Clyde was threatened by the specter of memory. His very existence in jeopardy from a fear caused by the memories of all those he associated with, thought of, and knew. The memories of friends. The memories of lovers. The memories of everyone remembering someone other than him. Remembering someone better than him. We can never measure up to memory.
There were his parents, whose memories of his significantly older brothers overshadowed everything he did. Clyde’s parents married later in life, for a second time each. In the prime of their lives, with their first loves, they raised sons. Sons they dearly loved. Sons they remembered fondly. Idyllically. Sons who hung the stars and lit the day sky. Sons who became friends after their parents met. Sons who died together, tragically, not-drunk-driving. Clyde was the replacement. “Why can’t you be more like…” The chorus of his youth, Greek tragedy-style. Imitate the brothers you never knew. His existence under the roof of his parents had only that purpose – replacement. Ultimately, a failure. He ran away young, haunted by memories not his own.
There was Janine and the memories of her 15 previous lovers and 2 former husbands that weighed on him every time he saw her, went down on her, made love to her. Clyde wasn’t old-fashioned, prudish, or judgemental, but reality sometimes overshadows those things we’ve held dear. Called by the wrong name (a time or two) in the throes of passion. Reminded occasionally, usually while drunk, of the sexual prowess of certain former lovers. Fearful of the concepts that uncertain men roll around in their minds when not otherwise occupied – “am I enough to satisfy forever, especially when compared to…,” “am I good enough for her to not look elsewhere…,” “am I handsome enough…have money enough…smart enough…sexy enough…interesting enough…everything enough?” He’d never had any indication that anything was wrong in their relationship, but the memories weighed on his soul. He contemplated leaving daily, taunted by memories not his own.
There was his best friend Brent, whose previous friends were much better looking, wealthier, funnier, and of course, most importantly, much better wingmen when out at the bars. Clyde spent most of his life married, and then a disinterest in relationships so intense as to be unhealthy overwhelmed him. He loved conversation, particularly with attractive (and hopefully) intelligent women, but that didn’t translate into buttering up hotties for Brent to bed later. He worried that Brent would move on, befriend a better wingman, inspired by memories he loved to recount of conquests out of his league.
There were, finally, his children, whose memories of their recently deceased mother were the focal point of most of their conversations with their father. Memory cleanses. Or rather, perhaps more accurately, when trying to cope with devastating loss, rewrites the past, which becomes a picture book to fondly gaze back on. The conversations were on repeat, day after day, as they acclimated to the new situation of living with their father. But the dialogue reminded him only of one thing – the lie that wove itself through the marriage, ultimately causing divorce. His memories of that deception clouded his every interaction with his children, placing her above anything he could hope to build with them.
There were also his own memories. The memory of Clyde. Unable to recall mundane things, like the name of his waitress, his favorite bottle of wine, a birthday, even the name of a book – he was, however, cursed with an inability to forget certain experiences. What had he seen, done, and heard? Ask him, and with the right prompting he would be engulfed in the memory until joy or pain had run their course. His memory worked similarly with books – never remembering names or details (until conversational situations reminded him), but he could talk about the story forever. The actions of life, like the movement of a story, he was unable to forget. Even if the order of memory was often corrupted, the words and images were burned into his brain. Perhaps words stuck because of his obsession with reading and writing…regardless, primarily pain remained. Parents disappointed, adults disobeyed, love lost, lovers crushed, siblings betrayed, progeny abandoned. His own memory, more poignantly than that of other, was killing him.
Yet day after day he awoke, certain (yet not prepared) to create another memory that he’d be unable to forget. Unable to excel. Unable to moderate. Unable to fail.
Unable to forget.
Cursed be he above all others who is enslaved by Memory.
Memory takes the place of brothers; Memory takes the place of parents; Memory brings us war and slaughter, hate and love, pain and fear, life and death.
I both remember and do not remember; am mad and am not mad.
[inspired by 2 quotes from Anacreon]