The Artifice of Memory

Once again, you ask me to look at The Lying Lesson, the memory you’ve been… what, exactly—revising? Iterating towards some kind of perfection you believe will be unequivocal to me, once achieved. Your obsession with it is concerning, but I don’t mind seeing the memory itself. I still think fondly of that afternoon out with Mom.

So, after the dinner of seared scallops, buttered pasta, and herbal soup you’ve prepared for us, we go to the walk-in closet that serves as a studio for just this memory. It seems mostly the same, except the grass is a darker green. But you wouldn’t have called me over merely to consult on color choices, so I give the memory further consideration and go through its familiar chronology.

The three of us sit on a blanket in the meadow, distant hills speckled yellow by their wildflowers, sky a patchwork of blue and gray, the humidity of summer encroaching. Mom explains how to make lies not just convincing but compelling—more appealing than the truth with plausibility, beauty, and charm. She tells you and me how a lie should feel like a secret, like an intriguing, intimate revelation lulling the listener into a new reality. You and I are spellbound as Mom’s words transform deceit into a sophisticated art form we’d only been bumbling amateurs in—all the while mistaking ourselves as auteurs when passing off exaggerated claims on classmates. When Mom is talking with a neighbor passing through the meadow, I ask you, “Isn’t Mom worried this will encourage us to lie to her?” You reply, “No. This is her way of discouraging us from lying to her. By showing us that she knows everything about lying.” This logic is obvious once you’ve stated it. “This is her way of showing us she loves us,” you add. “By preparing us for times when lies must be beautiful to be useful.”

Puzzled by that last part, I turn to you. Our eyes meet, yours askew as you lean against the doorframe, shoulder pressed upon it to become a kind of fulcrum for your body or psyche, even.

“You didn’t say that,” I point out.

“But it feels like I did,” you answer.

I recoil at your words, as if to dodge them as they whiz through the air in front of me. Yet they quickly infiltrate my mind with their meaning. You are getting at the subjective reality of this memory—you as Mom’s translator, making comprehensible her language of instruction and affection. This convinces me that your refinement of the past does in fact hold the promise you’ve long believed it possesses. It may even convince me to reconsider another memory: The Anatomy Lesson.

For now, I return to the memory here and continue on, toward the part when Mom tells us about one of her best lies, to see what you may have uncovered there.

Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said, “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags.” Soramimi’s recent work can be found in Pulp LiteratureAtlas and AliceFiction Kitchen Berlin, andTypehouse