One of the drawbacks of compartmentalizing your memory is not only forgetting about the bad stuff that happened, but also forgetting about the good stuff.
In elementary school, my math teacher tried to teach me that I would be faster with my multiplication tables if I just memorized them. I think I was afraid to.
“All of your answers are correct, Margie, but you’ve only finished half the quiz.”
Turns out I was solving each and every problem in my head. Mentally visualizing five piles of nine apples, and doing the math. Instead of just remembering what nine times five was, every single time. This, of course, spilled over into my real life.
I can recall names and faces from forty years ago, but have never put them together. I could watch a movie twelve times, and each time would be like I’d seen it for the very first time. (It’s something of a phenomena, according to my children.) It’s like getting off an elevator, and standing still for a few seconds to recalculate the map in your head before finding the exit – but for me, I have to do it to find the exit that I go out every single day. The upside, of course, is that you learn to do it quickly – and so new information is quickly absorbed, and acted on.
So it makes sense that, in writing this book, I’ve recalled those better-left-alone childhood memories, the bad ones. But I’ve also recalled some pretty amazing ones.
Mostly having to do with boys.
When you’re young, it seems there’s a never-ending supply of “hope.” Each new connection, or phone call (remember the phones that had wires, they were connected to a wall!) brought new promise; an excitement, heart palpitations…or not.
There were some really fun times, hanging out with musicians – but the one that stands out the most was a guy I met at a very out of the way dive bar, east of the city. Hell, we were both kids. I was probably twenty-two, and undergoing a break up with my boyfriend of two years. So there was some guilt there. We loved the music we were seeing, I think. I really couldn’t tell you who was playing, and I don’t think he could either. He told me he was a musician, and was working on putting his own band together.
Even at twenty-two, I had become cynical.
We somehow ended up back at his place, we were SO inebriated. The next morning, however, was the most horrifying and comical.
“Don, get your ass up here, we're leaving in 5 minutes!”
I woke up with a start.
So did Don.
“Um, I’ll be right back okay?”
“Sure, do what you need to do.” I sat there, naked, for a full minute after he left. His room was in an unfinished basement, mattress on the floor, guitar in the corner.
While I was dressing I noticed his pants on the floor – and his wallet.
I had to peek. Okay his name checks out. (I couldn’t remember what he told me it was the night before.) And then I saw his birthdate. Fuck.
He was seventeen years old. FUUUUUCKKKKK.
“How did he get into a bar, at seventeen?” I asked myself. Oh, right… remembering my own escapades at seventeen.
Fuck, Fuck, Fuck.
I got dressed and quietly walked upstairs. Like a ninja.
There was the whole damn family.
His brother- the shouter, his sister-in-law holding a baby, another toddler, and Don, getting ready to leave somewhere. Debbie Gibson was playing on the radio. It added to the annoyance of the situation, I’m sure.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I have to drop these guys off to pick up their car, and go to work.”
“Yeah, so he can make some fucking money and move out of my fucking basement,” his brother ranted.
His brother looked at me up and down.
“How old are you, anyway?”
Twenty-two . “Nineteen,” I lied, without a beat….twenty-two, and a mother of an 18 month-old, and a big fat sinner with a boyfriend at home who’s probably worried sick because we had a big fight and I’m going to break up with him today after not coming home last night.
I looked at Don, “ahm…I need a ride to my car.”
His brother glared at Don.
“Well, there’s only one car working right now, so when I get done dropping them off, I’ll come back to get you.”
“Won’t you be late?”
More glaring from his family.
“Nah, they don’t care if I’m late.”
So I waited there, alone, for what seemed like an hour. The most awkward hour I've ever spent somewhere.
On the way home, he quizzed me about my life. He wanted to see each other again. I told him I was in the middle of a breakup, but the way I came off, with the guilt showing through, I think he thought I was in a bad situation, and so he said if I needed any help with that...
He had big, beautiful dreams – but I had a good friend back home, looking after my child and wondering where I was. Even though I knew I’d be free soon, I couldn’t reconcile his age, or even bring myself to tell him that I had a child.
I gave him a fake number, and kissed him on the lips before getting out of his car.
“You’re going to do great things, I can feel it.”
And he did.