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Living Life Backwards



Estimated reading time โ€” 7 minutes

Tomorrow is the day my wife dies. It won’t be an expected death, nor is it one that she deserves. What will happen, is a simple, random act with no meaning beyond fate’s command.

We’ll be out walking, holding hands as we’re heading home from a long day at work. Once we get to a crosswalk, her phone will ring. It’s her mother, calling to tell us that her cancer has returned once more.

It doesn’t come as a shock, she’d been in remission for a couple of years, but her body had been ravaged by the previous round of chemo and radiation. The words wear heavy on my Lucy, and I see the tears well up in her eyes. She tries to stay strong in front of me, pretending she can handle the moment she’s been preparing. Then, she starts to approach the crosswalk.

What she doesn’t notice, is that during our brief pause, the light has turned red. As she takes her first step onto the crosswalk, she gets hit by a car and smashes her head to the ground. She dies on impact, and the paramedics can do nothing to help. In less than a second, everything she ever was, will be taken away from me, and I have to watch it happen.

I’m so sorry Lucy…

Her death is a fact I’ve known since we first met as young children. Yet, I can do nothing to prevent her untimely demise, no matter how badly I want to. She made me promise, swear never to tell her the inevitable truths of the future. Even had I tried to do so, it wouldn’t have mattered.

โ€œWe weren’t meant to know the end. That’s what makes life beautiful,โ€ she said. But, they’re just words written down in a book, a reassuring lie I don’t remember.

That’ll be it… The last memory I have of my wife alive. Once her body has been buried, and once I’ve moved away to another city, I’ll forget she ever existed. All I’ll be left with, is a hole in my heart that I won’t be able to fill until the day I finally die.

Because that is my curse, to remember everything from my own future, but nothing of the past.

To the best of my knowledge, I’ve always been this way. From the very first step I took as a toddler, and from the first words spoken. I was given every single memory from my entire life, even though I hadn’t yet experienced them. In return, they vanish from my mind once I experience them.

In the most bizarre way, I’m living my life backwards. I am burdened with the knowledge of tomorrow, knowing fully well I can do nothing to alter the oncoming passage of time.

Thus, at the ripe old age of thirty-five, I have forgotten every single, factual detail about my life. And, once these words have been put down on paper, they’ll be gone too, washed away by a fractured mind.

But, before we continue my story, let me answer a few questions such as: How can I write, if I forgot ever learning it? How can I walk? How can I even have relationships with other people, if their details elude me day by day?

To the first two, I’ll answer this: Do you remember you first steps? The act of learning how to stand on two feet, or is it simply something you know how to do, a skill ingrained into your very being? Do you even need to think before speaking, or do words just flow out with only its context processed?

Love, on the other hand, is an emotion that transcends memory. It’s so deeply buried in our hearts, that there have been cases of total amnesia, ridding the person of everything, save the love they hold within.

Memory and skill don’t necessarily go together. Some abilities are ingrained in our muscles, and our subconscious mind. That’s why I still miss my mother, even though I remember nothing about her, and it is why I still love my wife, on her last night of life.

My curse is more like reverse amnesia, and the stories I have to tell, are simply words read from a notebook. Each day, I awake to read events from a time I cannot remember. The handwriting doesn’t even belong to myself, but to two distinct people.

The first set of stories, spanning from my childhood, to my mid-twenties, were written by my mother. She was a brilliant person, quick to action, and smart as all hell. She noticed something off about me at a very young age, once I started predicting things that hadn’t yet come to pass.

The first incident occurred when I was five years old. It was such an innocuous, dumb complaint. I didn’t want to go outside because of the storm. I was afraid the lightning would hit us during the picnic we’d planned. My mother was naturally confused, as the trip had been scheduled for the next day, and the weather report had confidently stated that the day would be filled with nothing but sunshine.

Then, as the next morning arrived, my mother was shocked to see that my predictions had come true. Baffled, but still skeptic, she wrote it down in her own diary as little more than an oddity.

Just a year later, my mother found me crying in my room. I was distraught because our cat had died. She sat down and started to comfort me. Sure, our pet was of advancing age, but he still remained healthy, as curious as ever. In the middle of my frantic cries, the cat just walked in, checking what the commotion was about.

A month later, he passed peacefully in his sleep. A good, old cat who lived a great life.

As I grew older, I quickly learned to separate past from future. My mother had already put two and two together, and she knew my life would be a complicated one full of challenges.

