I could remember the train. It was one of the few things from before that I could recall with no shiny competing memories clamoring for my attention. I guess the Capitol hadn't really seen a reason to tamper with the idea of riding a train.
I was grateful because, despite where it had always taken me, I enjoyed it. I liked seeing the landscape of Panem flash through the windows. So many images, so many shapes, so many colors that I didn't normally see back in Twelve. And then, of course, there was that moment on the train ride back when I would first see the mountains again. It was the feeling of going home. I had seen "real" mountains, the ones in Two and Seven and around the Capitol. They were jutting enormous, majestic things that made me feel small. My mountains back home were soft and lush. They were green and purple, some days hazy and others bright. They surrounded the valley; we were always caught in their embrace. There really was no feeling in the world to compare to seeing them after a long time away.
Well, maybe there had been once, but I couldn't remember it anymore.
The list that Dr. Aurelius and I had made together was burning a hole in my pocket. A list of triggers. A list of things I should avoid.
I had met with him every single day, starting the day that I came out of the burn unit. I had expected something extreme, like they had tried in Thirteen, with morphling and video feeds. Instead, we just made lists. So many different lists. Things I liked, things I hated, things that made me laugh, things that made me sad in a good way, things that just made me sad, and on and on and on. They were to help me to remember. There were so many things I had forgotten. Or that had been stolen from me.
I tried not to think about it that way too much.
Once we had compiled a list of all of the life experiences I could remember or imagine myself having any sort of emotional reaction to, I had to relive them all in whatever way I could. A lot of times this just meant doing whatever the item on the list was, like baking a loaf of bread or tying my shoes. These things were easy, and I rarely reacted poorly to them.
More abstract memories were more complicated to recreate, and often required extra participants. Many, many games of Real or Not Real. Before Coin's assassination and the chaos that followed, Haymitch was there almost every day. Sometimes Delly came and we talked about our families, since we were both orphans now. Sometimes it was Johanna, who made fun of me in her mean-but-secretly-nice way, but was always going back and forth to Two so she could chop people into pieces (or so she claimed). I think the memories we shared together were as bad for her as they were for me, if not worse. But she came anyway. Annie taught me how to dance, even though it wasn't on any list. She just said it might be important. Effie came by a lot. She never talked much, though. I usually just held her hand while she pretended not to cry.
Once Gale came. Just once. It had been bizarre. Surreal. We talked about our school, and even who the cute girls in Twelve had been. The other ones, I should say. I don't know why he came. He looked like he hadn't slept in days, and there was a gash across his forehead. After he left, I had my worst flashback since the end of the war. The next day, though, I could remember the name of my history teacher, the smell of rain in September, and literally hundreds of other things that had been gone.
Every day more memories came back. Sometimes they were as fragmented and confusing as the shiny images they replaced. On those days, I would go into the kitchen of my small apartment and bake all day to anchor myself. There were plenty of hungry people in the Capitol now that so much of it had been destroyed by the war, so what I made never went to waste.
Other days I felt wonderful, as though the world were suddenly new and fresh. I joined the work crews in the street to keep myself busy, and to help out. The people in the Capitol still treated me like a celebrity (I still was famous, though what that meant now was so different), but I ignored it and spoke to them as I would anyone. We were all too broken for me to care about something so pointless.
Some days, though, I just sat in my room and clutched my hair, trying desperately not to remember the long braid, small chapped lips, and the way soft arms had clung to me in slumber. These days, Dr. Aurelius said very little.
In the end, after we had relived everything I could imagine ever having done in my life before being taken prisoner, we had the list. Seven items that triggered the flashbacks.
"Peeta," Dr. Aurelius had said in his slow way, "I'm not going to tell you what to do. If you avoid the items on this list as much as possible, you will probably have very few memory incidents in the foreseeable future." Memory incidents was the term he insisted on using for the flashbacks. It made more sense, I suppose, because flashback implied I was recalling something that had actually happened. The doctor had paused for a long time, as he often did. I assumed that he was finished.
But he wasn't.
"You could probably go the rest of your life avoiding these things. But if I might overstep my professional boundaries rather recklessly, I would suggest that you learn to deal with them instead."
And then he said I was free to go. Go wherever in Panem I wanted. And then, with the slightest twinkle in his eye, he told me that when I got there I should to tell her to pick up her damn phone.
The next day, I took the first train back to Twelve. As my mountains loomed into view, I took the list out of my pocket and read it one more time, even though I knew the contents by heart.
And at the very bottom, in small block letters.