Unbroken- Chapter 1. “Remember Me- Not”

He leaned down to kiss me. I had been dreaming vividly…of something. It was another of my great adventure dreams, torn asunder. The kiss was sweet, though. He smelled of his aftershave lotion- mellow,  warm and sexy. “Mmmn”…is all I can muster, then he was gone. I continued to enjoy the quiet of the morning. I checked the time. 7:08. great. I really had no reason to be up this early. So, I figured I would just sleep in, but that wasn’t  possible, because I could feel a definite morning bladder coming on.

I made some coffee, and an interesting breakfast smoothie with kale, frozen banana, protein powder, spinach, and a handful of frozen blueberries. I blended that all together with almond milk. It was good. I am so far removed from my previous lifestyle of donuts and cold cereal.

I did need to check my e-mail. Not the public account- my work account. Nobody knows about this e-mail address except those who need to know- me, and my boss, and his boss. Remembering a password of the complexity required is nearly impossible, but I have it memorized for this month. I have to enter it a total of four times to finally gain access to my account. I try to check it daily, but never at the same time each day, and never when anyone’s at home. If I go on vacation, or am involved in any other activity of normal life, and cannot access the e-mail, I have to account for my missing time, because I get assignments twice per month. I can only refuse one per month, but that is usually more than enough. What really is hilarious is how each e-mail is supposed to be a cleverly disguised message embedded in a spam-ish looking ‘ad’. They need to work on that. Nevertheless, they are generic enough that anyone who happened to look over my shoulder would never question its content or source. The other nice feature is that it doesn’t look like e-mail, but rather a corporate web-site, full of annoying little fake ads in the corners, just like a clothing store or online cosmetics retailer might have.

Saturday, July 28.

Crosspeak Industries proudly announces the Grand Opening of our newest location! Mark your calendars for August 3., and come down between noon and three o’clock to take advantage of all the great deals!

Take I-5 south and exit at 41. Stay on track until you see the Crosspeak Bridge Banner. Ask an associate how you can save!

There is a cute, but ridiculous 20% off everything- in- stock coupon printed below that, but my job is to first decode the  message within this message. First off, I know the way they do things. Everything is backward. If the message says south, you go north, and the exits are always reversed, as well, but will also always be legit. Again, if anyone gets savvy to the message and were to realize that there is no exit 41 on I-5 southbound, that would never do. Thing is, I won’t be going to exit 41, but 14. And I’ll be headed north. It’s a strange system, but it works. The next thing I have to figure out is Crosspeak- this means there will be a meeting with me, my boss, and one of our clients. The Bridge Banner is most likely going to be the spot, and I have to look for a sign (literally or figuratively) once I get to the exit. Bridge Banner could be a literal bridge, it could be that we meet near a sign on a bridge. It could even be someone’s name on a mailbox or the name of a park. It’s always a  pain in the ass figuring these things out, but the funny part is that my boss always drives the same SUV and I will be looking for that more than anything. I guess asking him to use a GPS app on his phone would be asking too much. All the secrecy we use might have you assuming I am some kind of spy, doing some really important spy-movie shit. No. What I really do is even more surprising but not glamorous or high-budget  like what you see at IMAX-  such as  MI4 with Tom Cruise.  No. It’s not like that at all. Yeah, I do all my own stunts…

Your next guess may be that I am an undercover prostitute, meeting with my pimp and ‘john’. Nice try, but disgusting. No. Drug sales? No. It’s all completely legal, mainly because there is no law in the books to regulate what we do. Well, at least not yet.  Besides,  nobody is supposed to know that this sort of service exists. It wouldn’t be seen as…normal, I guess.

People come to me through carefully arranged meetings for one purpose- to forget. My boss has the job of taking care of all the details to ensure that physical clues, documents, and location don’t serve as inconvenient reminders of what the clients want forgotten. This is the trickiest part, because, like the song goes, “…there’s always something there to remind me”. This is the reason we don’t take cases of the brokenhearted lover, wanting to be forever rid of the memories of their ex. Well, the ex has all their memories, as does your mom, sister, uncle Fred, and the mailman. Ditto the three neighbors that you and your ex partied with on last July 4th and New Year’s. How are you going to scrub that memory, really? We also won’t take cases of guilty consciences wanting to expunge some crime- whether illegal or not. What we specialize in is traumatic memories, where our clients have been victimized and feel the only way to a normal life is to remove those memories. My boss is the counselor with our clients first. His sessions are long and extensive, wherein which he explains that as painful as a memory may be, our experiences help to shape us and to make us stronger. He give the client every reason to rethink their decision before we move on. Believe it or not, sometimes what doesn’t kill us, really does make us stronger. However, there are some very real benefits to our program. Victims of sexual abuse and rape are the most rewarding to help. Counseling is also very beneficial here. We feel it is vital that the client process the emotions involved, and especially to work on forgiveness- if not for their attacker, then at least for themselves. Sometimes, we erase the memories, but the person is still not happy. It is vital the would-be clients don’t think that erasing painful memories will instantly improve their entire lives and work like some magic happy pill.  We also have to do the tricky job of setting up the client so that they no longer have any ties to us- no business cards, no records of phone calls, no huge time gaps. Once the memory is gone, if they still remember us and what we did for them, the majority of them, being as all humans, very curious animals, will dig and try to figure out what the memory was that we erased, and thus relive it all or go mad trying to figure out a non-existent conspiracy.

The August third meeting will not be with a new client, but rather with an established one. “Mary” is 34, with persistent thoughts of suicide and an inability to sleep or , well, really- function at all. She is an incest victim. The family has always denied it. She is the perfect candidate for my treatment, and today’s meeting is about the need to start erasing all ‘tracks’ of us in her life just before we undergo the procedure. She confided in her closest friend and fiance’ that she is going to have the memories purged, and they have been required to swear to absolute secrecy- to never tell her about what she has revealed to them, to help her to heal. This part gets very complicated at times. The best memories to erase are the ones that have never been shared. This is no absolute science. If anyone close to “Mary” ever decides to blurt, though, Mary will most likely just be very confused and think the person telling her this is simply mad . We council those close to the client that if they do reveal the secrets, they will simply seem quite crazy to the person they are speaking to, and may cause harm , if any remnants of the memory remain deep inside the  subconscious, by digging them up.

Today, however, there is a second e-mail in my ‘box’. This one looks like a new client, and the business name of  “Freebird” Enterprises is code for me to know that it’s an ex-con. This should be interesting. This has been the biggest growth area to our business. One-time criminals who have served their time often come to us to give them a new lease on life. Our first ‘freebird’ told us that he believed that if he had no memories of the crimes he committed, and the horrific prison years that followed, he would truly be ‘born again’, completely a blank slate, and not trapped by the life he chose in the past. He had spent 30 years in jail for beating his wife’s lover to death after walking in on them as they lie sleeping on the marriage bed. I told him I would not take his case. I told him that his conscience and memories were there for a reason. It goes like that a lot. People just want to dump their bags of crap at someone’s door and not be bothered by their pesky memories reminding them of what they have done. My thinking is this- if you want absolution and forgiveness, start with getting it from God and the people you’ve hurt. You don’t just get to dump those memories like garbage. You deal with that shit, or you keep carrying it.

I won’t know what this is all about until I check in, but my boss already knows how I feel about this, so I am hopeful that there is a really good reason why we should consider the case.

Chapter 2: Unreal