And don't push, either, he would add, but silently in his head so she wouldn't hear it.
He sipped the syrup carefully, one drop at a time. And he remembered carefully, one moment at a time. There was only one thing he couldn't remember.
Sip, sip, sip.
No matter how hard he tried, no matter how carefully he went over the memories, there was one he could not recover. For ten years, maple syrup held all the memories except that one.
Why was he angry? He couldn't remember.
Push. Thud. What were they fighting about? It must have been something important. It must have been. But if it was so important, then why couldn't he remember?
That was the moment when he forgot. He had been angry, he knew he had, but at the sharp crack of bone on rock and the thud of Geo's body hitting the ground, he forgot.
The blood ran fast, and so did Chi. He ran and he ran, back to the house, though his stomach and chest and his legs all cramped up, and he couldn't breathe fast enough to get oxygen to the muscles.
He ran for his father and mother, then his mother ran for the doctor down the street, and someone ran for the policeman.
"Geo's hurt," he'd said, and everyone listened because they were good boys and never got into trouble.
They all ran very fast back to the field behind the house. But the blood ran faster. It was all out of Geo by the time Chi got back with help.
Drinking water would give him more energy. If he had more energy then he could run faster. But Chi didn't run anymore. There was no reason to. Blood was like water, and it ran fast. If you had a race with blood, it would always win, no matter how fast you ran. Maple syrup ran slow, and you didn't have to race against it. He was done racing.
His mother thought he was too slow.
"You have to get out of the room," she'd say. "Get a job, meet some friends."
She wanted him to go forward instead of backwards. Chi didn't think he was going backwards, though. He was looking backwards, and that was an entirely different thing. Looking backwards was important, even when you were standing still. He had to see what was there. There was something back there, and even if everybody else didn't see it, he had to.
"What happened?" they had asked.
All of them, the doctor, the police, his mother, asked the same question. His hand still held a baseball. He'd forgotten about that too. When he looked down at it, it answered for him.
"Accidental?" they'd said, already nodding sadly, because these were good boys and when trouble happened, it was an accident.
"Yes," Chi said. "He was running backwards and tripped on the rock, smacked his head on the pile. He was running backwards to catch a ball."
"Yes," his mother said. "He comes out with his friend to play baseball all the time," she explained, and they nodded. You could see the worn grass between the bases - three trees and a shrub for home.
They were good boys and it was an accident. The grass was wet, and he wasn't looking behind as he ran back. Slipped and hit the rock too hard. Too bad, they said, shaking their heads.
"That's why you don't do that," his mother said, crying. "That's why you look where you are going."
"It was baseball. He was running to catch a ball. He was looking at the ball. You do that in baseball."
Ten years of drinking maple syrup had rotted his teeth prematurely. Chi didn't care. Teeth could be fixed, the past couldn't be. He wondered if memories could be. He wanted to fix his memories.
They weren't broken that bad, he thought.
Everyone else's were worse because they only looked ahead. The taste of the syrup had recalled the day for him, recalled it crystal clear, for ten years, except for the one thing. Sip after sip of maple syrup, flask after flask, jug after jug, and he could not remember why he was angry. He could not remember why he pushed Geo onto the rocks. That had been wiped from his mind the moment the other boy fell, and no amount of looking had brought it back. He kept trying anyway.