The list of things I can’t remember is endless: Grade Three, the 1980s, most of yesterday.
My memory-less status isn’t acute enough to get me featured on a Fifth Estate human interest story about brain injury, but it does put a damper on remember-when sessions with old friends. Just last week I got together with a pair of girls with whom I grew up. They lived just up the hill from my house and we spent every possible moment together engaged in imaginative feats that ranged from creating an entire language—the little studied "chicken language"—which was modeled after the goings-on in their hen house—to an elaborate game called "Letters", during which we each hid out in a separate room of their house, wrote each other messages (using pseudonyms, of course), and dashed back and forth trying to deliver these missives without being caught. In this early precursor to e-mail, we were, like kidnappers, brusque correspondents, prone to using the word "shut" as an adjective.
This is Madge. I saw you in the hall! Now I know you are the one that told Priss that I sent her that fart Scratch & Sniff. You are so shut because now I am not going to respond to any of your letters, even if they are direct pleas for help in the case of a fire. Double Shut.
At dinner Carlene and Debbie tried to stimulate my memory with the photo album, but I still can’t clearly remember any of the games: not stick and rope, not dress-up, and not that game where we belched in harmony to the Sound of Music.
Of course, the flip side of not remembering the good times is that I can’t remember the bad either. Sometimes it feels as though my memory is a tactfully dark blanket pulled over the corpse of my unappetizing past. I can’t remember the day I decided not to go up the hill anymore. I can’t remember when my escapism started to be accomplished through chemical rather than imaginative means. All I know is that the games in my life became far more serious.
"Do you remember the rabbit funeral?" Debbie and Carlene asked. The proffered photo showed us, in all our stick-thighed, straight-haired, tomboy glory, bowing our heads and pinching the bridges of our noses, paying our respects to four Old Style beer cases that served as coffins for the bodies of four black and white spotted rabbits.
"What happened to the rabbits?"
"The bear got them. It was our fault: We left them out in the hutch all night."
At the hospital when Janet, their sister and my first best friend, was sick the last time everyone played Remember When as though their lives depended on it. People tag-teamed memories, trying to surround her and protect her with a comforter of childhood recollections. I laughed, disjointed, out of it. When my turn came to stand over her bed, I tried to talk about the old times we had shared at her house. But I had almost nothing to offer.
On the second to last night Janet’s mom and I stayed with her. Janet’s mother used to call me her fourth daughter, she didn’t seem to hold my defection to the River Lethe against me. Together we washed Janet and massaged her feet. Freaked out by Janet’s pain and my fear, I tried a New Age patter, hoping she could still hear me through the red rush of the morphine: "You are in a green field. The sky is blue…" But I couldn’t remember the goddamn meditation. Then it came to me. Another game we used to play. "You are in the green field. A gentle breeze is blowing. You are dancing the Hungarian Bulgarian Goodguy dance to that song with all the jungle noises on the Mellow Moments 8-track. You are wearing your most hideous brown and orange-striped leotard. You are winning the Hungarian Bulgarian Goodguy Dance Competition!"
Janet made a low noise, laughter slipping out from under the pain. "That is so shut," she whispered, remembering.
Susan Juby probably can think of more. Definitely.