Forgotten Sunsets

Memory… is the diary that we
all carry about with us.
~ Oscar Wilde

As I wrapped up final edits and turned in Buried Memories (the novella formerly known by the working title Headlights), and quickly approach the anniversary of a memory I’d rather not have, I find myself thinking about memories. Not the actual events and people themselves, but rather, the phenomenon known as memory.

If there’s one thing we all share regarding these silly little morsels, it’s the fact that we are not in control. Or sure, you can study for a test and memorize something. You can repeat something until it’s become seared into your banks. But you cannot truly choose which strange little moments your brain decides to store away for a rainy day, or which it will dump because it has randomly decided you either don’t need it or won’t miss it.

Or will you?

I can’t remember what my Nana got me for my 14th birthday, but I can remember all the words to a song I hated from that same year. I wish I could remember the present.

Importance isn’t the key. It was really important to remember those things for history tests… never could. It was really unimportant to remember the strange little details of a paper menu place mat I could still draw to this day. Desire has nothing to do with it. I really want to remember that great idea I had for my novel storyline, you know the one, that popped into my head right before I fell asleep. I have no desire to recall the smell of the strange man that sat next to me on that plane trip. And neither trauma nor drama are catalysts either. I have equally remembered and forgotten both good and bad things. My memories are not weighted either direction.

I’ve always tried to play with this… ability, for lack of a better word. For as long as I can remember. I’ve tried both studying every little detail to never forget something, and glancing broadly. I still have no control over which stay and which disappear. I’ve tried tying moments to a time or other sense—smell, taste, whatever. I still have no control.

As I watched the sunset last night, for the four millionth time, I realized I’ve watched four million sunsets (oh just let me exaggerate!). And while I can remember watching a handful of them—the events around it, reason, time, place, whatever—I don’t remember exactly what they looked like. I don’t remember the shades or bands of color. I don’t remember the shape the clouds took, or if there were clouds. I remember, or rather “know” I watched the sunset. But just as I’ve stared at the moon on countless nights, repetition doesn’t always work for making a memory. Of course, there’s also the difference between a true memory and a memory of a memory, which is really just an echo and has no real details, but like the knowledge of four million sunsets rather than the detailed memories.

There are things I have forgotten I wish I could tap into, and perhaps some day something will trigger them and just like that I’ll remember. There are other things I really really really wish I could forget as if they’d never happened. There are sweeping generalities I’d like to recall because it would bring the feel of what I’m trying to remember regarding this or that. And there are tiny little details that refuse to blur, and as such, keep unwanted memories intact like a waterproof photograph that you can’t even burn.

Memories are strange. Or rather, the phenomenon is amazing, but the subconscious, unconscious, little twerp living in my brain, in charge of filing this one and tossing that one, is a strange creature indeed. A creature I wish I could cage… and occasionally beat.



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