Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tips On Writing Autobiographical Stories #3: Does Memory Help or Hurt? Should I Use It?

Autobiographical stories: you'll be walking along and then something happens to you. Maybe it's wonderful! Maybe it's fucked up, but either way you write it down right then, you draw it out in colored chalk, on and along the bumpy cobblestone curbs and surfaces of your shade-dappled sidewalk mind. So years, decades later, it's still there. You're not sure what street or town this is - except it's summer. It always seems to be.

Why is that?

Most every rough draft of your memory seems to gravitate towards those days of hot red blood, mostly from stubbed toes, leaving your poor toe with a jaunty hat of a skin-flap, still attached but throbbing, stinging and cocked at an angle. Later, running over more forgiving ground, the bay shore sand sticks all over, the scab-sand composite making a gritty bandage - clotted and covered, clean. Your brother slapping you smack across the back with a live jellyfish flung sidearm through the air without regard to possible consequences to his own poor hand. And mosquitoes. Not even worth slapping at! Not in those days.

Because even if the old suburban wives' legends about them sucking the itch back out with the last of their blood meal (if you leave them alone) wasn't true, you secretly loved to scratch the scattered welts. Ah, your own blood! How you used to be such close friends with it. And memory! Memory, a popsicle. It could never fail to shock, and usually in a good way: so technicolor cold; at first your lips stick, your tongue sticks; so cold you can't really tell the flavor, only the color because you saw it. You suck blind on a memory. You'd unwrapped it - hoping for red! No. Damn: grape. Still good! (Anything but green.) Soon, with sucks, slurps and licks, your mouth pulls the cold off and your tongue starts to taste the bright and artificial flavor that had been trapped in ice, and is now being released. Icky, sticky sweet on your palms and fingers, and fingertips, dripping through and between and off them, off you, to fall in space, the first drops of rain from a storm that could only have blown in from Oz. Purple, or red, or orange, or Green god forbid. The sidewalk behind you drip-dyed as you walk. What color's your tongue? You know full well.

So you write it down. Right then. You write it in memory, because who can be bothered with pencil, pens, papers? Homework? It's summer. Use colored chalk.


Mel said...

“Memory is never a precise duplicate of the original… it is a continuing act of creation..."

- Rosalind D. Cartwright, The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives

dogimo said...

Indeed it is! In fact, each time you access a memory you are not only reading the file but writing to it. Certain drugs show great promise in alleviating post traumatic stress disorder, taking advantage of that very thing! The regular memory prompts new trauma whenever it's triggered or accessed, but if we can allow someone to re-tap the memory from a state of calm, that can begin to soothe through the associated trauma and eventually, render the memory manageable.