Monday, August 26, 2013

Memory is a Tricky Thing

Memory is a tricky thing.

I am starting to realize that I don't have much of one.

When I was 16 I was in a car accident. I remember waking up in the passenger seat (I was driving and ended up over there); I remember the spider web of broken glass, the shaky voice of the EMT who was swabbing blood off my face, my mom yelling at me in the ER. I remember the doctor telling me that a head injury could affect my short-term memory.

Turns out, my memory was already pretty crappy and oddly selective. I don't remember pretty major things, but I remember some of the most inconsequential things very clearly. This is distressing to me.

A couple weeks ago I went through all of the letters I wrote to Dane when we first met and he was out on the boat in the middle of the Bering Sea. They were long and newsy, and Dane saved every one of them (I did not save all of his, which makes me feel even more like an asshole). Two things jump out: A) Dane was important to me pretty quickly, and B) I don't remember anything that was going on in my life at that time. I don't remember concerts or poetry readings I went to (some of them stand out in the letters - Exene Cervenka, TC Boyle). I don't remember the details of my friends' lives at that time. I don't remember things people did for me, things I did for them.

I would list more of what I don't remember, but I don't even know what I missed.

When I ask people what they remember,  they remember it all, clearly. I can recall the time when they are telling me, but to summon up the memory on my own is impossible.

I feel like I have been sleepwalking through my life. Even now when I try to figure out where to look to keep something in my mind I feel like I am missing details.  

This feels bad. Like way down deep bad, like I am careless or a bad person or selfish or self-involved or all of those things that I desperately do not want to be. Sicily says I can try and fix it from now, but now it feels like I am so desperate to make sure I don't forget that I am trying too hard, and it makes it worse. Everything is blurry, like Vaseline smeared on a lens, and I cannot keep anything in my head for five minutes. I have to write down and take notes and keep scraps of paper close at hand to remember the smallest of things; the "handy memo" function on my phone is getting close to capacity.

This feels like a major character flaw to me. How can I not remember? What have I forgotten? How quickly will I forget Dane? What has already slipped through my grasp?

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