In college drawing class, I learned about negative space.  If you look long enough at something, a shape forms around it: the thing where its object isn’t.  So I look and look at nothing, pining for the past, wanting to yank back that day when we planted the live Christmas tree in the yard, or that other day when the circus was in the park next door, and my parents collected elephant poop to fertilize our garden.  Elephants gone, dung gone too, no remnants now left.  I want back so many other days.  Memory provides only edges.  Pinning decrepit butterflies to velvet, I smell the dust, turn around, look back, and find another disintegrating wing of the few things I can recall.  I set out to order it all, by chronology, or theme; I make another list, “things that happened to my body,” such as falling down sixteen steps, such as running through the glass door.  Anything that helps me contain the mess.  But this story disobeys my desire for dramatic unity.  It won’t sit still.  Memory doesn’t fix itself close enough to truth, doesn’t allow our trust; the interior record is fuzzy, ephemeral.  I call the county office to gather facts.

I’d like to know, for instance, when my house was burned down, when it began its exquisite disappearance.

6 thoughts on “Excerpt from an essay I’m writing

  1. “Memory doesn’t fix itself close enough to truth, doesn’t allow our trust; the interior record is fuzzy, ephemeral.”

    So beautifully said, and so accurate.

  2. . . . and just try talking to siblings about a past memory where they were there also. Your memories don’t mesh, sometimes they even seem like different events altogether.
    Nicely done!

  3. Thanks, Nita. Yeah, it’s amazing how people will see the same event so differently. So I start to wonder about big things like whether there is such a thing as truth, and then I get completely overwhelmed!

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