A series of unfortunate pop culture references.
Aww You Shouldn’t Have by Ripley Soprano
Waiting for a Memory
People tell me that I have a crazy good memory. For better and for worse, I can remember almost every detail. Better, because for those who do remember, we can value instances, and affirm people by reminding them of their resilience (or, if you so choose, embarrassing them with stories of fuck ups). Worse, because people do not trust you if your memory is clearer than theirs. Like it or not, memory gives you power, makes people think that you care, even though forgetting doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t. You have to hold stories that people don’t like, and some you don’t like.
Sometimes I’m envious of people whose traumas have blocked out memories, where mine have been forced to the surface like hungry fish. I wonder if they sleep through the night, or if they pray to recall those strands of memory in a fever dream.
I never sleep through the night, maybe because the memories are too loud, too contradictory, and I don’t know which to believe. So, I’m recalling a bit of 2015, all in moments of correspondence with pain or loneliness or light. Here is what I remember.
“i’m dressed like an actual witch!” A little photo is attached and I have to turn on the data on my phone for a few seconds in order to download it. “wearing a cape and everything.” This time last year, the witch trend was cradling me and my friends, finally the heretic was being celebrated, not burned. LiLo joined a coven and there were these mugs or T-shirts, I can’t remember which, that read “the granddaughter of witches they couldn’t burn.” There’s something really magical about when somebody lets you into their self-actualization and perception. In that moment I felt like I had a blood sister, the ones that spit on their palms or even prick their fingers and rub them together, ready to go to the grave for one another. That was a trend I could get down with, but witches are out now.
I sometimes joke that I blame all my life’s problems on getting married too young. Except I’ll never actually place blame exclusively on a failed relationship because reductionism makes me itchy. If there was a cream for it, I would apply it daily and do all the reductions I want. Oh well, I guess. It’s a little weird because the marriage was supposed to solve almost all of our lives’ problems and for a while it really did. At least, materially.
These days my ex and I talk once every couple weeks, always on my initiation, but before we split, it was the other way around. With every back and forth, I don’t know what they want from me. I fear it’s nothing at all. I remember somebody else telling me that she couldn’t believe how her ex wouldn’t speak to her anymore. In a tired, quiet voice of disbelief she said, “I just can’t believe you could do that to somebody you once loved.” Isn’t it funny how heartbreakers often play dumb. But, when I sit with everything that happened, I can’t blame my ex for not responding for weeks at a time. I can’t summon any amnesia, I know that I created the conditions that fostered this distance. Recently, in an exhaustive attempt to show I care, I got up the courage to tell them that I’m staying at home for Christmas for the first time in a decade and wonder if they have any plans: “my mom and I would love to see you.” My chest feels sore but I can’t tell from what.
Over the phone, my mom tells me, “he likes his blanket this specific way above and tucked around his ears.” She’s gone back to that metropolitan Canadian city in which she grew up to visit her dad who is dying. After suffering multiple strokes over the course of the past five years, my grandfather apparently still points to his hospital wristband, “can you get this thing off me?” My mom relays this all to me, imitating his frog-like croak, or maybe it’s her voice cracking, I don’t know. In my head, I’m like, he’s gonna croak. I’m lying on my bed staring at the ceiling, the position I spend 80 percent of my time in. I’ve never heard her so sentimental, hearing her like that makes me feel like I’m standing on a frozen river, irritable and uneasy. She goes on. He’s told her much too much for an old man to tell his youngest daughter, even though she’s not so young anymore: stories of lighting the fireplaces of widows in his neighborhood when he was a teenager and then having sex with them, to keep them company maybe, or, “have himself some fun.” He doesn’t know where he is, confuses my mother for one of her older sisters and sometimes a nurse, and she plays along. Getting angry at somebody with dementia is about as helpful as, I don’t know, something not very helpful.
I wonder what it is like to be a sister. Even more, I wonder what it’s like to have enough memories of your dad to feel painfully sentimental about the way he likes to be tucked in.
“The future is both hard and exciting and it will be ok.” When I ask how they are doing over text, my friend who lives on the other side of the country mentions that they have a new psychiatrist. They’re trying out mood-stabilizers after several months of dealing with upswings that rival their worst downswings. Their doctor said that they are still in a four- to six-week danger zone, especially as their dosage increases. I tell them that I ghosted on my therapist a few months ago, and that I should probably find another. Lord knows. I ask about the mood-stabilizers. (I really wish there was just a pill I could take to feel ok with distance.) No side effects yet, they said, but it’s scary because two of the side effects can actually kill you, and you can tell by their names. Aspectic meningitis, necrotic rash. I shift back to Google avoiding the image tab and skip along to Wikipedia. “wtf” I type back. “necro” I hit send. “scary” I hit send again.
Squinting at the device light, I am in awe of the patience they have with their own well-being, and jealous of how they’ve found a doctor that gets them. They send a picture of their feet cozy next to a sleeping cat. “you are in my heart” says one of my blue bubbles. Another, “no matter what coast,” and then, “you are on.” “aww.”