There are three thousand, four hundred and twenty eight cracks in the sidewalk on the way home from school. I had no choice but to remember counting them all once three years and ninety-six days ago. I remember everything that’s ever happened to me. My name is Kristen and I have hyperthymesia. As a familiar bench came into view, a string of words, memories, and dates immediately pop up in my mind. May 13th, 2006: my best friend Paige left her history homework here. August 8th, 2008: a guitarist was playing as I passed by; I gave him a quarter. March30th, 1999: tiedmyshoeshereforthefirsttimeallbymyself, December29th,2002:trippedwhileplayed hopscotchhereandscrapedmyknee. A dozen short clips of my past flashed before me, lasting only a couple of seconds until I can snap myself out of it and focus. This kind of thing happens so often that I’ve pretty much gotten used to it. I paused for a second to collect myself before continuing the generally monotonous and uneventful journey home.
A light breeze rustled the copper-brown leaves that collect along the path. One is swept off of a tree branch and I stop and wait as I caught it in my hand. I turned it over several times, studying it, before finally crushing it and blowing the pieces like confetti off my fingertips.
A crumpled up piece of paper catches my eye and I bent down to pick it up. Smoothing it out, I realized it was someone’s report card. ‘Where did I put mine?’ I wonder to myself, as if I could’ve forgotten. It was still stuffed in the back pocket of my second favorite pair of jeans, which I’d shoved into the deepest recesses of my closet. As my mind drifted off into a recap of the day, I went into autopilot and let my feet carry me home.
The next thing I knew, I’m flat on the ground with the contents of my book bag spilled over and an elderly lady glowering at me.
“Oh…I, erm…got distracted. I’m sorr –” I managed before she cut me off.
“Teenagers these days! Always got their heads in the clouds! No respect for their elders!”
“No, I-I uh, I can explain –”
She interrupted me again and the woman continued to rant to me as she grabbed her purse and the scraps of paper and receipts that had fallen out as I shoved my notebooks, papers, and other belongings back into my bag. I tuned her out, mostly focused on not making eye contact and attempting to ignore the ridiculous amount of musky perfume this elderly woman gave off.
“Are you listening to me?!” She shrieked, grabbing my hand as if she had the intent of biting it off or something.
Completely taken off guard, I jump and reply with a feeble, “Yes.”
After what seemed like an eternity, the woman finally brought her lecture to an end, released my hand, and turned to leave in a huff. Gingerly rubbing my fingers back to life, I started walking again, still in shock. As I was crossing the road, I realized my journal was missing. Behind the black leather cover I’d scribbled down my thoughts, and hopes; an alternate life without the burden of my memories. Then it struck me that I was carrying it and I must’ve dropped it when I…oh God. Retrieving my beloved journal would mean another encounter with her. ‘How would I even find her?’ I thought to myself. ‘Would she even give it back to me if I did?’ It started to rain, and I was thrust into another string of memories. Distracted, I didn’t realize that I was still in the middle of the street, and I didn’t see the skidding car coming until I heard its blaring horn and it was too late to move.
Suddenly – darkness. I opened my eyes for a split second, but something was wrong. I couldn’t remember anything. My mind went completely blank.