A Momentary Lapse
Every so often, we smell something and it brings back memories, of days long past. Pumpkin spice reminded me of the Octobers I spent gathering fall leaves by the streets with my sister and jumping into them. Boiling green tea reminded me of my father passed out on the couch and my mother screaming and cussing about all the work that she had to do. The smell of pork and noodles being fried reminded me of the Chinese restaurant I worked in. Ah, how I wish I could go back to those days.
Chamomile and Lavender Incense. As I was passing the grubby house in K-town, to get to the Korean barbecue where one of my friends or another would treat us all when they failed a test or got turned down on a date, I smelt it. One sniff, then another and then I was lost in the smell. I felt as if I was wasting my life away, with these kids, not knowing what would happen the next day.
I decided I needed to rush back home.
We weren’t too poor, dad had a desk job, mom sold some things she made like wall scrolls in her shop in China town, nothing big, but we made do. My sister was a year younger and a bundle of joy. I was, well, your average Asian kid; made mostly A’s- a lot into anime, you know the drill. But somehow, that smell, it made me feel like I wasn’t enough and that I needed to get back home; to study harder, to get better grades, I don’t know.
On impulse, I screamed something at my buddies, and I turned and ran back into the subway. I almost ran into her when the train pulled up. She looked about my age, auburn hair which was rare for an Asian, to say the least. I apologized and got into the train, letting her get in before me. She saw how flustered I was and said something. I don’t even remember what, but I laughed. It was funny, I presume. We got talking and exchanged numbers. She was a sophomore, just like me.
I was thanking the Gods for letting me run in to her. I figured that though the overwhelming sense to study more was just a ruse the Gods played to let me run into her. It’s funny, how much a mind can conjure, when things seem natural. We soon started dating and then were so much in love.
I made truce with my friends, we still hung out, but I spent so much more time with Lia. That was her name. Gorgeous, isn’t it? Soon, it was senior year and I got excellent grades and even got into UCLA School of Engineering, which was great, because Lia got in to. I moved out of my parents’ house, as did she and we both stayed together.
Throughout college, we studied together, ate together, slept together. It was amazing. I swear, I could have memorized each of the curves, on her face when she grinned, how her eyes glinted under the lamp post, how her hair glistened under the California sun.
Soon, it was time to graduate college and that was when Lia became pregnant. We both got an offer to work at big companies, but Lia decided to stay home until the child is born. We moved into a bigger apartment, closer to my place of work.
We got married that November and our little Ana was born in January. She was my pride and joy. I remember how she grinned every time we played peek-a-boo. I remember how she would waddle over to Papa when I came home.
I was happy when Lia got a job. Mom agreed to take care of Ana while Lia and I worked, since it was only her and dad at home. She was a much calmer woman now. Tai was born when Ana was three and he was as adorable as Ana had been.
Ana loved her little brother and even took care of him, in her own way, as toddlers often do. Life was bliss, and if it had been that way, I wouldn’t be posting here would I.
It was one of those rare days, a gloomy November morning, mere days before our anniversary that I got a call at work. She had picked Ana and Tai from mom’s and was driving to the grocery store when the accident happened. None of them could be saved.
I cursed the Heavens and Hell, my life was torn apart by a single inebriated driver. I cried for hours screaming and cursing and breaking the things I could lay a hand on. At their funeral service, they had it. I had my head bowed down when the strong scent penetrated my nostrils, invading my nerves.
Lavender and chamomile incense. An overwhelming sense of dread crept over me as I got up with my hand, outstretched, walking towards where their bodies lay, and my whole body reeling in grief and moving seemingly on its own. Tears were streaming down my face when my vision blacked out.
When I opened my eyes, I was in K-Town, outside the old man’s house. I screamed in horror. My family had died. It took my friends hours to calm me down as livid as I was. When I realized what had happened, I ran down the subway, hoping I would run into Lia again, see her face one more time, again.
I spent days not leaving my room, mourning the loss of my family. My friends told me I had only paused for a moment, when I started screaming and crying that night. But can a momentary lapse cause a life time full of vivid memories, people and emotions?
It took me hours to recover. I would have nightmares of my children begging in the street, asking in soft voices why I deserted them. My sweet Ana, my Tai and my Lia, gone, all in a momentary lapse.
After spending years recovering and barely being able to scrape through high school, I became a photographer. Something, about being able to capture memories, I made peace with that happened, in my own way, I guess.
My job took me around the world and in one such trip to rural Tibet, I saw her. Lia. My Lia. She was begging on the streets of Lhasa with her two kids, a girl who looked about three and a boy who couldn’t have been more than a few months.
Her eyes bore into mine and I blinked once, and they were gone once more. I found myself recognizing a familiar scent, lavender and chamomile.
Unable to bear having lost my family once again and back home, I took to drinking once more. I became a raging alcoholic, not able to even spend a few hours without drinking.
While driving drunk one day, I ran into another car. I think it had a lady and her kids. I killed kids. I killed MY WIFE and MY KIDS. I screamed and yelled until I was arrested and subdued. I was posted to here. To be alone for the rest of my life. You can listen to me right? You can hear me right?
I have only one question. Why?
With that, he dissolved into screams. I work as security guard in a Psych hospital. We're not allowed to talk to patients, but we can make notes of what they say while in confinement as sometimes, they may open up if they think no one is listening a.
Most of what I hear are spooky gibberish and he's far from the scariest patient I have seen (I'll tell that story another day), but his story made me cry for hours after I got home. When your own brain turns on you and creates your tragedy, in a momentary lapse, what would you do?