Your Memory Is A Monster

Completely anonymous, letting the guilty live free and the interested live happily.

An excerpt from an untitled essay-in-progress July 16, 2010

My sister, my cousins, Ann’s husband, and Jake all come back to the great-aunt’s house where my parents and sister and I are staying. They’ve brought fireworks.
Ann, Morgan and I stand back, sipping wine.
“This looks pretty damn dangerous,” I say as Jason and Ann’s husband Jack go out onto the dirt road and set down the tube to shoot mortar shells out of. I was most concerned with getting good pictures, with listening to Ann give my sister advice about camping in Yellowstone, and with making sure Jake and Jason didn’t throw the ground-skating spinner fireworks too close to our feet. The explosions, kicking up dirt by our feet, or up in the air above the corn fields, were a loud, bright signal that this trip was worth it, that the July 4th holiday tomorrow would be exciting, that my cousins, despite their states-away distance and occasional Midwest mindset, were more important to me than I’d let myself realize. I saw in those flashing lights a brief glimpse of what it would be like if we managed to grow up without the petty jealousy and who-has-better-achieving-children bullshit that we had watched unfold earlier that night. In that moment, we didn’t really care who among us had higher paying jobs, were married or dating someone, was living in a downtown loft or a shitty carriage house, was a teacher or librarian, handyman or gun salesman. We laughed at the same jokes, and we believed mostly good things about one another. And though they threw them nearer and nearer, none of us would ever come close to wanting to light another’s foot on fire.

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Break. December 21, 2008

When I was a student, summer and winter breaks were great. I spent a week at home with my folks and the rest of the time at my house, with my friends, doing what college and grad students do. Mostly drinking, smoking cigarettes, playing cards while drinking and, on one occasion, convincing my friends not jump from rooftops to cure their boredom.

So what if, now that I am at least a partial grown-up, I don’t want to spend the entire time drinking? What if I want to watch good movies and read good books and spend time writing and creating things. What if I want to do all of the things I wished I had time for when I was teaching/grading, but never get around to?

My students’ papers needing to be graded always supersedes my desire to read a great book or write something I’ve had on my mind.

So here I am. The break I have been dreaming of for months. I have the pile of great books, the list of essay ideas.

So here’s the list of things I’ve done so far on my break:

1. Read three of the four Twilight books.

2. Made a photo collage for our family Christmas card.

3. Baked cookies.

4. Drank some beers. But it doesn’t count when I’m in my parents’ house. That’s not like partying. At least not a good kind.

5. Watched at least four episodes of NCIS.

6. Watched a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel.

7. Ordered useless shit on Amazon.

9. Made a Best of 2008 set of Mix CDs.

I am bored. But, simultaneously, want to do nothing that requires an abundance of upper-level thinking. Because my brain already knows what is coming next semester.

 

A blog for real-life grown ups. September 23, 2008

I am an adult. This means that I deal with my feelings instead of hide from them. This means that I make jokes that aren’t cool but am alright with that.

This means that I take people seriously when they talk about their feelings. because that’s what I want from my friends.

This means that when I screw something up, I don’t just mentally acknowledge that I screwed it up, I say it to the person or people involved.

Being an adult doesn’t mean I’ve lost my fear of being honest about myself and my feelings. It does, though, mean that I admit this fear to the people being harmed by it.

It also means that I don’t just acknowledge my flaws in the painfully self-aware way that all my fellow writes have been doing. I admit to them. And, finally, I try to do something about them.

I know this reads like a high school journal entry. But I just get mad at people who are otherwise almost perfect, people whose primary flaw is that they are not just emotionally retarded (literal meaning of the word “retarded”) but who also think it’s OK for them to be this way.

My students’ willful ignorance makes me so troubled that some days I sit in the classroom after they’ve all left, staring at the back wall, forcing encouragement into my mind, trying to think of a way to interest them in something. 

But people my age, people I love and care about and spend time with, they aren’t willfully ignorant. They are contagiously curious. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be all over my life. But there exist among you the willfully immature, the willfully childish. Really, what you are is selfish.

Having an idea does no one any good.

Feeling bad about something does not help anyone.

Admitting that you are “difficult to be around” doesn’t make you easier to be around. Four of my friends have said something like this. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that all of them are men.

Your feelings about me, our friendship, our time together, they do me no good. They benefit me in no way. They change my life in, at most, a marginal way. What you do is what matters.

You see something that needs to be done and you do it.

You see someone who needs something and you get it for them.

You have the time, you do it so someone else doesn’t have to. 

You don’t keep score.

You don’t wait for someone else to.

You go beyond admitting your faults to actively trying to improve on them. Even if this means asking for help in doing so. Especially if it means asking for help in earnest. 

