The Memory Minder
It was cold outside. I remember that.
The sky was gray, the way it looks before a rainstorm or the beginning of snow.
I had been on traveling on a bus without sleeping for 36 hours. If you've ever been on a bus, you get it. If you haven't, just take my word for it. Every time we stopped to pick up or drop off new passengers; I had to throw up. I've never been good with movement like that.
We arrived at a bus depot for a pickup, I was relieved by the pause in movement. A tall, mysterious man in a long coat boarded the bus and took the seat in the back. I remember thinking he looked like a character in the old black and white films my Grandparents watched. I'm a curious person by nature, so I couldn't stop thinking about his story. Where was he going? Why was he dressed like he was from another time?
We left the depot just as it was getting dark; I looked behind me to see the man in the long coat staring right at me. I realized at that moment I was about to be a lot more sleep deprived than 36 hours. We had 6 hours to our next stop and a full 24 before I reached my destination. I couldn't read while riding due to motion sickness, so I listened to music on my phone. In an unexpected moment of weakness, I dozed off. I'm unsure how long I had been asleep when something startled me awake. As my groggy eyes adjusted, seated next to me was the mysterious man in the long coat from the back of the bus.
My heart was racing. Why did he move? Why did he move next to me? Did he know me? Did he know why I was on the bus? Had he followed me? Has someone sent him? My thoughts were racing at the same speed as my heart, and my imagination was getting the better of me. I blame a youth spent reading mystery novels for this.
I was trying to stay calm, to decide if I should try to run for it at the next stop, or if I was safest on the bus. I hadn't realized that during this entire momentary meltdown; I had been staring at the mysterious stranger next to me. Imagine my surprise when I realized he was smiling. I wondered if my sleep deprivation had gotten the better of me. Was I even awake right now? Maybe he wasn't even real.
Just about the time my heartbeat slowed down, he spoke. He sounded nothing like what I had conjured up in my head, nor did his face look anything like my melting pot of imaginations. His voice was soft, kind, and even comforting. His face was youthful, not aged, not worn. But his eyes were a color I can't quite describe.
"My name is Manchester."
He offered his hand to me.
I raised an eyebrow, not sure what I should do. He spoke again…
"I am the memory minder."
"The memory what?" I replied, confused.
"The Memory Minder, I know who you are, Sylvia, and I know where you are going. I even know why you are going there. But contrary to your initial hesitations about me, my job is to make sure you get where you are supposed to be safe."
I stared at him, puzzled, while I tried to think of something intelligent to say.
"Your job? Who hired you?" I questioned.
He looked amused.
"No one hired me. This is just what I do."
My level of confusion at this point was skyrocketing. I was thinking that I was, in fact, not awake. That I had fallen asleep on this bus, and sleep deprivation-influenced dreams had taken me down the rabbit hole. I fully expected to see the white rabbit or Alice at any moment.
His voice interrupted my hysteria-based thoughts.
"A memory minder helps guard specific memories in your mind. Some memories we guard are too important to forget, some memories you are not yet capable of, or ready to remember. Some memories you are not meant to carry or recall. Our job is to make sure that those memories stay safe, and that you stay safe until you are ready for them."
"How do you know my name?" I asked.
"I know everything about you. Given that I'm a memory minder, I have access to most of your memories, even those you would rather forget. Sylvia Scarlett…Small but brave. Outgoing, wise, and though not always visibly seen, very broken. She hides years of pain behind a smile. She is Loyal to a fault, but she will never truly allow anyone in. Does anyone know you, Sylvia?"
"Do I know you?" I asked, slightly freaked out.
" Not in the least." He replied with a smile.
"If I don't know you, I don't understand how you know so much about me?".
"I told you, it's my job.".
I tried a different approach since it seems I was getting nowhere with the how do you know me bit.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"Now you are getting it, it's not always about knowing all the information in a situation or about a person. It's about knowing the right information. I am from a place called Mend. Most people can't even see it. A place where protected memories like yours can be free. Some memories are not meant to be remembered; they are meant to be released because they were never yours to carry. Those memories are free from you in Mend."
I sat there thinking about his words, about how a memory I couldn't even remember had haunted and controlled my entire life. That memory kept me running from my Destiny out of fear and fear of what? Fear of something I couldn't even see, something I didn't even know.
"Are you ready to let go?" the memory minder asked me, once again interrupting my runaway thoughts.
"I don't know how."
"That's the beauty of letting go. It requires no skill or knowledge, just bravery and a step of faith. Are you ready to let go?"
"I still feel like I don't know how."
"This bus will stop soon, Sylvia, and you will have a choice. You can continue to your planned destination. The destination you were using to run from your memory. Or get off the bus at a place that just might become home and see where it leads. One path will keep you running for the rest of your life. The other will keep you exploring for the rest of your life. These two things are not at all the same. Home doesn't have to mean a prison. Home can be a place, a person, or a feeling. Home can be carried with you anywhere you go. Home can change."
Manchester sat quietly for a little while. I assumed he was giving me time to think, consider the information he gave me, and decide the direction I wanted my life to go from here.
It seemed like an eternity of quiet as I was looking out the window, watching the beautiful scenery unfold almost like a dance. All participants were enveloped in nature's colors. Eventually, my mind re-engaged.
Had I ever really taken a chance before? A chance that wasn't calculated by the risk of breaking my protective bubble or tearing my walls down?
I realized my entire life was dictated by a trauma, a memory I could no longer recall. I still felt the impact of whatever happened in that memory, but I could no longer access that moment or event, or scene in my mind. I have no way of knowing if I blocked that memory out intentionally at some point, or if my mind just decided it was too much for me to bear and sealed all access to it. Erased it, leaving only residual pieces.
What would happen if I stopped worrying about things I couldn't control and fully surrendered to each moment, letting go of the past? Letting go of trauma from events, I couldn't call back.
"You've decided." The memory minder spoke.
"I have," I replied.
"You will be okay Sylvia. You will do so much more than you know, and perhaps years down the line when you've lived a full and happy life when you've found your true purpose, I will return to you the memory that you cannot recall. A memory that in the now could destroy you, but in the future will empower and set you free. Until that day comes, be well, Sylvia. Find what makes you happy, find your peace, and find your passion and purpose. When you need me, you will see me again."
He stayed close but didn't speak again for a while. The bus stopped in the small town of Purpose, a place I once called home. A place I had run away from, the fastest my feet could carry me.
Purpose, oddly enough, is a town without purpose, but with so much potential. A town a lot like me.
I had decided long before we reached our destination, that it was time for a change. I did not know how we ended up where we did, especially based on where we started. But that didn't matter. The bus pulled into the tiny station, and I got off with Manchester. He smiled at me and hugged me.
"Go find your destiny warrior," he said.
"Thank you for everything, I truly hope to see you again someday," I replied. I meant every word.
"If you need me, I'll show up."
Those were the Memory Minders' last words to me.
I watched as he walked down the street towards the sun and disappeared.
I turned in the opposite direction and started walking towards the town of purpose. It's amazing what can happen when you take a chance and just let go.
I don't know if I will ever see the memory minder again, but I know he will have a lifelong impact on me. I know that if I ever need him, he will find me.
I walked up a grassy hill I remembered from my childhood, and there as if by magic, was the town of purpose, and for the first time in my life; it was beautiful.