Jake didn’t forget the way other people did. Usually, a memory just leaves, walks out the back door of your brain. Harmlessly. Unnoticed, most of the time. But, that’s not how it was for Jake. When a memory walked out of Jake’s mind, it walked out of his life, and it took other things with it. You can’t hold on to everything. That’s not how memory works. 

This isn’t how memory works either, but for Jake…

Well, let him tell you.


The Forgetting started on November 16, my best friend Carl’s thirteenth birthday. We were at the picnic tables at the park. All the kids at the party had played Red Rover and freeze tag until we were sweaty and tired. As we rested on the picnic tables, Carl’s dad delivered chocolate birthday cake to each kid. 

Next to me, Carl asked, “Hey, Jake, do you remember my birthday party last year?”

“Of course I do,” I answered, grinning. I picked up my fork and scooped up a big bite of cake. “It was awesome! Your party was at-” I began, reaching back in my mind to that same day one year ago. “We… played… laser tag? Or—did we go to the movies?” But the more I tried to remember it, the more it slipped away, until it was gone, an absence in my brain. I looked down at the cake on my fork, as though it would tell me.

 “C’mon, you remember,” Carl prodded. He began relating to me the great things we’d done for his last birthday party. “We went…” But I couldn’t hear him. He sounded like he was underwater or talking to me from behind a thick door. 

 “What?” I shouted. “I can’t hear you!” Then, my best friend and everything around me began to fade away. In an act of desperation, I took a bite of cake. It was like eating water vapor. The sounds of the birthday party were getting quieter and quieter. I blinked, and everything was gone. Instead of being at the park, I was in my basement, watching TV, which was what I would have been doing if I hadn’t been at Carl’s birthday party. Confused, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Carl’s number. 

A man answered the phone. “Hello? Who is it?” he said wearily. I recognized his voice as my best friend’s usually upbeat and happy father. Now, however, he sounded tired and forlorn.

Uh, hi Mr. Ryler. It’s Jake Danson. Is Carl there?” 

I heard a sorrowful sigh on the other end. “Haven’t you heard, Jake? I’m so sorry to tell you this, but Carl went missing two weeks ago at his birthday party. It’s been hard for all of us. Now please excuse me. There’s some work I have to do.” And with that, he hung up.

I was bewildered. Two weeks ago? I looked down at my phone. It no longer said November 16. It now read November 30. Two weeks had passed, and my best friend had gone missing, right after I forgot a memory. Then, things like that began to happen all the time. A few days later, I was eating dinner in the kitchen. Sunlight dripped like nectar through the windows. As I finished my meal, my mom came in with a plate of her famous sugar cookies.

“I know how much you miss Carl,” my mom said. “I wanted to help you feel better.”

Thanks.” I smiled at her and took a bite. I began to remember a day when Carl came to my house and my mom helped us make cookies together. But as I thought harder about what we did, I realized that the details were missing. 

 “Mom, how do you make these cookies again?” Just as I asked it, the cookie in my hand began to fade. I felt the bite in my mouth disintegrate. All the cookies on the plate began to disappear. 

I watched my mom’s quizzical face as she asked, “What cookies?” Her words faded into muffled gargles as she and the kitchen turned to thin air.

The first few times, I thought that I’d forgotten without noticing. Now, I know that I don’t forget something until I try to remember it. Then, it slips away, along with whoever or whatever was part of it.

 My world is empty now, except for me. Every memory I thought about and forgot made another part of the world vanish. When I remembered going on a nature hike with Carl and our Scout group, the earth itself disappeared. When I remembered learning about colors in art class, all colors disappeared. I can’t describe to you where I am or what I see. All I can say is that I am nowhere, and I don’t see anything. Not a single place, not a single person, not a single color. It’s all gone.

I wish Carl were here.

I try not to remember anything, but it is useless. You know how, if you tell someone to forget something, they’ll remember it forever, and if you tell someone to remember something, they’ll forget it in a moment? My mind would defiantly stray back to someone or somewhere in my past, causing that someone or somewhere to vanish from existence.

My mind is barren now. Even the memories I make each minute fade instantly. I can’t remember anything that’s happened since the Forgetting began. 

Only one memory remains. It is the first time Carl and I met, which was also the day we became best friends, of course — the day when something more was added to my life, someone to stay by my side forever.

Well, not forever.

I figure that when I think about that memory, and when it slips away, I too will disappear. Carl was such a big part of me. That memory is all I have left of my identity. My world is empty now, except for me. There’s only one thing left to disappear. 

I’ve kept myself from that memory for so long; my mind has nowhere else to go, nothing else to think about. I can’t stay away any longer. I close my eyes and finally release my tight hold, allowing my mind to wander. I go back to that day in second grade, which seems like centuries ago. And for all I know, it could be.

In my mind, I’m in my second-grade classroom. I find my desk labeled Jake Danson. The nametag of the boy next to me reads Carl Ryler. The race car keychain on his lunch bag is really cool. He looks at me. “I like your shirt,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say. “I like your keychain.”

I remember sharing desserts at lunch, playing freeze tag on the school playground, working side by side on our math problems. I remember the smiles, the laughs we shared; not a moment went by without them. With my eyes still closed, I try to smile now. It’s hard.

I wait for the memory to blur, for the details to leave. Any moment now, I will be gone. I shut my eyes harder, holding on to whatever is left of my vacated life in this bare world. I reach for the memory, preparing for it to elude me. But, I catch it.

The memory lingers in my head longer than the others. My eyes still closed, I notice not an absence in my mind, but another presence. Another memory. A memory of Carl’s 12th birthday, the first memory that I forgot. Surprised, I open my eyes. 

There in front of me, in this nowhere, is Carl.