I’ve been writing an essay for a while. An essay about being old. Of course this approach is humorous because I’m not actually that old. Writing an essay is a mysterious process. It requires that I admit that my life is tremendously interesting, or, at the very least, it requires that the way I see my life and the world in which I live it, is valuable outside of my immediate life. 

What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to discover how much I like being old.

It means that the only reason I need to end a relationship of any kind is that the other person isn’t ready for a grown-up, real relationship. I’ve ended friendships for this reason in the very recent past and it was relatively painless. For me.

And, upon reflection, I have no remorse about abruptly ending value-less relationships, because I know that I shouldn’t be in a relationship that provides me with nothing. To a less-than-adult, these relationships are crutches: access points to other people, guarantees that we’ll have something to do, validations of our likability, something we see as easier to maintain than terminate.

We cannot let people hold us hostage, though. Not for any reason. 

I have so many friends. I have so many true friends. But they are not a beacon of my value as a person. Their quality as people and as friends, even the number of them I have in my life, in indicative of both my quality of friendship and my capacity to truly value them.

I don’t expect someone to be my friend if I don’t value them.

So why would I be friends with someone who is so clearly selfish that they cannot go beyond admitting they aren’t a very good friend? Someone incapable of genuine apology? Someone who escapes at the sign of trouble?

If I think my friend is mad at me, I can’t stop trying to solve it. Why is it that so many people just ignore it, knowing that the person will have to let it drop?

I’m not afraid like I was when I was 18. Not afraid of being seen as dramatic, no longer allowing someone else to make me feel or act like a crazy person. My response is, I assure you, warranted. I am, again, hyper-logical, hyper-vigilant, hyper-self-aware. 

And here is my secret source of mental power. I don’t care if you think I am over-reacting. I don’t care if you think you don’t deserve to be admonished. 

I am too patient and too caring and too forgiving and too trusting and too kind and too generous and too fucking good to my friends. If I stop, it’s because I should have long ago. If I stop, it’s because I realize that I wouldn’t let someone treat my friend or sister the way you are treating me.

Here’s how to fix it:

Quit being a fuck.

Quit talking about quitting being a fuck.

Quit merely admitting that you are a fuck.

Quit being a fuck.

 

To Grandmother’s House We Shall Go November 25, 2007

Mom: A seven letter word for Wine’s Rooms. Wine’s Rooms? That doesn’t make any sense.
Dad: Do you have any of the letters? Where is it on the puzzle? (as he looks over at the puzzle my mother is holding)
Me: Dad! Stay in your lane!
Dad: What are the cross clues?
Me: Dad! Stop looking at the puzzle! That’s the second car you almost ran into.

Sis: Let’s walk down the street to the bar. It’s only 3 blocks away.
Me: It’s pretty cold outside. I don’t know.
Sis: It’ll be fine.
Me: Halfway there, after having walked 5 blocks) Dude, it’s raining. And it’s 40 degrees.

Guy-Sis-Only-Pretends-to-Like-Because-He-Will-Always-Be-DD walks into the bar, wearing a knee-length, fur coat, two gold chains and a pinky ring.
GSOPTLBHWABDD: This coat is so atrocious, but I lost my leather coat, this is the only one I had. My grandpa gave it to me.
Me: Yeah, man, that is ugly.
GSOPTLBHWABDD: Right?

Brother later that same night: I’m glad that guy showed up to give us a ride in the rain, but I think he’s probably either part-way gay or in training to be a pimp.

Me two days later, when GSOPTLBHWABDD shows up for Thanksgiving dinner, having been invited only because he’s got nowhere else to go: Still wearing that coat, huh?
GSOPTLBHWABDD: Yeah, man, it’s awful. People stare at me.
Me: Yeah, you love that coat. Your other coat is sitting at home, and you just love that coat.
GSOPTLBHWABDD: No, I really don’t. Chuckle chuckle.
Sis: to GSOPTLBHWABDD You have got to take that pinky ring off if you want to stay at our Thanksgiving table.

Brother later that night: It’s been two days! He could have gotten a new coat! They’re on sale for $30 at Target! Not only is he part-way gay, he’ll be part-way dead if he comes near me again.

Text message to cousin: You dad bought us all McGriddles yesterday. I was still asleep so he left mine on my face.
Response: Best text message ever.

Text message from GSOPTLBHWABDD to Sis: I’m at rap club and they love my coat. They all think I’m a pimp. Seriously.

Text message to cousin: I can’t believe you’re not here this year. You’re missing grandma’s useless junk and expired food pass around.
Response: She really does think those are presents, doesn’t she?

Text message to several friends: We just drove past a Mexican Restaurant named “Mexican Restaurant.” Oklahoma is one classy place.