Cross My Heart and Hope to Write


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Nature of Memory: I Remember

Memory is a funny, fickle thing. When we want to forget things, we can't, and when we want to remember things... we can't. Sometimes, a smell, a piece of music, even a place we haven't seen in so long can coax a plethora of old, dusty memories to assert themselves. Little time machines. Memories of trauma can lead to the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and in Alzheimer's patients,    newer memories disappear first, while older, mundane memories resurface.

In fact, from a scientific point of view, there is still so much we don't understand about the nature of memory. What is not debated is how important memories are to us and how influential they can be on us. They define a person and constitute their individuality. The idea of manipulating our memories or having them stolen away from us feels... heinous.

Perhaps the strangest and most precious gift of memory is when you rediscover something you haven't thought about in so long. A time, a place, a feeling, a sense, a being. Sometimes they're sad, sometimes their joyous, but each contributes to the person you are now. Let's do a writing exorcise: Write down as many things as you can starting with "I remember..." in 5 minutes. It's good to revisit old memories, to appreciate them, to cherish them, and to understand a little bit more about yourself.

I Remember 
I remember the fear I felt for my father.
I remember playing in the fountain in the front yard of my grandmother’s neighbor’s house when I was three. I remember playing with the pots and pans in my grandmother’s kitchen cabinets when I was three.
I remember the sound of the frog as it hit the water of Crescent Lake after he threw it from the shore. I remember its guts in its mouth.
I remember the scars on her thighs.
I remember the dream I had the night before last. I remember the car accident, being thrown through the windshield, landing on the hood of the other car, and the partial paralysis. I remember the grief when I realized I wouldn’t be able to perform poetry again. I remember the relief when I woke up.
I remember the necklace I threw to the floor in the hallway in high school, the Christ head with the engraving on the back that my godmother gave me when I was born. I never saw it again.
I remember the guilt when I let the wind take your tin full of meringues on Halloween.
I remember praying in Roman cathedrals for you to love me again.
I remember praying in Roman cathedrals for the strength to let you go.
I remember what my cat smelled like.
I remember burning my tongue on chicken fingers in the New Hampshire fog.
I remember when I learned the word, “Fuck.”
I remember just a moment ago.
I remember sobbing hysterically on the bathroom floor of the boy’s room in tenth grade. I remember the sound of confusion in the other boy’s voice when he found me there and told me he was sorry for whatever it was I was crying about.
I remember the smell of marijuana on her clothes.
I remember when I lost my virginity. It was O.K.
I remember when I used to spit on my teachers, curse them out, and punch holes in the walls.
I remember white rooms.
I remember the shower in the hospital, the glue from my hair coagulating on my shoulders. It was a long shower. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Self-Preservation: The Cafone

Pride gets a bad rep. Sure, there are instances where we need to set aside our pride, but pride is a healthy means of self-preservation. To some, the pride is easily bruised, while others take pride in the fact that they can laugh at themselves. Pride is a good way to gauge your sense of identity; take pride in your uniqueness, your strength, your experiences, and your positivity. When we sense our pride being threatened or offended, that is a good opportunity to step back and evaluate the situation. What has caused this sense to arise? Is my sense of self under fire or am I merely taking myself too seriously? It is a delicate balance that takes skill and confidence to consider. 

In certain instances, however, when the pride calls for your aid or recognition, your sense of self may be threatened by the situation at hand. In such situations, we need to make a choice: Preserve the self (ala pride) or modify the self. Such situations often represent moral dilemmas or call our values into question. Through it all, we must remember that the self - a self that is loved, above all else, - must be kept in a constant state of becoming. It is a perpetual fixer-upper. When such situations assert themselves, we must ask: What is right for me? What do i stand to lose? Never ignore the call of your pride and never throw your sense of identity under the bus.        

The Cafone
He served me a generous platter of oily pigs’ feet. The garcon was adorned in a glaucous vest with vertical gray lines, a cerulean bowtie, pleated pants, and a button up, starched and bleached, long sleeved dress shirt with silver cuff links. There was an orange grease stain on his wrist.
The man across from me was dredging his dirty fingers in a mound of pig appendages he too had been awarded, piling them without hesitation into his snapping jaws. Transfixed by the popping suction sound of his chewing, with wide, oscillating jowls as the meat was imbedded deep between his uneven, gnashing teeth, I watched his thick eyebrows thrash with jubilation. The mixture of liquefied fat and saliva dribbled down each of his multiple chins and seeped into the napkin he had pinched between his thick neck and taught collar. He laughed maniacally.
I watched a piece of meat, formerly perched on the back of his tongue, fly across the table and land beside the saltshaker. Droplets splattered all across the tablecloth. He undid his tie and frustratingly flung it onto the tabletop, while loosening the jacket of his $2,000 suit. As he did, his elbow grazed a pile of naked knucklebones in a hors d’oeuvre plate beside the dwindling entre, fossils left in the wake of his gluttony. One of them rolled off like a die and approached the edge of the table, tumbling off and onto the toe of his polished leather shoe with a tap. He inhaled sharply. Choking, he coughed up still more particulates to span the space between us.
“Enjoy!” he said, gargling protein and gesturing with his pruned hand toward my untouched plate.
I swallowed loudly against the clatter of colliding dishes and glasses in the half-empty bistro, the sound of its closing creeping in from all directions. I wondered then, wallowing in my disgust and eating only doubt, just how much I was willing to sacrifice at the expense of my ambitions. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Preciousness of the Mundane: Secret House

I think we all have the ideal conception of a home or event that we would like to experience or live; an imaginary place that soothes us with the possibility of its existence. The most precious places are often stumbled upon unexpectedly, causing us to stand in awe of their quaintness. To a child, these conceptions are far more rampant and seem to exist wherever they go.

Trying to recapture the fascination and imagination of childhood in adulthood is, ironically, a skill to be mastered. The world seems more inclined to make us leave it behind than to hold onto it. Try to recall that sense of wonder when discovering something new and mundane in the backyard; the creepiness of the basement; the looming presence of the attic; or that patch of woods around the corner requires patience and passion. As a child, everything seemed so strangely special and we would amass these incredible stories, ludicrous explanations, to account for them. A cardboard box suddenly became a castle, or a space craft, or a cave.

These desires manifest themselves in ideals rekindled in adulthood: The dream house, the perfect wedding, or a happy career. That sense of wonder and appreciation of the mundane and trivial, however, is tossed by the wayside. I implore you to hold your inner child close and to allow his or her silly thoughts to cloud your mind from time to time. Slow down, anthropomorphize the monotony of your life, and add zeal to the bustle between dusk and dawn.        

Secret House

There is a place upon a mountain of crystal
High above city smog
A coveted place hidden in shadow
Shrouded in mist and fog
With walls clad with brick and stone
And windows of stained glass
Carpeted in kaleidoscopic flowers
With sunlight always cast
There are waterfalls and butterflies
A smell of honey and dew
A house of gingerbread, it seemed
Like a fairytale come true
Where no knees were ever skinned
But much mischief could be found
With adventures kept in every corner
And laughter thrown around
No memory was left behind
And no smiles to regret
Childhood stories forever told
That old minds could never forget