I remember when I first remembered Isaac. I was seventeen and I had my first fight with my boyfriend. He had flirted with my best friend. I remember being so angry and then… the joy of the world was sucked from my senses. Isaac’s emotions came first: in cascading waves. Each of them beating my mind and pummeling my self-worth into a bloody pulp. Then the memories drowned me. I couldn’t move, transfixed in horror. The half burnt skin of his, the endless white lines along his thighs, and his room littered with half smoked cigarettes. If broken was a word that could be used to describe a person, he was it.
His mother would constantly pester him and demean him. He was never good enough in her eyes. He was nothing more than garbage that had overstayed its welcome. And Isaac believed it. He truly believed within the depths of his being.
Most people remember being someone famous. Not me. I remember a kid on the verge of suicide. For the next couple years, every time I saw something remotely related to Isaac’s life, his memories would flood into mine. His sense of self invaded my own. I was no longer Irene the aspiring bio-engineer, I was Irene the… My mom noticed the shift after a month. With some coaxing, pleading, bribing and all around pushing: she convinced me to seek therapy.
Funnily enough Isaac’s memories stopped coming in after 19. I guess that’s around the time that maybe his life turned around? It was around this time that I started getting memories of a different life altogether. Isabelle. Isabelle was an artist. She would draw these beautiful murals for children. I tried to see if I gained the skills of Isabelle, but damn, I still sucked at drawing. One day Izzy stopped drawing. She had lost her job as a daycare lady. It was the 2008 recession. The people without higher education couldn’t keep their jobs.
Izzy went back to college at 35. She took art classes but her style ran counter-current to the curriculum. It wasn’t standard. Stuck around for eight weeks before she dropped out of the class. Took some English classes and she enjoyed them well enough that she later became an English teacher. But I could feel her regret, she wanted to be an artist so desperately.
I’m 40 at the current moment. I used to look down on art as this useless ephemeral thing, but Isaac and Izzy taught me otherwise. At 21 one I switched my major to Psychology. Maybe I remember these lives because I’m supposed to help people overcome the darkness. At 35 I opened my own private practice. I see stories similar to Isaac and Isabelle all the time.
I’m no longer Irene the bio-engineer or Irene the depressed. I am Irene the therapist and I want to make the world a better place, one conversation at a time.