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Mnevermind 2: Forget Me Not

Forget Me NotForget Me Not by Jordan Castillo Price

Series: Mnevermind 2
Length: Novel - 54,000 words
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-62-5

See also The Persistence of Memory: Mnevermind Trilogy 1, Life is Awesome: Mnevermind Trilogy 3

 

$4.99

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Summary

No two people are exactly alike, but Elijah Crowe is very, very different. 

Elijah is on the autism spectrum, so the tasks of day-to-day life most people breeze through are a challenge for him. His career suffered because he never got the hang of schmoozing, and now he wastes his talents teaching classes at the mall. His social circle is limited to his ex, his therapist, and a structured inclusion group at the Rec Center. The one bright spot in his life is the memory science of Mnemography.

Although he loves nothing better than devouring the latest research and tinkering with all the specialized equipment, he never clicked with any other experts in the field until he met Daniel Schroeder. Daniel runs a memory palace—he even writes his own mnems—and that shared interest alone would make him fascinating. But Daniel and Elijah met under unusual circumstances, where the statement, “I like you, and I think you like me,” held some surprising nuances.

Now Elijah suspects he’s gay, but the few prominent people in his life are less than supportive. Some are downright hostile. Elijah might not be neurotypical, but he’s plenty smart. Surely there’s some way to get people to accept him for who he is. If only he could figure out how.

 

Excerpt

Last spring, while I was buying an old book about crows in a shop in Deeside, the lady selling me the book looked at the cover: ‘They’re meant to be intelligent birds,’ she said.

I agreed.

‘Pity they’re regarded as vermin.’

-Corvus, A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson


CHAPTER ONE

When I was younger, melted cheese turned my stomach. It’s a texture thing. Stretchy. Slimy. Oily. I didn’t want anything to do with it. It’s easy enough to pick off. Let the food cool down and you can peel away the cheese in big, rubbery sheets. Also, with pizza, that means the toppings all come off with it. So while pepperoni can typically be salvaged, ground sausage is a lost cause.

This is why I never understood why all the other kids liked pizza so much.

Five summers ago (I think it was the twenty-sixth of August, but it might have been the twenty-fifth) I was waiting for Beth to meet me for a walk. She didn’t want me to know where she lived, and that’s why we would meet at these strange places, like the park or the bike trail or even this one bar, which was too loud for me to really hear what she was trying to get me to talk about with her, so we stopped going there and started meeting outside, instead.

I was early. She interprets lateness as a lack of concern, which she has made very clear, and so I have become very conscientious about showing up first. Since there was a gas station with a small mini-mart within sight of the bike trail, I wandered over and checked it out to pass some time—I was really early—and that was when I discovered string cheese.

It hung there in the cooler, next to the sandwich wedges in triangular plastic cartons and the big pickles sealed in plastic with their own briny juices. Like the pickles, the string cheese had its own individual wrapper, which is always preferable to an item swimming in masses of similar items, all touching. It was only 99¢. Also, I needed to know.

In the corner of the parking lot, over where no one would really park because it would be too inconvenient to walk to the store from there when there were closer spots where they could park, I sat on one of the chocks with my newly purchased string cheese and read the entire label. The ingredients were: Milk, Water, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey, Canola Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate…everything else was less than 2%, so I didn’t bother remembering that. Also there were instructions on where to peel apart the plastic sheath, which was good, because that plastic was pretty tough.

Nothing about the string, though.

Beth found me scowling at the empty plastic label with pinches of mozzarella scattered over the asphalt at my feet. She’d dyed the bleached streaks in her hair purple, purple on black, in two ponytails. Her lipstick matched her hair. “What are you doing, Elijah? You don’t even like cheese.”

“No. Also, this one’s defective.”

We took our walk, even though her platform-soled Doc Martens weren’t really suited for the trail. She seemed pretty upset that night, though not, in retrospect, about her shoes, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the missing string. Most mass-manufactured items have some margin of error. Gas station mini-marts are usually known more for the convenience of their merchandise, rather than their quality. I would talk to the clerk, I decided, once Beth was done. And I’d try another package, this one from the back of the hanger, and maybe that cheese would have its string.

“Look at me, Elijah.”

Beth’s nose was red, like it got when she was just about to cry. I stopped walking and faced her, and looked at her very hard. I wanted to look away, but it was one of those things. Like showing up early.

“I don’t think…I can do this anymore.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go back.”

“No.” A tear rolled down her cheek, then another, then another. “I can’t do us…anymore.”

I’d figured as much, given that we’d each moved into our own separate apartments at the end of May. It sounded like she was breaking up with me, which didn’t make any sense. I thought the breakup had happened when we moved out. It wasn’t the first time we’d broken up, not by a long shot. Also, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d failed to grasp the situation. “Okay.” I probably didn’t look upset. But I was.

