By KAELA LIU
The five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smelling. These five senses make up how we perceive the world. As we grow up, we accumulate experiences. These experiences teach us about how we should interact with our surroundings. We make memories. These memories make up our view of the world. They make us up.
Every child knows their birthday. Every child, except, apparently, myself. The interaction started simply enough.
“What’s your birthday?” The nurse asked.
“April 5, 2012.”
The year was 2012.
“2007” My mother corrected.
I nodded, ever so slightly perplexed and embarrassed, but mostly indignant. I knew when my birthday was! My birthday had happened only a week ago. Why was my mother saying it was 2007?
The next year, I turned 6. Up until then I had never fully understood that my age changed on an annual basis. I had been stretching time, pulling it between my fingers, willing to stretch out towards infinity. But it was snapping right before my eyes, tearing apart the same way a cheap rubber band does: tearing, tearing, then snap! The band becomes a line.
In the same way, I learned that time stretched out forward in one singular direction.
According to the world around me, I was growing up.
That realization began my desire to capture time.
So I began teaching myself how to freeze time. At first, the time I caught felt sticky, but somehow it wouldn’t stick to my fingers. I would reach out, grab a firstful of everything I knew. Mold it in my palm, and attempt to analyze it. I thought that if I could understand — I could recreate it — all of it — like an artist sketches a moment into reality. However, the moments I captured moved through my hands like vapor, unwilling to solidify fully between the pressure of my outstretched palms. By the time I had it molded into a perfect ball, it was already dissipating into thin air. It seemed to me that once I had broken time — snapped flat like a rubber band — it could no longer hold anything concrete. Everything simply fell through, or disappeared.
Eventually I realized that I was catching the wrong thing. My hands were ineffective for time catching, but perhaps time was impossible to catch. Instead, I learned how to catch something even better.
Instead of attempting to grab time with my hands, I would grab moments. I allowed these moments to enter my consciousness through my senses. My senses, unlike my hands, knew what a moment looked like, and they scooped up everything with ease. Working together, they created a memory.
So, I began collecting memories. Whenever I remembered to, I would take the memory my senses curated and store it besides the ever growing repertoire of memories I owned: my first time riding a bike. My brother’s basketball themed birthday party. That time my best friend and I built a pillow fort. My first time flying alone.
As I collected more and more memories, I lived through a couple more birthdays.
Whenever someone asked me to share something about myself, I would comb through my stack of memories and find my favorite one to display. Some people liked the memories I had – those people became my friends. Some did not, and those people faded from my life.
When I got bored just collecting memories, I started thinking about what I could create with them. These pieces of time I had been collecting — could they be collaged, like small scraps of paper, into something meaningful? I was the only one who knew the moments I held. What if, I thought, someone could know all of my memories. Would they then know how to be me?
I started experimenting — experimenting with what I knew. I would clear my mind, imagine myself as if I was an extraterrestrial alien placed into the body of a human, with all the experiences and memories of me.
For a moment I’d critique the world, thinking of everything that I know, scavenging my brain for every single memory I could remember, pulling together the small memory post-it notes I had collected from time.
However, one day, I lost my memories. It lasted only for a moment, or for an eternity, I could not tell. It was the instance when the blood in my body failed to reach my brain, my vision went blurry, my knees buckled, and I lost all consciousness. Then I was nothing. I was awake. But there was simply nothing. A heavy black cloud of emptiness that held me in place, yet extended outwards towards infinity. I had no senses, but I felt my entire surroundings. It was all black, but color never really existed. It was quiet, but I did not know what sound was. Everything that I ever knew was — quiet. gone.
Yet I had no knowledge of what I had lost. The band of time I had known, once snapped and straightened, had crumbled into a ball, one that fell through my hands like vapor, unwilling to solidify.
I woke up, gasping. I had fallen into my heater, having fainted momentarily onto my floor. That instinct, everything I knew came flooding back to me. I remembered, all at once, my name, my age, where I lived, who I was. It was as if everything that made up me had returned to me at that moment.
At that moment, I realized that I could not catch memories. The memories I had caught were only time pretending to take a finite form. But like time, memories snap, crumble, and