Sometimes, I wake up at four in the morning and taste smoke in the back of my throat.
I swear to god, you're still burning somewhere inside me.
I bit down on the eraser of my pencil and stared at the piece of parchment in front of me, quite certain that everything I could have produced with my early morning creativity would somehow be geared towards her. It wasn't as if I had much else to write about, especially in the dungeon-like cell they contained me in. However, steel bars didn't necessarily mean imprisonment; more often than not I had nightmares about myself, and that proved to be more isolating and torturous than any jail the government could produce.
I tried my hand again, focusing on something—anything—else but her.
I think it's about five in the morning. It could be six. I am missing yo—
I was thinking about her again. I hastily thought of another way to change it.
I think it's about five in the morning. It could be six. I am missing yogurt.
I think it's about five in the morning. It could be six. I am missing Yo-Yos.
I think it's about five in the morning. It could be six. I am missing yodeling.
Hopeless. I tossed the pencil onto the tiny metal desk in my cubicle and sighed, running my hand through my hair in desperation. When I was in elementary school, my third grade teacher used to tell me that tugging on my locks allowed for the intelligence to seep out from my brain to be put to good use—I now believe it was an excuse for her to drag me to the principal's office by the head when I didn't listen to her.
I was never the type to listen to people, now that I think about it. My mother had quite a hard time dealing with a child that could never sit still, and all of the teachers most likely groaned in annoyance when they saw my name on their attendance list for the year. In the fourth grade, my parents and I moved to Portland where the school counsellor suggested that my parents take me to the doctor's to see if I had ADHD, but I came back with a beaming smile and a letter that stated, "Gifted Student: Upgrade to Grade 7".
Turns out I was restless because I was too smart. It also turns out that I was still too smart for seventh grade. I was promptly promoted to ninth grade for good measure, and there I, a lowly nine year old, stayed—home schooled, of course. I was twelve years old when I finished high school, then went to university and studied all that I could. Literature was fun, chemistry and biology had me on the edge of my seat, and calculating algorithms in mathematics was more of a past-time. After I finished my Bachelor's degree in Applied Algorithms and a minor in Biochemistry, I stayed at home—alone, recluse and inept by the looks of it.
I think that's where my dad blamed himself for where I ended up; he'd often tell me that he named me Harold because it meant "heroic leader", and that he knew I would live up to the name. When he got the call from the police saying that I had been thrown in jail, I reckon he probably thanked them, hung up the phone, then proceeded on with his life pretending he didn't have a son at all. There was a time between adolescence and becoming a jailbird when my father used to say, "Harry, you're going to grow up to be a fine, young man", to which I would reply, "You're optimistic. It's nice."
A myriad of choppy life events came flooding back to me as I semi-narrated my life up until the point where a void had settled in quite comfortably. I had a handful of theories as to why that void existed:
One: I was a teenager when I got my degree. I was certain I was able to live my life and make up for lost time. I made friends. I partied. I drank—a lot. My memory probably wiped out once or twice.