Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders – Nietzsche
I forget things.
This morning I forgot my keys when I left for work. I kissed my husband goodbye at the door, and then had second goodbye at the window (it’s a silly thing – don’t ask) and then headed up the street, Michael Kiwanuka in my headphones when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. I ran back to the apartment but the window was closed. I had to frantically ring the doorbell, startling my husband, probably inducing a heart attack in my cat, just to get back in.
I forgot the comics I wanted to bring to read today.
Once I forgot my father’s birthday. Poor guy.
One of my first memories involves attempting to fashion fairy wings out of wire hangers and paper in the hallway of my childhood home. But I had to be nearly six then. That can’t be right, can it? Most first memories begin at 3 or 4. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of the kitchen reenacting my kindergarten (or was it first grade?) recital for my Grandfather. Drum sticks tapping out a pattern. A song about a pussy willow.
I see pictures of myself, from holidays or parties and I think, Yes! I remember. But I don’t. I just know this picture of the tow-headed little girl. Not the moment the picture was taken.
I forgot what people from high school look like. It’s a vanishing. First the faces go, then the names. I stare at the pictures in my old yearbook and there’s just….nothing.
I forgot people from college…also whole events in college. I have to be reminded of these things by others:
“Remember, junior year? After the Ani show?” And I nod. Sure. Sure. That was great, I say, but there’s nothing there. I smile and nod. I fake it. I laugh when I’m supposed to – praying for a spark of recognition, something to pull it all into focus.
Since formal schooling ended, things have gotten stranger. I can’t track years. I have to count back to remember when we moved into our current apartment. Count back to grad school. If I graduated grad school in 2006…wait, was it 2006? When did I travel the country? 2007? When did I move back to Brooklyn? 2008?
My husband knows how old my parents are before I do.
The last time the doctor asked my age, I forgot it. Panicking, I gave the wrong number. I corrected myself about ten minutes later. He cocked an eyebrow, tilted his head. I wondered if he thought I needed a CAT scan.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about memory too and I wonder if that makes it worse. I spend time trying to fill the blanks, pouring them full of energy and hope and need. Color and song and smell. Anything that might craft a memory.
I write stories about it. I have characters who’ve had their memories stolen. Replaced with false ones. Characters who keep finding themselves in the same situation, unable to recall the last time they were there or what happened. Unable to recall the people they once loved and would have died for.
Their lives, stolen.
Swaths of blank canvass.
I imagine a great cold ocean filled with partial memories bobbing just below the surface. Snippets of stories, flashes of color, individual moments of time:
The summer of my 14th year
The first time I saw fireworks
The last baseball game I went to
Last night’s dream
I think of them all bobbing out there, just out of reach.
And what about today? This year? When will it vanish? How much time has to go by before it’s lost in that sea too.
All those moments, the seconds, the minutes, the days that craft a life. That tell the story of a single person, all of it…just floating.
It’s beautiful, really, like an unwinding of sorts.
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.
In the end, we’ll all just meet in Montauk.