My favourite thing about the Netflix crime show Marcella has to be how Marcella navigates her memory fog. The fugue phases. Granted in her case, she usually does something extreme or violent and then comes out of it, completely clueless as to what she has actually done, (and considering she’s a cop, this is totally a weird thing to empathise with, I get it.#problematicfaves)
Imagine slipping up around someone for the first time – imagine this in the context of intimacy. Imagine forgetting kisses, holding hands. Imagine forgetting the sensation of lying beside someone you love. Imagine forgetting what they smell like. Imagine not being able to remember a hug, but knowing you hugged. Imagine the knowledge of moments stripped entirely of their emotional quality. Imagine forgetting every time this person (or any person) has touched you. Imagine cracking a thousand jokes while you are busy forgetting conversations entirely.
Imagine a joke resurfacing. And not remembering it at all. Not even the fact that it happened. Not even the context it happened in. Not even the content of the joke. Nothing. Blank slate. No straw to catch. Blank look.
Imagine those moments that are only significant because of their emotional content – now imagine them being reduced to nothing. Texts are great in this regard. Evidence. Proof. Conversations help. Touch helps, but far less so, and not always. Moments with no conversation, moments that are entirely experiential, moments with no touch, are never there later. Silence is memory death usually. What is a moment where you lock gazes with someone, if it’s gone the next day? Repetition helps. but not always. Kisses happen, happen again. A kiss happened. Another kiss happened. Many kisses happened. This I know. What did they feel like. No idea. Some idea. Vague ideas. A body reality. Surface. My internal landscape is usually grey – there are no highs and there are no lows – until I seriously think about how weird it is that I can’t remember. (Then it feels like a low point in the moment.) There is an intense equivocation between good experiences and bad experiences in my internal landscape. Flatness. A grey beach with grey water under a grey sun in a grey sky.
The worst way to handle it, for me, is to get rattled enough so that it shows on my face how much I’m rattled. I hate conveying how deeply rattled I am that I’ve forgotten something of value. In moments like that, it’s also excruciatingly clear to me how vulnerable I am to someone else shaping my reality – or past realities. Trusting someone to tell me “[Snowfall] happened. We went to [a Christmas party]. After, we tried [watching the Smurfs].” But those blank spots often could be filled with anything and I’d have no idea if it’s true or not. In the example above, something involving more than two people is easier to remember. But even those instances have blank spots. I could tell you who was at a party, but not what… happened. I may be able to share topics of conversation, but virtually nothing about emotional realities of people as it happened – including my own.
I do remember some memories sometimes though. Actually, the only thing more intense than losing memories is suddenly remembering one – the characters of these memories are never consistent – but there are two broad categories. One is a tunnel vision type of intense recollection. Echoey voices around the corner. Blurred out edges. An intense focus on the immediate foreground – audio and/or visual. I sometimes feel transported when that happens, like a second reality that overlays on top of mine. A reality I am shifting into and out of. This usually happens when I’m in a geographic space – a location – I’ve been before but wasn’t expecting to be in again, and forgot how to get there to begin with. It feels less like treasure hunting and more like emotional quicksand – I’m suddenly two people in two different timelines – or dead in one, a ghost, and alive suddenly in the past. I’ve always wondered what I look like when that happens. I know I disappear on some level. I know it’s not pleasant to witness. An ex described it as my eyes slipping away. I believe him – in those moments, I lose a sense of the present day. I lose my sense of self too. Everything becomes a fog – past and present together. Me, abstracted. I feel I turn into a blur – an unfocused camera blur. Ghost caught on screen.
Most of the time, I’m very ok with my particular brand of memory loss/lack of retention.
But these days, I’m increasingly not ok with it. I would like to remember.