I turned to walk back, but she stayed where she was. Crying. I tried to see if I was supposed to hug her—I never can tell—but she pulled away, and so I pulled back, and she said, “I’m filing for divorce.”

Given that it was the logical conclusion of everything she’d just said, it shouldn’t have come as any big surprise to me. It did, though. I felt numb, like I’d just brushed against a live wire in an unplugged mnem machine with a hidden battery backup power supply. And once that numbness wore off, I was angry. Not at Beth, exactly. But kind of. “Why are you crying? You’re the one who wants this. You have no reason to cry.”

“You’re oversimplifying things. I don’t…want it. There’s just no other—”

“Then don’t do it. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. Right?”

She cried some more.

“You can move in with me. It’s not as big as our old place, but I’ll make room.”

She wavered…but then she shook her head. “I can’t live with you. That’s the whole point.”

“Okay, fine. We don’t need to live together. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be married, each of us with our own place.”

“That’s just it—I’m sick of the workarounds. Don’t you get it? I’ll make another concession, and another, and another. Then one day I’ll wake up, and I’ll realize that I’ve done it again. I’ve missed my chance at being with someone who can really, truly love me.”

That stung, like maybe she was trying to make a point by being mean. But like my grandmother used to say, Beth might look scary, but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. And considering all the tears, at the moment she looked more hurt than angry. “I do love you,” I said simply.

“In your way, I guess you do,” she said, and wiped her nose on her sleeve, and started walking back toward the parking lot.

I was left to deduce that “my way” of loving her was probably not quite enough. I still felt angry. Angry, but resigned. I think the mini-mart clerk could tell, because when I brought up the defective cheese, he told me to just take another one and get out of there. And he looked kind of scared.

It was getting dark, so I brought the second string cheese home with me rather than working on it in the parking lot. I read the label again, and peeled the plastic apart carefully, and flexed the cheese a few times. I couldn’t feel the string inside any more than I could in the defective cheese I’d left scattered on the asphalt. So I took it over to my work table and pulled out my halogen magnifier lamp, and with a fresh X-acto blade, I bisected it laterally.

No string.

I then sliced the top half along the length of the cheese. Still no string. Possibly, it was off-center. I began trimming off careful slices, searching, in hopes of locating the string without damaging it in any way. This urge to make sense of the cheese was probably just a form of displacement, but it seemed to me if I solved the riddle of the string, the rest of my life couldn’t help but fall into place.

Dr. Bergman says it’s not necessarily harmful for me to think this way.

The top half of the cheese lay in thin curls on my work table, and still no string. The only possible thing I could think of was that the string was somehow heat-activated, and could only be sensed by actually chewing the cheese. In my mouth. So I set aside my natural abhorrence and took a bite of the remaining half.

No string.

I almost spit it back out, but without Beth there to deal with it, I knew I’d only end up finding old, chewed cheese on my work table at some point in the future. And so I swallowed it.

I didn’t gag, like I worried I might.

As I sat with that thought, the taste of mozzarella ripened on my tongue. It was kind of salty, kind of milky, kind of bland. And really, not bad. Not bad at all.

Research later determined that there was no actual string to be found within the cheese—that the product was named for the way it would shred into strips when you peeled portions of it away from the rest of the stick. That solved the string mystery…although I never did think of anything to tell Beth to stop her from divorcing me. Also, I emailed the manufacturer and suggested some ways in which they could label their product more accurately.

A few months after I added plain, cold string cheese to my diet, I was at a social enrichment function called Social Circle at the Rec Center where a local business sent over some pizza for a tax write-off, and I decided to take a chance and leave the cheese on. Not only did I get to enjoy the cheese…I didn’t have to throw the sausage away, either. Once I’d eaten four or five cheese-topped slices, the way pizza was always such a big hit suddenly made total sense to me. The point being, sometimes you make up your mind that you don’t like something. But if you’ve never tried it, how would you really know?

Making out with a guy is like that, too. Everyone’s always acting like it would be such a terrible thing to be gay—after all, how many people do you know who literally say, “That’s so gay,” if they’re trying to insult something? Probably you’ve met a few, especially if you’re surrounded by a bunch of inane teenagers at your job all day. And so, of course, it had never occurred to me that I might be gay any more than I thought the oily, stretchy, rubbery stuff on top might be the best part of the pizza.

I’m an intelligent person. But even I can be completely wrong about something, especially if I’m not privy to all the facts.

When I first met Daniel, and he looked at me the way that people look at each other in movies when they’re about to topple into bed together, it felt just as strange as the springy crush of mozzarella between my teeth when I bit into my first piece of string cheese. And then he told me I’d stumbled into a Love Connection mnem, and a bunch of a-ha moments cascaded together. While they were based on the erroneous premise that I’d somehow managed to activate the mnem with my own mind, and that the soldier in the grocery store was some bizarre, subjective product of my own well-buried desires, I believe the epiphanies I had at that time were valid, nonetheless.

 

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