One day I may not know you, my friend, may not know who you are, not as already I don’t know people I have loved who have made themselves strangers or whom I have made strangers, but as if you truly were a stranger–maybe you’re standing on the platform and I am on some train rushing past, following that wind that comes before the train, or you are someone I take a shine to in a grocery store, or you’re someone in a crowd crossing the street and I feel a pang of almost recognition but I think oh it’s just my mind.
One day I may not know you, but I may see you and have that feeling of standing in the middle of a room and wondering why I came there. Right now it feels as if I am already only almost remembering you. If you pass down this road too, we may meet one day and neither of us will remember who we are–you think you will know but I won’t, I think I will know but you won’t, we’ll each wonder what happened to the other’s memory.
Sometimes in a cascade of not remembering little things, I think maybe there’s something larger, something more significant that I really need to remember, something that perhaps hopes that it can ride into my consciousness in the sidecar of some other lesser thing. Then trying to remember is more like listening for something in this kind of breathless caesura, a pause half a beat too long in which a world you could fall into, sometimes even want to fall into, opens up and all the words in your life are sliding down in it like sand in a three-minute glass.
The pause of not remembering already dogs me now when I’m speaking, halting and blanking until I think I may just give up on words, but maybe that’s what I’m listening for, those words that just fly out the window like there’s nothing to keep them anywhere, or maybe those words are beckoning me to follow to some place where they’re actually connected to something and someone will actually listen to them. Or it’s just another thing in that endless sequence of things that just happen as everything just happens, whatever it is that delivers one into what appears to be someone else’s life, a life that feels like a facsimile because so little in it can be recalled.
I can’t remember when I started to give what seems like everything over to the killing things of everyday life, this one-thing-after-another that impales day after day like done tickets in a diner–thankless work, a home you drive past when you’re going around the block a few times before you give up and go in. That home will go the way of the specific places that are becoming generic in my mind—the actual diner that I knew well has suddenly been subsumed in that Hopper painting, and already what little I can remember of my own life feels like something someone else has seen.
Still, it’s as if something has been saying to me remember over and over in increasingly extravagant ways, but I have been pulling back to that tiny thing inside that is the last place I can be, as if what I cannot recall is my very self. Then I feel like I’m that polar bear in a southern zoo in summer swaying back and forth and pacing and pacing and falling into that murky water into which the zoo has thrown huge blocks of ice that will never be huge enough or ice enough for any kind of respite from enclosure, not enough of anything for any kind of home.
In the forties, there was an asylum where the medical center is now, and after church on Sundays, boys would walk along the railroad tracks until they got to the fence where they could peer in and laugh and taunt and throw rocks at the crazy people shuffling around on the one day they were allowed outside. I bet those poor human beings from the asylum were trying to remember something or trying to forget something and forgetting when they wanted to remember and remembering when they wanted to forget or forgetting everything when someone spiked their tender brains. What on earth was there for those boys at the fence to laugh about? Perhaps, like people at all fences they can walk away from, they were laughing because they themselves were safely outside, and someone had set up a clear boundary of impeccable differences, at least for as long as those kinds of differences last.
Unfettered by memory, one may be released from inside the last place one can be, but that fence is still there, there till it begins to feel like some safe front one lives behind, at least you think so until you turn around to look behind you one day.