By Tracy Guzeman
I ask the doctor if it is possible to choose what I am going to forget. He blinks twice before answering, which I consider to be significant. Either he has never entertained the possibility, or does not want to. He is young. I suddenly wish we had asked for someone older.
No, he finally replies. It doesn’t work that way.
Bullshit, I think. If women can choose to forget the pain of childbirth in order to guarantee the continued populating of our planet, then surely we can choose to forget other memories, before they convene and decide amongst themselves which will go into hiding, which will grow blurred at the edges, and which will stay within reach. So I make a list.
Note to Self:
To Forget: Having the person whose lunch you are eating walk into the office kitchen as you stuff the last bite of their sandwich—pickle and peanut butter—into your mouth. She does not believe that you have a “glandular problem”; it is written all over her face that you are the worst sort of miscreant. There is no recovering from this, and saying “I thought it was mine” only makes the situation worse.
To Remember: The first time he kissed you. Not so much the kiss itself, which was very fine, like falling into something deep that you couldn’t see the bottom of, but the smell of the air that day: piñon burning somewhere in the distance, the must of dried leaves, the lingering smoke of a campfire clinging to his wool shirt. You fell in love by sense of smell.
To Forget: The look on your son’s face when you accused him of taking fifty dollars out of your purse. You were so certain; nothing he said could sway you. You watched his face crack open and your world shifted, but you convinced yourself that in this one case, principle was more important than love. You were wrong.
To Forget: Your best friend’s husband, after a year of too many disappointments and an evening of too many glasses of wine, pulling you close in the hall closet when you handed him his coat. How you kissed him back for a split second before pushing him away so self-righteously. How you thought about that moment for far too long afterward.
To Forget: The first time you couldn’t remember where you were: surrounded by cars, any of them could have been yours; the noise in the parking garage amplified and muffled at the same time. Like being dropped on a foreign planet, in a new skin, you cannot recognize yourself. How can you travel so far away from your life so fast?
To Remember: How frightened your husband looks now, hearing what will likely become of you. And still he holds your hand, running his fingers back and forth across every inch of your skin, like trying to memorize a page written in Braille.
To Remember: That someone loved you this much.