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What We Can’t Remember

by Melissa R. Sipin

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About Melissa R. Sipin

Melissa R. Sipin is a writer from Carson, CA. She won First Place in the 2013 March Glimmer Train Fiction Open and Honorable Mention in the 2013 September Glimmer Train Fiction Open. Her writing is published or forthcoming in Glimmer Train Stories, 580 Split, Kweli Journal, and The Bakery, among others. She was the Community Engagement Fellow at Mills College and Tennessee Williams Scholar at the 2013 Sewanee Writers' Conference. As a VONA/Voices Fellow and U.S. Navy wife, she splits her time writing on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. She blogs at www.msipin.com.

Patricia, do you remember when your father told you the story of your lola’s kidnapping? Do you remember how old you were? How young? How scared? How hopeful? Do you remember it was same day your mother left: her in a car, a beautiful, beige Toyota, dolled up with red lips and big sunglasses that reflected the sun and everything you wanted to be? Do you remember that this was just a story? A story? A story your father retells and retells when you’re hugging your sister tight and you’re both wrapped in a blanket and the night’s a dark blue, a shadow, and the moon creeps outsides, rises above the wall of cacti, screams hello, I am alive. That is what your grandma said, your father tells you: I am alive. That is what she said, your father reminds you, when the Japanese in olive suits barged in with bayonets and knocked down the bamboo door and tore up the room and the portraits off the walls and stole the white butterfly wedding dress your grandma treasured and held dear: I am alive. This is a story. A story that isn’t true. A story that is still wrapped in the shadows and but it’s impressed upon your body because your heart, your fingers, your breasts, your skin, your pretty pretty brown skin, your nails, your tiny feet, your dark black hair, your red red lips, your lips, they remember the touching, they remember the shouting, they remember the ripped off butterfly wedding dress, they remember the bayonets and the blood, they remember your grandma yelling: I am alive I am alive I am alive I am alive I am alive. They remember her body left on the road, her body exposed, her blood a river, her black hair tangled, her brown beautiful skin scarred. Do you remember this story? Have you forgotten it? Your mother left, your father says, because it’s just one of those things. Like the stolen wedding dress. Anak, my love, people leave because they’re just lost. But we always find them. Your father takes you by the hand and tells you to forget the stolen wedding dress, they’ve found it again, it’s in your grandma’s room, it’s hidden underneath the boxes of clothes and photo albums, it’s still there: it’s just a story. A story to make you listen. A story to make you thankful. A story to make you remember shame: anak, hiya, be walang hiya. It’s just a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. Because we’re still here, anak, your grandma’s right there, standing nearby the stove, cooking sinigang and stirring with her wooden spoon, laughing, crying, giving you hugs, putting chain locks on your doors that click click click whenever she locks you in—anak, I lock you in your room because I love you. Who are the neighbors here in America? We don’t know them na, she tells you, I do this to protect little girls like you. Don’t you remember, child? Patricia? She’s still alive. She’s still here, throwing pots and pans whenever she’s angry or beating her chest whenever she has that far off look in the eyes that makes you wonder. Lola, lola, grandma, do you still see us? Do you feel our love? It doesn’t matter what happened back then. It doesn’t count. We’re alive. Isn’t that what matters? Isn’t it? Isn’t it?