Absent Memories

A childhood friend stays into my thirties and sometimes it feels like he is here to remind me of all the stories I have forgotten. Stories I should remember, stories that have seeped from me or perhaps were never stored to begin with. This night we sit at a lacquered table at the V & J Brauhaus sipping our German beers from tall mugs while he tells a story of us being robbed at knife-point. In his story, I am there but in my mind I am silently searching for this memory. Nothing he says triggers the familiar. I am lost to myself, I think. My stories are leaving me and I am lost to a past that has formed every inch of my conscience but one that I cannot touch my finger to and call into mind in order to address it face to face.

And it needs addressing. The hurt needs addressing but I cannot remember the moments. The abandonment needs addressing but I do not know when to look. The ultimatums need to be reconciled but there are no notes. And my parents need to be spoken to and held accountable but they are incapable of conceding. I am alone in resolving my pain and I suppose in reality we all are.

Two weeks have passed since that conversation and I am finding myself more and more desperate now to seek all the things I am imagining up that have been given away to absence. They resist me and I pry into everything to find them.

Another friend tells a story about her father and the wisdom he has instilled in her, flooding memories and the changes they create in the ways that she perceives her relationship with him. I want for these memories of my own, some moment where my father reached out with words of solace. Instead I have emails where he blames a seventeen-year-old version of myself for emotions neither he nor my mother taught me how to cope with, emotions they rubbed raw with their own fingers. His neglect sits at the table with these friends, and in place of sage words I find resentment festering to a virtual boil under my skin. The words, “I hate him,” slither back and forth across my teeth and fight to wriggle out. He does not belong at this table with other fathers who have sacrificed for their children’s love, for their children’s betterment. My parents do not belong at this table where love does not cast out children in anger, but reaches for them through it.

I have been told that in cases of severe depression, sudden shock or prolonged emotional trauma, the mind protects itself by not remembering the pain. Is it then, that I spent so many of my teenage years and twenties in such pain, that even faces have become muddled for me. I remember a moment, but not how I met someone, not how we grew apart. I see myself in a situation, but I don’t know the place, the time, the reason I’m there has left me. It is an insanely disorienting realization. And I wonder, if I forgot these people, these places, these memories that I took from myself, like a burden I tossed away, perhaps they do not belong to who I am now. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to remember.

But how can I tell stories when I don’t even remember all of mine.

In its devastation, I feel more alone than I have ever felt. I feel emptied of memories. An absent love, a desperate need and a vitriolic hate, have all turned my old stories to dust. I am like a stranger I must now get to know from scratch, like a foreign language I have no ear for, after so long.

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2 thoughts on “Absent Memories

  1. Beautifully expressed. Time healed the wounds my father inflicted on me. He could not have given to his children what he did not receive from his own parents. And so the cycle of abuse and neglect continues through generations.

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