Three For One
Memory: Speak, See and Remember!
Memories fade indiscriminately. On the path to forgetfulness, there are many trails to choose. Unfortunately, there are not as many paths back again. There is the creeping decay of memories as relations wither. Friends, family, old acquaintances, and even one-night stands all drop off. Once the common thread, the tapestry of memory that held an individual disappears completely, he or she is gone. Completely gone. Their hopes and dreams, manners and habits, odd phrasings and even their smell disappear so completely that they may not have very well existed. Maybe they didn’t. Imagine a faded black and white picture under time-lapse photography, a yellowness creeps in from all corners of the photograph slowly bleaching out the figures until there remains nothing but a clean, sterile whiteness: a complete and total disappearance.
There are many different thrift stores and flea markets at which one can purchase old, abandoned memories. Well, perhaps they are not memories. They are memorabilia of a life long past, veritable messages left in clouds from planes that have since rusted and returned to earth. You can read the handwriting on ancient postcards, read the dates and names on pictures, smell the mustiness of time pressing in from all directions. Glancing through this box of time, one is struck by the complete randomness. So many faces and so many names they are distinct from one another, and from you, as random points on a map. In this dead letter office of memories, randomness is the only common denominator.
Therefore, I propose a simple device, less of an invention than an apparatus, a recorder that documents the incidental actions and tiny forces that determine our lives. Names, addresses, and birth dates all have their place in myriad notebooks and software products, and so this is not the subject matter. Rather, I propose a device that records the smell of a lover’s hair on the pillow; the arch of a heel as a stocking is removed; the feel of freshly cut grass under one’s heel. All these seemingly inconsequential moments, the dust in the eaves that we have long since forgotten, that define our lives yet somehow slip by, this is what this device will preserve.
The only thing worse than forgetting is remembering. Experiences pile up, yet all I can recall are the calamities that have befallen me. Important dates and names are as elusive to my mind as the sparrow’s song, lost in the ether. Yet the drawn, pinched face of the biker-chick at the check out wearing the “Dicks are for Chicks” T-shirt remains inescapable. I frequently forget my niece’s birthday, and phone numbers from business associates are relegated to scraps of paper that remain unnamed and pile up on my dresser. I have enough scraps of paper to rival the confetti that falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It is not just the lingering effects of such trivial matters that concern me. It’s the larger incidents that become magnified with time. The petty encounters, small-time feuds, and provincial accidents that linger forever at the fringes of consciousness. The first kiss that ended with split lips, the party where you spilled Tanqueray over the hi-fi, the time you made out with your best friend’s boyfriend. All these problems pile up and leave you ill equipped and lacking the resolve to enter the still waters of adulthood.
In fact, it is only in adulthood that these problems remain compounded. During adolescence, everyone was an accident waiting to happen. In adulthood, the crimes and trials become more sophisticated. The one night stand that ends in a mysterious rash or the one night stand that ends in a pay-raise. Sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s both. The uncanny encounters of past loves and new loves that occur at the worse times and usually in restaurants after the first course has been served. It is as if these decaying relationships had the same strange elliptical orbit of dead satellites. They remain forever tethered to you and are destined to return unannounced and unforeseen.
Therefore, I propose a simple device: the disappearer. The disappearer removes these unwanted memories and incidents from your mind. The faces and names are washed away in a state of selective amnesia. There will be no more awkward silences or still moments of reflection. Each kiss will be new and there will be no hesitation as you reach for that bottle of Tanqueray.
Les Verres Colorés
I once had the liberty to spend six weeks traveling through Europe. The trip began in London, and then I moved on to Paris. It’s funny, because the English are often referred to as our cousins across the sea. This is at once the most accurate and slighting remark that could be applied to another nation. Cousins, extended relatives, by their nature only resemble ourselves to the degree they pervert our own customs. “They seem like us,” we say to ourselves, “but the accent is all wrong and their mannerisms…” Our voices trail off as we watch beings so much like our self behave in ways utterly foreign. It is as if we were watching ourselves through the distortions of a fun house mirror. Whether this feeling occurs at a family reunion or traveling through the satellites of London, the sense of dislocation is strange and unwelcome. This is the feeling I had in London, and left it quickly without the slightest remorse. I found it to be cold, dank and lacking any redeeming qualities.
On the other hand, I found Paris to be everything London was not. Streets and cafes lined the sidewalk, and everyone seemed to be out on a leisurely stroll. Whereas the streets of London were filled with people bearing severe countenances, the inhabitants of Paris were kind and easy going. Throughout the city, I saw mothers taking their children to the park in strollers. In fact, public parks were scattered throughout the city. Anytime one wanted a moment’s respite, a park was easily found. I spent the time I was there surviving on chocolate pastries and little else. I found as long as I remembered to use “Please” and “Thank You,” I was welcomed everywhere, and saw no evidence of the long rumored French hatred of Americans.
Based on these experiences, I would like to invent a headset with glasses and earplugs. This headset would convert all external stimuli into French. I could walk through the metropolises of the United States and yet experience the culture of Paris. I would not be subjected to the southern drawl of dimwits nor to the brusque and obnoxious accent of New Yorkers. Perhaps the world would not appear so garish and the McDonald’s dominating each street corner would quickly disappear? I could bid au revoir to the pick up trucks sporting rebel flags, and ignore the sputtering low riders without mufflers. Instead, I would feast on the elegant sound of the French language and eat my croissant. Later on, I would retire to my little chalet and while away the hours listening to Francois Hardy and sipping some wine.