On Ten Years of apt by Anika Fajardo
The image of boys chopping earth worms in half to see if both pieces would squirm away still pops into my head whenever heavy rains bring their great-great-great-great grandchildren out of the safety of mud and sand. And to have that memory—the memory of the somewhat scary days as a small child in a neighborhood of rough kids—appear in apt (2008) was a validation of not only the infancy of my writing but also my memories. Since that publication, one of my first, I’ve written about dozens of other small moments, from riding in a car with Colombian cousins to mountain biking with the boy I would marry to smelling the ripe scent of my newborn.
Many of these memories have been published in journals and websites, a few in actual books. But countless others have been remembered and written and ultimately rejected and forgotten. Like the story of marking the little bubble for Hispanic on SAT forms, or the one about the English professor who smelled like patchouli, or the time my husband sat on a bat. These memories—captured in words and sentences and paragraphs on paper or ether—are what I’ve sent out into the world waiting to see what would come back, and what would land in a home like apt.
Recently, apt published another essay of mine, another memory that I’d clung to and shaped and refined, hoping someone would see what I saw. That story, “Something Recognizable,” is about déjà vu and jamais vu, each distortions of the brain. Déjà vu creates false memories while jamais vu erases actual ones, both of which are simply the brain playing tricks, making us see things that aren’t there or imagine what could have been or believe in what happened. And I find that the only way to capture the sensation of forgetting and remembering is to write it down.
That is what writing is, after all: either the creation or distortion of memories. It isn’t a resume or a book deal or a teaching position. Writing is the taste of arepas, and grains of sand between the toes, and red scabby knees. As I look back on the last seven years of my writing life, I see that the path has been as crooked as the worms that disappeared into the cracks and crevices of the miles of sidewalks that wove their way through my childhood and my memories.
Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. Her work has appeared in apt, Hippocampus Magazine, Literary Mama, among others, and in the anthologies Brief Encounters: Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (Norton) and Oh, Baby! (InFact Books). She is the recipient of several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Jerome Foundation.