I have her memories now

Carrie Grinstead

lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Daniel, and their dogs, Pickle and Georgette. She works as a hospital librarian and can find just about anything on PubMed.

Her short stories have appeared in Tin House, The Masters Review Anthology, Joyland, and other literary journals. Her short fiction collection has been a finalist in multiple contests, and she is working on a novel.

Fiction

I Have Her Memories Now

written by Carrie Grinstead

I Have Her Memories Now is a short story about a medical miracle, a childhood obsession, and a first hearbreak. The main character develops a dark and destructive obsession with a classmate. She also experiences the first real dreams for her future, and her first crushing disappointment.

This story was first published by Tin House magazine, Summer 2018.

 

Read by AJ Ferraro

“I went to grade school with Marlie O’Hagan, the world’s first recipient of a double-organ transplant. I despised her. As a toddler, she’d suffered three heart attacks, and she lived only because a surgeon cut the heart and liver from a dead child and sewed them inside her.”

“I wrapped myself in towels, swallowed hard, and imagined myself down into my neck. Down once more to a warmer, darker place, where pulses were thick as summer air in our garden, on days when neighbors spread mulch.”

“I retrieved a paring knife from the kitchen. In the bathroom, I sat on the edge of the tub and imagined Marlie’s scars onto my belly. Hip to hip, tracing the curve between ribs and stomach.”

Q&A with Carrie

Tell us about your story...

I Have Her Memories Now is a story about the casualties of girlhood. The narrator develops a destructive obsession with a classmate. She also experiences her first real dreams for her future, and her first crushing disappointment.

The story is dark, but I hope it’s funny too. I read a fair number of stories about children, written by people who, I’m pretty sure, never were children; these stories tend to capture the cruelty, the uncontrolled id of children, but too often they miss the weirdness and the humor.

What was the inspiration for this story?

At one point in my life, I spent far too many hours in the SkyTrain stations of Vancouver, British Columbia, listening to podcasts, trying not to make eye contact with other sad and rain-wet people crowded on the platform. Near the end of my time there, the BC Transplant Society ran an ad campaign to encourage people to register as organ donors.

All over the stations and buses and trains of metro Vancouver, posters showed people in black T-shirts. Most everything was in grayscale, except for the organs drawn on the T-shirts: brightly colored outlines of lungs, heart, liver. LIVE LIFE. PASS IT ON, the posters said, and that just hypnotized me.

It was incredibly beautiful, this idea of our bodies being useful even after we’re gone, and I loved thinking about the borders between people and how porous they can be.

I wanted to write a story about someone who was equally compelled by transplantation, but I thought it would be more interesting if I told it from the perspective of someone very young – too young to express or even understand her fascination.

What have you recently read that you loved?

I adored Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga. It’s a novel set in an upper-class girls’ boarding school in Rwanda, during the rising ethnic tension preceding the 1994 genocide. It’s a serious, devastating novel, but it also has so many moments of teenage girls being absolutely hilarious (sometimes intentionally, usually not). I don’t think girls this age are often given credit for their humor, especially not in literary fiction, and Mukasonga manages it with incredible grace and authenticity.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to ride horses. I was a fanatical horse girl as a kid and was able to start riding again a couple of years ago. I sometimes wonder why I love these creatures so intensely, when they’re big and dangerous and, most of the time, don’t love me back. I haven’t come up with an answer to this question and don’t know that I need an answer, necessarily, but horses have always had my heart and I think they always will.

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