Friday, October 16, 2009


There are people who seem able to forget who they were, what they stood for, what moved them...they turn their backs on the people they were in order to pursue the people they are now. It is almost as though they have no memory of what forged them, of what made them, of how they came to be.

I cannot be this way. I cannot forget. I know who I was and who I am today and what the difference is; I know the journey. I respect that girl I was; I can't be angry with her for simply not knowing. I cannot dismiss that Chana just because I now know different things than she did. This is aside from the fact that I see that Chana staring out of other people's faces and I look at them and remember how I was.

We are reminded in the Haggadah that we descend from idol-worshippers. We are not to forget our roots. It is only in knowing who we were that we can truly understand who we have become.

So no, I do not forget. I carry my past with me; it forged me. I carry people in my heart. The heart is a curious organ. It splinters all to pieces and the different shards belong to different people. Once given freely, they cannot be taken back. We all hold pieces to each others' hearts. The only question is whether we choose to remember or to forget. I choose to remember.

When I walk through the city, I don't see places. I see people. I walk into Hot Topic and think of Marc because of the day I heard "Call of the Ktulu" playing there. I walk to Fort Tryon and think of Simcha and the book and the lake, glittering in the sun. I walk into Gottesman and I don't see books and shelves. Images of people dance before my eyes, memories of where they were and what we said. I walk by the Disney Store, Avi & David's, Burger Bar, Central Park, J2, The Food Emporium, etc and I remember. I walk to Bryant Park and think of Avi in his sunglasses. I see a dozen red roses and think of Yaelle. I walk to Wolf & Lamb and think of Josh. Cafe K and American Girl Doll belong to The Little Old Lady. In downtown Chicago, there's a plaza with pigeons that is Sam's. And The Bean and the Botanical Gardens are the other Sam's. I cannot see a bag of mini M&Ms without remembering, and it's the same with vitamin water or dark chocolate. A tin of Hersheys and Toys R' Us children's mugs.

I cannot forget even if I were to try. My mind is haunted by images, memories that alternatively strike or caress. To walk in the city is to walk through my life. It is to remember the people who have walked beside me, to see it all as though it were happening again right before my eyes.

Perhaps it is because my memory is structured in this way that I can experience such intense joy and darkness in life. The sting of the blow and the whisper of delight does not fade with time. It is relived and relived and relived until I can find a meaning in it. And even then, it does not disappear. These memories accompany me as I walk through the world; they are my vanguard. My memory is a lived thing. It is real. It is real enough that if I do not actively block myself off from the flood that will come, the emotions will rush back as well.

There is a person I cannot stand to see. In their presence, I am afraid. I am afraid because I remember my fear and powerlessness and weakness and that is what returns to me. Even to imagine confronting them is difficult. It doesn't matter that I am not in the same position now that I was then. The emotions are far too powerful for me to recognize that fact. I know it intellectually but it is what I feel to be true that matters. To think of meeting this person voluntarily fills me with unimaginable fear. Why? There is no reason this person's opinion of me, their words or statements should touch me in any way. But I freeze up in the street when I see anyone who looks like this person; my heart beats faster if I hear a voice that reminds me of theirs. Should they speak to me, I reply politely and pretend all is well, not daring to say what I wish to say. The words remain unspoken. I know how a conversation with this person would end and that is why I do not dare to speak. It will leave me bleeding; they will not hear a word. Or worse, they will pretend to hear, insincerely.

No, I do not forget, not the good and not the bad. I cannot forget what I see before my very eyes. I can run, find a place that was untouched, but even there I will find something to remind me. Also, I refuse to spend my life running. The memories are my companions but I choose how to see them. The dream comes true according to its interpretation.


The Cousin said...

I too oftne experience a similar phenomenon.

(Putting on my dorky lab coat)
The theory behind this is that you have the certain locations cueued to specific memories and people. Thus in a neural nework, the cue has been associated with the representative pattern.

[takes dorky labcoat off]

Same thing happens to me with certain things. Be they songs, names of cities, etc.

Still struggling to get over the association every time I see bottles of Diet Pepsi...but I'm wokring on that one :-P

Anonymous said...

Life is made of memories, both good and bad. People may pretend to forget them, but in reality it's hard to do.

Liked this post very much. Sorry guys are not invited to your shiur. Please post the content. I'd love to read it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was saddened that there was someone who has hurt you so.

I think that one reason G-d has made us many is that we can, each with our splintered and shattered hearts, help make each other whole. You in this blog have helped do so. You have allowed us to borrow the strength of your heart in the places we are weak; perhaps someday you can borrow our fragments to strengthen you should ever the need arise.

In this way, perhaps, the fractured bnei Adam can again be one and whole. :)

Erachet said...

Totally know what you mean here.