Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Lost Lifetime

It started innocently enough, with my mother making a comment to me about the 14 boxes of 'stuff' she has in her basement with my name on them. Figuring that there's no time like the present, I pulled one off the shelves and began to go through it. And jumped, with no warning whatsoever, behind the looking the glass.

First there were the class notes. Reams and reams and reams of notes from classes I took in college, as well as during my junior year abroad in Scotland, where I attended St. Andrews University for a year (1984-1985, gulp) on full scholarship. (Greatest year of my life, bar none. Sorry Baroy. Sorry kids. Just the way it is.) All this knowledge, all this intense studying. All of it, gone. I mean, completely. I was staring at a slew of chemistry notes, and realized that not only could I no longer figure out some of the homework problems I used to toss off in five minutes, but I couldn't even figure out the notation that half of them were written in. No memory of anything I learned. Poof.

But that, I'm thinking, is probably true for most people, especially when you're talking about subjects that you never had to use again. I mean, I was looking at a paper I wrote at St. Andrews about the impact of the Varangians on Russian literature, and all I could think was that I not only couldn't fathom ever having thought that deeply, but I didn't have even the vaguest of inklings of what or who a Varangian is! Still, I knew that this wasn't unusual. I do remember a whole lot of the biology I learned, even in high school, despite the fact that most of that information came into my life more than 25 years ago.

What did freak me out a lot more were the letters. Dozens upon dozens of letters written to me that year in Scotland from my friends and family at home. I squealed when I saw them, then started sifting though. And then realized: Shit. Not only are there things in these letters--inside jokes, references to events--that I have no memory of, but there are letters from people who I can't recall at all. Not even a blip. These are people who were clearly part of my life--even somewhat important therein. And yet...nothing.

For instance, I pick up one letter, and it says...

...I'm living off campus this year. During the summer I stayed up here. (Remember the "TC, you really don't want that chair, do you?")...I'm now officially in the 5-yr-MBA in accounting program at U. I'll be graduating with you!...Guess who I 'sawr' in the pub on Friday--I hope it doesn't depress you. J and G. They are getting married in a year or so. You'll be back in time to appear at the wedding so that you don't have to forever hold your peace.
And all I can think is...Who is this guy? What chair? I know who he was talking about getting married, so he must be someone who lived on my floor either during my freshman or sophomore years, but...Shouldn't I know? Shouldn't I remember?

[Actually, it just came to me as I was writing this...Phew. I can vaguely remember him, and now that I do, I think we were pretty friendly. I also think he may have been on my floor both years, but then again, it may only have been sophomore years. Still have no clue about the chair though.]

So I pick up another letter:

The reason that I'm writing now is that not more than an hour ago I decided that I was going to return to U for Camp U so I can say hello to the seniors I know before they scatter like cockroaches throughout the United States. I was hoping that this letter would find you at home and possibly convince you to voyage up to U next weekend yourself, if not for your sake then for the sake of S, as she will need all the help she can git...Truthfully, it would be good to see you and hear about your trip.
This one? Nada. Nothing at all. The name doesn't even ring a bell. Someone who thought his words might get me to travel four hours up to my university to hang out over a weekend with him and one of my best friends. Someone who alludes in other places to "certain incidents involving beer," and yet I'm no more sure whether he's talking about me or S or another of our friends than I am of who the heck he is. Did I sleep with him, this faceless guy? Did I fool around with him? Did one of my friends? Who the hell is he?

The final straw, though, was the poster. If you had asked me two days ago about this poster, I would have stared at you blankly. But when I unfolded it, I remembered--or at least I think I remembered. I think it was something that my friends put together for me to take with me to Scotland. It was full of things cut out from magazines--phrases, faces. I looked at it, remembered what it was, and almost wanted to cry. I can't describe the feeling. There was no feeling. There was no connection. I don't know who these magazine-cut-out faces belong to. I don't know what these phrases mean. I don't know who this person was, this person that so many people seemed to care about and tease and love. I feel like an amnesiac. I feel like I've lost myself, or at least a large and interesting part of myself.

I would say it makes me depressed, but really, I'm feeling nothing at all. No memories, no feelings. How sad and empty is that?

free hit counter