Losing a Memory and Forgetting a Loss
In my notebook lives a lonely line:
“I wonder what it would be like”
I guess the thought floated away before I could finish it. It’s chaos in this world — thoughts passing through unnoticed, untouched. We don’t even know what we are missing most of the time. But this thought, whatever it was, has a little headstone in the graveyard. I can visit it, even though I don’t remember it.
The other day I was cleaning my freezer and found a steak. Mind you, this was not any old steak. I had a relationship with this steak, and it went like this:
I bought it.
I craved it.
I couldn’t find it.
I thought I lost it.
I decided I had probably never bought it.
I stopped thinking about it.
I found it.
Did I lose it or forget it? I guess it was both. First I lost it, then I forgot it. Importantly, I did not lose it and forget it at the same time. That’s a different sort of disappearance altogether.
Somewhere in the middle of my relationship with the steak, I developed a relationship with the idea of it. I pondered the meaning of losing something you only thought you had.
This loss — or perceived loss — occupied me for days. I brought it up on first dates; I wrote an essay about it. (Yes, another essay. This is its sequel.)
Then I forgot. Well, I moved on. I didn’t forget the steak, but I stopped feeling the loss.
There should be a word for letting go of something you think you only thought you had. Oh, was my sentence confusing? Well, so is life: half the time you think you have something, but you don’t; the other half of the time, you think you don’t have something, but you do.
There are only two things you can be sure of:
- Nothing lasts in its original form.
- You don’t know what you’re missing, only what you miss.
There is a kind of forgetting where the memory sits in a box, waiting to be opened. That is different from losing the memory itself.
Sometimes the box becomes the memory. People say that when you remember something, you really just remember the last time you remembered it. A memory of the memory doesn’t seem like much, but it is really all we have.