Chapter 37: Living Memory

In which Oso visits Agnes one last time.

The following is the end of the record, as transcribed by Stephanie Mirabel Beñat Gonzales, though not the end of the one and only Oso Beñat, aka Tomi Beñat, as in Tomi Corp; grandfather of the aforementioned author, and one of the worst men who’s ever lived—in Mr. Beñat’s most humble opinion.

Bernadette was the therapist who suddenly needed therapy from one of her colleagues. She couldn’t cope with what had happened to Agnes. After undergoing therapy for several months, she took an extended vacation with her family in Socorro. Oso suspected that she confessed everything to the current priest at San Miguel, including the fire. That was all right. Some secrets were never meant to be kept.

For his part, he just kept on keeping on. He threw himself into work, raising his son, taking all his children camping when they visited him that summer. He sorely missed Bernadette, but she was better off without him. All those weeks she’d practically lived in his home, laughing over homemade casseroles with him and Agnes, had left her with emotional scars. That was how she couched it, anyway.

He put the Rio Grande house on the market and rented a smaller place until he could sell the beautiful colonial off. He had his real estate agent fishing for wealthy outsiders, as no local person was going to plunk down a good bit of cash on a house where a suicide had occurred. The place was essentially cursed to locals.

One night, a week after his three elder children had flown back to their mother’s place in San Diego, and hours after Adam was in bed, he found himself reaching for his bottle of Booker’s. He’d been doing this every night: drinking too much and stewing in his thoughts because he was afraid. For the first time in his godforsaken life, he was horribly afraid.

What had he done to the world? He had wrecked it. He had wrecked Agnes. He had wrecked his children’s lives. The eldest was a teenager now. Her attitude toward him said it all. She despised him, just as Bernadette despised him.

He held the bottle of bourbon and poured out a measure, but before he could drink it, allowing the potent liquor to do its work, his hands grew hot and shaky. His body tingled, and the air swirled around him. It was happening, another future memory. Another ridiculous memory that would mean nothing, that wouldn’t inform him how to get a bike back without burning down a house or how not to kill an old woman. And by the very nature of his visions being memories, he understood that he couldn’t change them. If he could change them, they wouldn’t be memories.

And then there was Bernadette. He’d had a vision of her, and sure, he’d gone to her house, had held her in his arms while Adam slept on the couch, but nothing had come of it. Nothing at all. Yet, the memories would come to him regardless of their usefulness.

The world around him grew very bright, almost painfully so. He was in a strange house he’d never seen before, in a breakfast room filled with the brightest morning sun he’d ever encountered.

“I’ll be right there,” a voice called.

He jolted. He recognized the voice, but it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be…she walked in the room carrying a tea tray, but with no odd gait. She had one fleshly leg, while the other appeared to be made of light or glass. And yet, it was still her. Agnes. His mouth went dry in a way that even tea couldn’t quench.

“I knew you would make it here,” she said. “I knew you would come visit me once I had my own house. My heart knew all along. Tea?”

“Yes, please,” he said with a hoarse voice.

“I’m so glad,” she said, her smile bright, “that I can finally serve you. I always wanted to when you came to visit me. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have my own tea tray.”

He reached for the cup and could feel the heat wafting from the china. A delightful steam rose, carrying the bright fragrance of Bergamot.

“Please sit down,” she said.

He obeyed her. But as he pulled the chair out to sit, he realized one of his own legs was also made of light or glass. Somehow, it seemed right that way because it was, after all, true.

And then the memory faded almost as quickly as it had begun, without his tasting a drop of the beverage. He stared at the undrunk bourbon on his desk. As far as he remembered, he hadn’t drunk any bourbon yet that night. He’d tried not to. He’d tried to be master of himself. How was it, then, that he was having future memories of dead people? Only a drunk could manage that.

He shook his head. “Snap out of it!” he shouted.

There was no snapping out of it. A feeling of dread wrapped its tendrils around his legs, moving upward to his chest. He tried to rise and make his way out of the office and into his bedroom, but he couldn’t because the tendrils of dread were wrapped so tightly around his stout fleshly legs. He stumbled and fell forward, onto his face.

“God!” he shouted into the carpet. “You aren’t real. She can’t be alive because you aren’t real.”

He worked his way back to his desk on his hands and knees and reached for his phone. With shaking fingers, he called Bernadette.

“Oso?” Her voice was groggy from sleep.

“Bernadette.”

“Are you okay?”

“No. I just saw Agnes.”

“You’ve either been drinking or dreaming.”

“No. You don’t understand. I have memories of the future. I’ve been having them since I was twelve.”

“That sounds like schizophrenia to me.”

“Don’t diagnose me. Last time, you called me a sociopath, now a schizophrenic. You need to listen to me, instead. Agnes used to get saved every week at the chapel. She believed in an afterlife. If she’s alive, that means her God is real, and I’ve completely lost. What am I going to do?”

“What did Agnes say when she spoke to you? Was she in your house, or what?”

“No, she was in an unfamiliar house. It was very nice and homey, with bright morning light coming in through the windows. She said, ‘I knew you would make it here. I knew you would come to visit me. My heart knew all along.’ And then she offered me tea.”

“She offered you tea?”

“Yes, it was beautiful. It was a home like she never had in life. Like I’ve never had, either. My mom never served her friends tea. Coffee if they were lucky. A joint or homemade brandy more likely.” He stopped, overwhelmed by the ache of longing in his chest. “Whatever she has, wherever it is, I want it.” He couldn’t stop himself. He began sobbing because the memory gave him the oddest sense of nostalgia he’d ever experienced.

“Oso, are you crying?”

There was no sense in lying to Bernadette. He’d known her too long. “Maybe. Yes.”

“I do believe you’ve found God.”

“How can that be? God isn’t real.”

“Apparently he is.”

His head spun with the new idea presented to it. He suddenly wanted to believe in God just so he could find that memory again. “Bernadette, I love you. I’ve always loved you. And I find myself in uncharted territory. Tell me what I should do.”

“You’re an explorer. Uncharted territory is your favorite place. But I’d be happy to go along with you for the adventure. If you want me to.”

“Does that mean you’ll marry me?”

“Yes.” She paused. “Oso, it should’ve always been you.”

“That’s what I tried to tell you years ago,” he said, the tears now rolling unchecked down his cheeks. “Make sure you listen to me in the future.”

Her only response was an indignant harrumph, but Oso didn’t care because he knew he’d finally won.


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