Good Morning, Memory
A Love Letter to Memory, Sweetness, and Collateral Damage.
There are things I have committed to memory, although that is rarely the original intent: that is, leaning forward to press my face against a white mum I will then discover to be scentless, I do not do so because I would want to spend my idle moments recalling how the crispness of the mum’s non-fragrance leapt into my nose and scurried into my brain, where it now nestles with a song from ’98 and the color of my grandfather’s favorite tie (maroon). To use a favorite word of P.’s, it’s all incidental. (Do I believe in incidence? Or do I revert to it when I do not want to spend time elaborating on what I believe in, and do?)
For example, I have committed the lay of our house to memory, down to every little adjustment of the dining room chairs, every tiny journey of one shirt from one stack to another, of the cheese grater, of the astringent, of the unused socks, of the more expensive paint brushes, of our photos from childhood, of shredded paper, of receipts, of a book (from Hundertwasser to Silber, from Schulz to Deveraux, from Glück to Barthes), of the bedsheets with the Winnie the Pooh stencils. I have committed the dips of the bed to memory, which part of the pillows have been stained by a head fresh from the shower, which blanket is coarse but thick or silky but flimsy against December chill. How the 4 AM sun peeks through the heavy curtains to spill on the ugly floor tiles, the carpet tiles that still make me bitter, the sheets, the wood doors of the cabinets. The space between the bathroom walls, that I can navigate it without bathing everything with light.
I have committed the scent of the air of the house after a night out, after a weekend away. The scent of Gard to memory, along with High Endurance, and Olay, and Suave hand cream. The scent of a kiss. The scent of pork chops marinated in beer. The scent of wood shavings. The scent of his newly laundered clothes, and then my newly laundered clothes. The scent of flesh falling off from bones. The scent of ammonia. The scent of thinner and expensive tubes of paints and cheaper tubes of paint. The scent of new books. The scent of old books made new by recent acquisition. The scent of Kalinga coffee at noon. The scent of a cigarette lit. The scent of a cigarette refusing to be stubbed. The scent of used cotton in the ashtray burning from sparks. The scent of Victoria’s Secret Believe and Pear Glacé. The scent of the inside of his car, the scent of the seatbelt of the passenger seat. The scent of a the back of the neck in the mornings, the scent of that peculiar dip in a chest come evenings.
I have committed the squeal of the garage gates opening to memory. The slap of his palms against the steering wheel as he parks the car. The recoil of the seatbelt. The bang of the car door that shouldn’t be banged shut. The creak of the front door. The creak of a hinge in the folding table. The creak of the cabinet doors, second and third from the right. Doors. The resting of the futon on the floor. The unfolding of a blanket. That pause before water hisses from the shower. The coffee percolating. The bubbling of water and rice grains. The pots and the pans, the dishes to be washed, the dishes just washed. The alarm clock’s shrieks, the other alarm clock’s shrieks. The signal of a message, to him, to me. I have committed phone calls to memory. Not the content of them, no, of course not — but how they begin, and certain ritualistic highlights. Hello, I will say, and my voice has sweetened on its own accord. And I will hello into silence, the ever-present momentary void that can only be sealed by a more insistent Hello from me, and the intake of his breath that shall follow that Hello, and a sigh. I will always say more than him. I no longer mind this, well, not as often as before. This is the way we are: I spill my words and stories indiscriminately, and I imagine him nodding from wherever he holds his phone to his ear, and his eyes could dart to the sheen and shine and things around him, and then he returns to me, and then he will say, “Ah,” and I hear the gentle exhalation of his breath, and I hold my own, before I plunge in and move on.
I have committed tastes to memory. I will not elaborate.
I have committed the rasp of bare walls to memory, and of unvarnished wooden chairs. I have committed the early morning cold of the floor to memory. The warmth of paper newly inked by my own writing, the clean, mechanical dots and lines forming symbols forming verses forming blocks of words forming story forming creative portfolio for senior thesis. The scratch of coffee grounds one a canvas, under two coats of paint. The down that covers the stems of tomato plants. The heat rising from a pan just placed on the burner. The planes of another’s body, along with mine: my hipbones, his calves, the near-indiscernible rise of a new tattoo, the silver earring that loops through the lobe of his left ear, the veins that river my wrists, the hair that spatter his forearms, “a kiss on the back of the knee” (Sexton), an arm around my back, a palm on my shoulder, fingers on my arm, my cheek on his skin where shoulder meets chest, my hand on the soft rise of his chest, my fingers grazing his collarbone, the gravitation of our legs under the blanket. A nudge awake in the morning, just in time for class. A shaking to draw you out of a dream. Of course, a kiss. The reverberation of his smug laughter in the darkness. A playful, annoyed swat at the most accessible body part. A kiss: hello, goodbye, just because, what are you doing?, you look so silly but I love you anyway, you make me so bad I want to throttle you but here’s to show I love you anyway.
I have committed his name to memory, that when I am not with him, I find myself calling everyone with familiarity and expectation, with more than a little greed, and laughter, and breathlessness. A girl who makes me chuckle in fond exasperation shall be admonished with the first syllable of his name. A phone call to an aunt in need of my services (that is, to rummage in her closet in search for a specific beige blouse with the most specific alignment of ruffles) would begin, brittle, with that first syllable. Looking up from my notebook fifteen minutes I bent over it, his name would slide from my mouth like silken sand in loose fists. And. And when he calls, I will say his name once, twice, then once more, relishing the rightness of uttering a name to the one who bears it, and I will say it again, and again, before I slip into the other names I have bestowed upon him.
And so. From The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster:
“I want to talk about happiness and well being, about those rare, unexpected moments when the voice in your head goes silent and you feel at one with the world. I want to talk about the early June weather, about harmony and blissful repose, about robins and yellow finches and blue-birds darting past the green leaves of trees. I want to talk about the benefits of sleep, about the pleasures of food and alcohol, about what happens to your mind when you step into the light of the two o’clock sun and feel the warm embrace of air around your body. (…) I want to remember the cerulean dusks, the languorous, rosy dawns, the bears yelping in the woods at night. I want to remember it all. If all is too much to ask, then some of it. No, more than some of it. Almost all. Almost all, with blanks reserved for the missing parts.”
And then another. From The Passion by Jeanette Winterson:
“I say I’m in love with her. What does that mean?
“It means I review my future and my past in the light of this feeling. It is as though I wrote in a foreign language that I am suddenly able to read. Wordlessly, she explains me to myself. Like genius, she is ignorant of what she does.”