Memories are like stars speckled across the night sky. Rarely linear in form, they’re merely loosely connected dots in the synapses of the brain. They appear and disappear. They reappear in different places, in different forms. Their stories change every time. They differ from person to place, perspective to circumstance. They’re pieces of the past that assemble like a puzzle to make up the framework of our lives. Life would be so much easier if we could control them. I wish that I was hard-wired to remember laughter, joy, firsts. I wish that I could latch onto privilege and experience, fortune and family, opportunity and love.
I wish that I didn’t remember at all.
Some say that the human mind blocks out that which is unpleasant, that which it wishes to forget. That there are secret passages in the brain where trauma is buried, black holes sealing off pain and loss from the rest of the past. I say the opposite is also true, where the mind can fixate on what destroys it and suppress events that stimulate it. The mind is a vast chasm of blackness. We live at the mercy of its speckled stars.
My childhood memories are sparse, like half-charred pages from a burned book. Random. Me running around our first house, maybe four at the time, carefree, jubilant, in brown corduroy pants and corrective shoes, on my way to climb a sprawling oak tree in the back yard; skipping rocks in the Atlantic Ocean on camping vacations, windbreaker rustling in the misty breeze; my fourth grade teacher nicknaming me “Books” for how I answered the question what I was reading on a bus en route to a field trip (emphasis on the ‘B’, with puckered lips and air-filled cheeks); acne; playing air guitar and silent-screaming faux concerts as Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, and Ian Curtis. The first time undiagnosed depression reared its vile head—on the tailgate of a rusty, white pickup in a McDonald’s parking lot, with me confessing suicidal ideations and plans to a good friend under a starless fall sky. He said that if I went through with it he would brand my initials on his arm to remember me forever.
I was fifteen.