Because of that fact, I had difficulty making friends. Back then, my wife, Lucy lived next door, and even she figured out something was weird about me. To her young mind, it seemed more of a superpower than a curse, and she eagerly promised to help keep my secret.

Whether my ability was a gift, or a curse, my mother never loved me any less. Instead she took it upon herself to write down whatever moments we shared. That way my life, though not remembered, would never be forgotten.

She did her best, to make my life manageable. But, despite her best efforts, it was a painful journey not just for myself, but for those who loved me. Of course, she never blamed me, after all, it wasn’t my fault.

But, as all people eventually do, my mother passed away…

It’s something I can’t correctly recall, but the emotion connected to the event lingers firmly in my heart. It was my twenty-second birthday, and we’d booked a table at a decently fancy restaurant. Whether the food was good or bad, I can’t remember. All I know, is that on that day in particular, it was raining.

On the slippery roads, my mother was supposed to drive. As she turned a foggy corner, she was hit by a drunk driver who didn’t react in time to stop. She died then, on my birthday, and I couldn’t accept it.

So I die something horrible, and changed it.

That’s the day I learned the true curse of my condition. I did everything I could to convince my mother not to go. I begged her to stay at home, threatened that I wouldn’t show up for my own birthday if she as much as set a foot outside the house.

Thanks to my tantrum, my mother agreed to stay at home. She was smart enough to know something terrible was about to happen, and didn’t press the matter any further.

We spent the evening watching a movie, mindless fun for someone unable to remember the plot, but I was ecstatic nonetheless. I thought I had changed the course of history. My mother never left the house, and as a result, she was never hit by the drunk driver. But, that’s the funny thing about fate, there’s nothing that can stop it. In the end, my efforts were fruitless… because she was supposed to die.

That night, her soul, spirit, essence, whatever the hell you want to call it, vanished. Her time had come, and though I had hindered the death of her physical body, she was taken away from me.

It wasn’t until the next morning, before I noticed something was wrong. I found her sitting at the edge of her bed, unresponsive and catatonic. None of the doctors could explain it, as all her vitals appeared fine. Despite being physically healthy, she was just… gone.

I learned that day that I cannot save anyone who fall victim to the cruel judgement of destiny. In the end, whenever I tried, it only made things worse.

The worst part is, that since I never actually experienced her death as it was supposed to happen, it’s the only memory of my past I still remember. Though it doesn’t match up with reality. In my mind, she was hit by the drunk driver, but according to every available document, she spent her final years in a coma, only dying once her body finally gave out.

By the time of my mother’s death, my girlfriend had known about my curse for years, and took it upon herself to take over the task of recording my life. Each event, important or minor, was jotted down into the same notebook that my mother had carried around for so many years.

To this day, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such an amazing woman. Despite my complicated life, she still loved me. It was odd though, having known each other since children, as she got to know me, I was starting to forget her.

I guess it helped, having grown up side by side with my secret. That’s the only way she could possibly understand, to see beyond it, to who I truly am.

Even then, as we first met, I knew we’d end up married one day. Of course I did, I had every single memory stored in my mind. Maybe that fact allowed me to act more confident than I truly was, or maybe destiny played a hand in our pairing, I don’t know. But, by the time we entered an age where crushes became an acceptable fact, we quickly started dating.

Together, we shared all of our firsts. Though I don’t remember any of them, I can recall the feelings connected to each event. I love her with all of my heart, despite losing some of the memories I have of her for each passing day.

Which brings us to the present day…

Tonight, we won’t be able to sleep. She won’t know why, but something will irk her mind. Instead, we’ll stay up late, talking, and reminiscing about times long since passed. I won’t crack, I won’t cry, and I won’t let her know what’s about to happen. She’ll just write her final entry into my book, and then we’ll fall asleep in each other’s arms.

I can’t prevent her death, lest I want her to suffer the same fate as my mother, and once she’s gone, there will be none left to continue my story. Each day will pass as it always has, and I’ll forget it. Doomed to wander this world alone, I can do nothing save wait for my eventual death.

That’s why I’m writing this now, as my wife sleeps beside me. I need the world to know what I can’t. I need someone to remember my story, to remember that I once walked this path.

I don’t regret my life, because despite all odds, it was a happy one. It has filled with love, and despite my memory being lost I know there will a trace of my presence, rippling through time itself.

Life is not a certainty, don’t treat it like tomorrow is a given. It might never come.

WRITTEN BY: Richard Saxon

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