“There are some great books that sneak in under the radar, that we hear about quietly through word of mouth. They don’t have a lot of hype; no publicity, no promotional campaign. But when you read them you suddenly know…this is a classic. This is a gem. This is what you look for in a book. That’s what you get with Memorizing You By Dan Skinner. Read it, and I guarantee will read it again!”

You don’t know how to swim, do you?”

I was surprised. “How did you know?”

He opened his arms wide, taking in the vista of the lake. “Lake,” he said, and then he pointed at me. “David.”

“Okay, Sherlock. I can’t swim,” I admitted.

“Would you like me to teach you?” He stood up, waded into the water, turned and extended his hand toward me.

“I’m actually pretty afraid of water,” I told him. I had to be honest. The idea of deep water sent me into a panic. “I’d rather not.”

He stood his ground with hand outstretched, smiling. “C’mon. Time to be a big boy.”

Reluctantly, I stood and took his hand. He waded me in deeper. To my shins. To my knees. To my waist. I didn’t like the feeling at all.

“Good,” he said, encouraging me. “We’re gonna teach you how to dog-paddle first. It’s the easiest.”

I was nervous. “Dog-paddling?”

“Yeah. Just watch me. You’ll see. It’s totally easy. You see mom’s doing this with their baby’s at the pool.”

“Great. Baby swimming. I feel better already.”

He stepped a few more feet out, and down. The water was at his shoulders. “Watch me. It’s just all about moving your arms and legs at the same time. Keeping your head above the water and just breathing regular-like.” He did the demonstration for me. It looked easy.

“Okay. Come here,” he said, his chin barely above the water.

I felt the slippery rocks under my feet. The water darkened where he stood. I hesitated.

He waded back to me. “If you’re going to learn to swim, you have to get in the water. You gotta trust me. I’ll take care of ya.”

Taking my hand, he slowly tugged me forward. When it reached chest level, I began to pant. He stopped, looked at me, and squeezed my hand. “We can do it here, I think.” He held his arms out just under the surface of the water. “I want you to lay chest down on my hands. I’m gonna hold you to get you started.”

His hands felt strong and reassuring as they pulled me in. I leaned forward onto his arms, keeping my head arched high above the water.

“Okay. Now slowly begin to stroke with your arms. Keep your hands cupped. And kick with your legs.”

He held me firmly in place as I did what he said. It felt like I was trying to move away from him in the water, but he kept me in place with his fingertips on my ribcage.

“Okay, a little faster now. Both arms and legs.”

I stroked and peddled faster. I felt it lift my body up in the water and off his arms.

“Watch your breathing. Keep it nice and normal. Relaxed.” His voice was soothing. “You’re doing great.”

I could feel that my muscles were still sore and strained, but the movement in the buoyant water made them feel better.

“Okay. I’m gonna letcha go in a minute, but I’m right here. So, there’s nothing to worry about. All right?”

I didn’t like the sound of that but I said, “Okay.”

“Just keep it going,” he instructed. He pulled his arms away from under me. I moved into the water.

“Shit!” I barked, feeling uncertain.

“Calm! Nice and steady. You look great,” he called after me.

“Shit.” I could see that I was moving into deeper, darker water. I really didn’t care for that at all. I turned my head to look back toward the shore and aim in that direction. It looked very far away to me now.

“I’m right with you.” I heard him swimming close to my side. “You’re doing great. You’re swimming, pal!”

My movements became more frantic, wanting to bring the shore to me closer and faster. Soon my toes were touching the bottom again. The slick rocks. I planted my feet and began walking to shallower water. I could hear Ryan behind me.

“You did it!” he yelled. “You swam. You swam the very first time!” He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and patted my stomach like I’d just won a race. “First time, a winner!”

I laughed with my panicked breath, and sat down on the bank. He was next to me.

“Not that bad, was it?” his toothy grin was alive with enthusiasm.

“No,” I lied, water streaming down from my wet hair into my eyes. It was much worse, I thought to myself.

We had our sandwiches and Kool-Aid, spread our towels, and lay in the sun. There was no sound of the outside world, save the occasional plane that flew overhead. It was like our own private Eden. It wasn’t long after we lay down that I heard his light snoring. It was like a lullaby that called to me as well. I drifted away in the warm cocoon of our secret paradise.

When I opened my eyes, I could tell the sun had shifted. Late afternoon. We were in the shade of the elms. I was facing the lake. Ryan was behind me. I turned my head over to face him. He lay there staring at me. “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he said back.

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Whatcha doing?”

He smiled and blinked. “Memorizing you,” his voice said, dreamily.

I was silent a moment. I wasn’t certain of what he said. I saw a butterfly flit past him. “What?”

“The real color of your eyes. They’re not just blue. There’s some green. Brown. Black.” He pushed my hair behind my ear. “How your ear is shaped like a perfect tulip petal.”

A fingertip outlined the dip beneath my nose and lip. It tickled. It made me scratch my nose.

“The way you sit close to the table when you eat. How you hold your fork upside down to pick up your food…”

He was telling me things I didn’t even know about myself. I’d never even been aware of him watching me that closely. His hand trailed down from my shoulders to the small of my back. “The hair that grows like golden feathers right in the bend of your back.” He rubbed the hair back and forth with the tips of two fingers. I felt it. I’d never known it was there.

