“Every man’s memory is his private literature.”
Yesterday was a weird day in the office. Months will go by without incident and then, suddenly, after a series of unfortunate events, a person runs out the doors screaming and hotly pursued by various officers. It happens.
After the fireworks show yesterday, everyone who watched it go down was asked to submit a witness statement and as I composed mine, I was a bit disconcerted to realize that piecing together events in their proper order (not an hour after they originally happened) was difficult! I spent nearly a full minute trying to remember if I called someone on the phone or went back to their office to talk to them in person. I had a great general view of what had happened and could probably tell several good stories from it, but when it came to putting down just the facts, in strict chronological order, every possible detail that I could remember included – I struggled.
An acquaintance told me a story along the same lines a couple weekends ago, about how one of her cousins bore a hatred for a another cousin from childhood. Cousin number three flat out refused to have anything to do with cousin number two until confronted about it one day in their late teens or early twenties when an explanation was demanded. Cousin three said that she hated cousin two because when they were very small, two had locked three in a closet. After a moment of stunned silence, cousin two exploded, “My sister locked both of us in the closet, you idiot! I was trapped in there with you!”
A near twenty year hatred based on a false memory. Three remembered the terror of being locked in the dark, and remembered that two had been there, but time (and possible trauma, I suppose) had warped her from co-victim to perpetrator.
The process of trying to tell a story and struggling so much with it had got me thinking: what exactly is floating around in my head that’s either or gross misrepresentation or a flat out lie?
My family, though close and pretty impressive, have had our share of issues to muddle through, several of which hit their peak during my early childhood. As a result I carried a lot of bad memories into adolescence (where everything is hormonally magnified anyway), but as an adult and in a healthier place personally, my grip on those bad memories has lessened and my good ones are more evenly mixed in. I’m not sure if this is the result of reality reasserting itself, or if the hard times don’t define me so much anymore and thus are less critical to my sense of self and so have been shoved onto a back burner somewhere. Maybe both.
Or maybe I just don’t remember things very well. I honestly don’t think of my childhood too much, unless someone brings up the topic and even then I find I’m embarrassed at how little I can recall. I have to concentrate hard to pull up things I haven’t thought of in years, and even favorite memories are surprisingly full of holes. This bodes not well for my twilight years, darlings…
In any case, I now have a renewed respect for my officer coworkers who have to pour through untold numbers of these usually sloppy, often badly spelled, and (as I can now probably personally vouch) less than reliable witness statements. People’s memory banks are messy places to work!