Lake Effect, Spring 2011, Volume 15: The Persistence of Memory

Kathleen Hellen


The Persistence of Memory

It was an open space where a window used to be on the fifth floor of the dorm. Fifty feet below, directly under the missing window, the young man was lying face-down on the glass in the snow. I pointed to the window as the siren approached. The distance to ground, the force of the impact, surely he was badly hurt. He might die.

The onlookers asked: What happened? How?

One of the first on the scene, I leaned in: “Hang on,” I whispered.

Despite the cold, my face was flushed. I looked for a gash. A cut. A bone wrenched sideways, or crushed. I slipped off my coat. Laid it over his shoulders. Had he heard when I whispered? Had he moved? The medics pushed me back.

That night on the news they said it was an elaborate prank staged when his girlfriend had left him. Something like: Jilted lover fakes suicide attempt. I remembered the glass; it should have been broken. It should have shattered or cracked. Troubling details. My thoughts persisted as I washed the dishes. The open space where the window used to be. The imprint of glass in the snow. It had seemed so real I worried all day, even going so far as to announce the horrific event in my classes and how I had found him, how I had given him my coat. I suffered in my thoughts a thousand injuries, as I relived it again and again.

A dish slipped from my hand. Yes, I wanted him dead.