A trip down memory lane.
If you see any typos or grammatical inconsistencies ignore them. Thanks.
Today I picture memory as a blind-ended road and myself the ghost of an old occupant of all of the houses on it. I walk slowly along this road and stop at some of these houses, walking through closed doors and seeing scenes playing out like they did years and months ago.
There are many moments that define a man, many epiphanic turns of event that determine who a man is when he is finally put into a grave. The easiest thing to drown in is an ocean of noise, where the chaos ensures that you cannot hear your own thoughts. When you’re trying bits and pieces of other people on for size, the simplest thing to lose is yourself.
Memory is the most malleable of things – I happen upon these moments with smells and tastes and sometimes an unnatural vibrancy of colour. I see scenes splashed generously with colours I cannot name, compositions playing in the background that I am almost certain that I have never heard before. Where do we draw the line between memory and imagination? Embellishment and falsification?
On this walk I watch myself discover, first, who a man is and, subsequently, who exactly I am. My next few memories are of learning definitions – “Boys do not cry” “Boys wear trousers and keep their hair short” “Boys pee standing”. These are the days that I have hidden in quaint bungalows - with smoldering fireplaces of instruction that I’m still afraid of walking too close to. Oh how it burned, when an amorphous human mass was melted down and put into a mold.
In the first house, I see myself walking back home with tears flowing freely down my face. I am about five years old and my sister is consoling me, telling me everything is alright and that, even though we have been forgotten in school, our parents are alright. This is a time before I learn to look up to the sky when familiar tears burn in the back of my eyes and pray that gravity, not strength, keeps them from falling out of my eyes.
Next, I see myself sitting by a window after it has just rained and staring at a road that is covered by a thin layer of water. I see brown leaves on the floor that have soaked up so much water that they are now too heavy for the wind to move them. I hear the soft thud – plop that they make every time they catch another drop of water. The sound of small animals coming out of hiding with quiet jubilations, as they push through wet soil, and foliage and air.
What endures from that day, however, is the smell of rain. This is years before I learn that it is called petrichor, this smell. It smells like a mix of blood and copper, two smells that I have kept hidden in another house, in another time. The smell of copper, perhaps, can be explained by the release of copper trapped in the soil. The smell of blood is not as easy to explain. I wonder today if it is the smell of death, buried under soil or smeared over tar, but death is not blood.
I walk out of that house still wondering where the blood comes from and I walk into another house where it is past midnight and I am, somehow, driving drunk through the city. I am nothing but euphoria, drowning in a sea of lights and sounds. I see headlights and streetlamps and very little else as I speed instinctively along familiar roads. I hear the occasional screams and excited shrieks of my passengers over the loud music that is blasting from the car’s stereo and coursing through me. I feel the wind blowing against my face as I accelerate and scream into it.
I find myself in the next house lying on the floor beside my father, exhausted. I ask him questions that he can no longer answer and he becomes colder with each passing moment. In this crowded house, only the two of us exist and I cry like I have never cried before; like I haven’t cried since then. I pick myself up and walk into what I think is adulthood. Later that night I am driving with my father lying on the collapsed back seat, but he is no longer there. I am forcing conversation with someone I only met that night and driving into every pothole. He does not caution me because tonight there are worse things than potholes.
In another house on an overcast day, I am shoveling dirt into my father’s grave. I look up occasionally, afraid that I will break and begin to cry in front of all these people. After my mother is done with the shovel I find myself between the only two people I have left. We hold on a little too tightly to each other, afraid of letting anyone slip away. I am strong until a cold drop of water hits my forehead. A light drizzle of rain begins and, instead of looking for cover, everyone is standing there fighting back tears. I hear someone comment on how the rain is a sign, how it falls every time good men are buried. Sandwiched between my mother and sister on that open field, I look down into the grave and let myself cry. On that dark day in January, God cries with me.
Next I am in a familiar room and I am completely sober. The room has a sweet smell that is teetering on the edge of sickening. I am fumbling in my pockets, searching for condoms and the moment is moving too fast. I am struggling to keep up. I first feels lips that are warm and moist, then skin that is smooth and soft. Then I watch myself feel what my memory has called home, that is everything and more. In the room with cream-coloured walls, in the embrace of the girl who smells like vanilla I watch myself become pleasure that spreads from my core to the rest of my being, again and again and again. She falls asleep in my arms and I see the pleasure on my face fade into a now familiar regret.
I am in yet another house now and I am walking, no, floating. My steps are lightened by cannabis and opioids and familiar thoughts are darting about in my head. Soaked in cold perspiration and anxiety I am realising, rather quickly, that I am my biggest enemy. I stub my toe against a concrete slab and become a mass of pain, letting out a loud string of expletives that float into the dark night without an echo. The pain fades into nothing in a moment and I continue to walk. My sandals get bloodier with each step.
I am alone in a crowd and earphones connect my ears to my empty pocket. I occasionally ignore people who call my name. I am learning, rather slowly, that solitude is better than any company I can find. I suddenly become claustrophobic and I’m struggling for air. I stand up and begin to walk toward the room’s lone door. It is a rather important meeting, but breathing is infinitely more important. I push through people, trying to escape before the rapidly shrinking room collapses in on me. I mutter an excuse barely above my breath to everyone who asks where I’m hurrying to. I get outside and take a deep breath and it feels like a sip of cold water on a hot afternoon.
It is midnight and I am walking through empty streets, listening not to the music of the critters of the night, but to Kid Cudi on repeat. Tears flow freely from my eyes and the repetition of “The sky might fall, but I’m not worried at all” only makes it worse. The sky is falling and I am terrified. It is midnight again and I am walking in silence, each step is harder to take than the last. I’m burning up. My shirt is glued to my back by a sheet of perspiration. My eyes are dry; the rest of my body is crying tonight. I stop to catch my breath and the pounding in my head intensifies. The world becomes a blur as I collapse, exhausted, to the ground.
In the newest house I am sitting in a chair and a clamp is applied to my poorly anaesthesised eyelid. It is the most painful thing I have ever felt but, instead of screaming, I clench my fists. I hear the doctor say that I am a real man but the pain clouds the satisfaction of his words completely. He calls for a blade and I brace myself. He cuts and I flinch ever so slightly. He does not notice. In a moment he is done and the tears pooled at the back of my eyes do not fall today. I am walking back to my room with a patch over my bleeding eye, a testament to many years of molding.
In the present now, I walk out of the last house thinking about how I can remember everything if I try hard enough. There are, however, some things I’d much rather forget; some doors that are better off closed. I make a mental note to revisit this place and I send out my first post on Medium.