“Why?” I asked. I didn’t understand the curiosity.

“Because it’s important.”

I didn’t know what to say. I was amazed. Flattered. No one had ever paid much attention to me before. His eyes remained fixed on me. “When did you first know?”

“First know?”


Then I understood. He’d never asked me the question before. I told him the story. The one that would be with me every day of my life. The beautiful hand. The Coke bottle kiss. The bike ride. The sunburn and Noxema. I described each scene as if I were laying out pictures from a family album.

He was quiet a long spell. Then he said, “That’s why it’s important.”

We swam again. This time I did it without his assistance. Even though it was only dog-paddling, I was doing something I’d never done. He made me proud of myself. I could swim.

When the day waned long enough to bring in cool breezes, we knew to head back. It was a long ride. I sang inside myself the whole time. Beatles, All You Need Is Love.

Available at Amazon. com

6 thoughts on “MEMORIZING YOU By Dan Skinner

  1. By far the most beautiful book I have read. I’ve read it 3 times now and do not get tired of the story. I even find myself on occasion remembering some of the the amazing things Ryan says to David. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you have not read it yet, please do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Memorizing You Revisited
    A couple of days ago I finished reading Dan Skinner’s Memorizing You. This is the seventh time I’ve read it since 2013 and right at the start of my comments I shall be absolutely clear. This is by far, the best story I have ever read. It is a truly beautiful, heart-warming and heart-wrenching work of art.
    Instead of just saying how much this story means to me I thought I would try to write down some more detailed thoughts. I will try not to include spoilers but if you’ve not read it, go and read it now, then come back.
    I recently had a note from a friend whom I’d given a book to as a present. She said she was enjoying it so much that she couldn’t wait to start it again and read it more slowly. That got me thinking, it was exactly what I was going to do with Memorizing You this time around.
    I honestly believe that this story is even more enjoyable in the second and subsequent reads, even though you know the entire arc of the story. For me, it has made the poignancy of the first third of the story exquisitely unbearable. By that I mean that the development of the characters and relationships takes on such powerful relevance and beauty, it breaks your heart even more.
    One thing I noticed is that the story seems much longer than the actual word-count and I think I’ve worked out why. Dan’s writing is like concentrated words. A Paragraph of Dan’s words is worth about three in a normal story. This is the very essence of the quality of the writing. It has been a pure joy to read and absorb parts repeatedly until the rhythm of the words is fully felt. I tried reading sections out loud which added to the experience. Although I have to say there were some parts I could not get out.
    Now I will admit that my tear ducts are on a hair-trigger, but the emotion that this story stirs in me is so powerful and so real. There are sections where I’m sitting in the chair sobbing as I read and even after all this time, reading the very last line of the book instantly chokes me.
    (As an aside, I have often thought that Dan Skinner should be a World-renowned author with several number one books to his name. His loyal fans could be known as Bluebirds).
    In all of Dan’s writing, it is the sheer beauty of the language that stands out and the dialogue he gives his characters is flawless and sublime. The things that Ryan says to David leave me breathless every time I read them. Obviously, all of them highlighted in my Kindle.
    The concept behind Ryan’s memorizing seemed to really hit me this time along with the injustice of what happens. I am unable to comprehend how I would recover if I was in David’s position. (It’s okay, I do know this is fiction).
    It is not just David and Ryan that give this amazing story it’s depth but so many others in the story. The journey with Rosemary, and Conner for that matter, makes me want nothing more than to have friends like them in my life. David’s parents, especially his Mum, add a great depth to the story, Judy, Marybeth and Donner too.
    I have usually come away from a read-through with very mixed feelings about Ryan’s Mum. This time, I think reading more slower and thinking more about motives, I’ve forgiven her for her actions after the event. In fact, I think there is much beauty to her character and love. Her call on religion is spot on. Ultimately, she has been a victim all her adult life.
    As for the epilogue, I do not have the language skills to describe my feelings. It is a perfect example of how with so few words Dan can reach in grab your heart and squeeze it. Every single word carries a massive weight and even after the number of times I have read it leaves me in a deep well of emotion.
    And that brings up the issue of a sequel. I believe I have read that Dan Skinner has not ruled one out but would only do it for the right story. I agree with that although this time I think I have come away with much more of a need for more of the story. Here’s my thinking. I believe Ryan deserves the later chapters to his story. When he tells David about looking ahead to the chapters in their story, it now seems to me that this is still a possibility. It could talk to his point about memorizing. How that unfolded for him and how he sifted dreams from real memories is surely a story. And I want Ryan and David to see each other again and Rosemary and Conner. There is no doubt in my mind that David has never stopped loving Ryan.
    Another thought has occurred to me and that is love at an older age. Ryan and David are no longer in the beauty of their youth but does that impact on the depth of their feelings for each other? Maybe I’m just being a romantic, but I hope that someday Dan can find the words. Let’s get to the Bluebirds.
    So yes, I can’t recommend this breath-taking story highly enough, but I also highly recommend reading it slowly and out loud, where possible. Languish in the sheer beauty of this journey and absorb the quality of this unbelievably talented story teller. I know I’ve said it in previous comments, but this story lives indelibly in my heart and I believe always will. Without doubt I will read Memorizing You and all of Dan’s stories again and again. I just wish that Dan could get the recognition and reward for the amazing stories he writes.


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