away from someone you love, struggling to see the steering wheel through your tears? Some nights when the apartment feels particularly lonely, and I’m staring at the microwave heat something, those memories get out. They always require 15 minutes of wrestling back into their prison cells so they don’t become overwhelming. 15 minutes of telling myself that things happen for a reason. Some memories don’t deserve the light of day. Or,

Maybe you remember all the instances of unrequited love. Do you remember when someone told you they couldn’t love you, but you couldn’t get the damn possibility out of your head? I bet it comes to mind when you hug that person a second too long or listen to just the right Ed Sheeran song. You probably have the pesky memories of all the times you could’ve told someone the way you felt? Maybe even after you said something it didn’t work out anyway. So then there’s just a lot of what ifs swirling around in your head along with the memories. And what ifs are tricky, because they’re hopeful and colorful and seemingly innocent but trust me they belong in your mental prisons too. Or,

Maybe you remember the times you could’ve been better. Do you think about the words you said that caused pain? I guess you wonder why you never called back that friend, the one you loved getting fro-yo with. I think about those words when I lay in the grass with my best friend and look at the clouds. I get those memories when I’m scrolling through my phonebook wondering why I haven’t talked to all these people in so long. Well,

Hopefully when you think about all of that, you realize those pesky memories were born from the moments that made you, like they made me. You know, it’s those moments that built your character, taught you to be better, love more openly, and thank more often. But the memories of those moments don’t allow you peace of mind. The memories are still of mistakes, lapses, sadness, and they belong in the prisons of your mind. It just takes an occasional prison break to remind you why those thoughts deserved a cell in the first place.

So, do you ever have pesky memories? You know the ones I’m talking about.

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