I'm always astonished at how often childhood memories will suddenly and strikingly flash in front of my eyes, out of my psyche and into my present.
Just yesterday I was walking along, bopping along, thinking of nothing at all, and then I remembered buying a chocolate-mint fudgesicle from the Becker's convenience store on Lake Street in St.Catharines when I was six, seven years old, and before I left the store I flipped through the pages of a Mad magazine that was eyeing me from the rack, and inside was a parody of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the memory was so vivid and clear, potent and improbable, refreshing and intense, that it seemed like not time had passed at all since that moment, long ago, and this moment, here and now. Icould taste the mint and the chocolate. I could see the interior of the store. Icould laugh, again, decades later, at Mort Drucker's renditions of Kirk and Spock and Bones. I could feel, wistfully so, the sunshine of my childhood, so commonplace then, so out-of-reach now. I was seven years old and thirty years old, at one and the same time.
Why did I think that thought at this time?
And then I wondered:
What would happen if all of our memories, and I do mean all, collectively, simultaneously rose to the surface of our psyches at one and the same time? I mean, what if I could see yours and you could see mine? What if we weren't limited to our own brains and minds and hearts and hopes? Could our consciousness even begin to withstand that onslaught of nostalgia and horror and half-remembered hopes?
And then, to further this unlikely scenario even more, what would happen if my memories overlapped with your memories? And not only you, but the guy next door, the old guy, the one who gurgles Scope Wintergreen mouthwash all day long? If I could see what he felt, know what he remembered, if I could view his memories like a Flicker slideshow, would it make me more empathetic to him, the world, ourselves, or less? My memories are always bittersweet and tinged with my own, emotional gloss; they take me back and force me down. But what if you felt mine, and I felt yours, and not only felt them, but understood them? What if the world was nothing more than one communal orgy of memory? Could we all handle it? Could the present withstand it? Would we become lost and abandoned in the senselessness of our past and our present? The memories happened then; they are returning now.
I don't understand it when it happens to me, but together, perhaps together, we could trace the arc of our lives and see where I intersect with You, and where They converge with Us. Memory would no longer be a private shame and a personal glory. It would belong to all of us, united, and braced with such strange, arcane and transcendent knowledge, we might, on some level, be able to understand each other just a little bit more.
Which might be enough.
And now I wonder: If I had not ate the Fudgsicle all those years ago, on that fine spring day, the sunlight dwindling towards dusk, and if I had not flipped through that Mad magazine, so tempting on the rack, would I be writing these words? Would you be reading them? Would it matter? That memory would be gone, and this post would be eradicated, and would I feel their absence somehow? Would I know, on some deep, hidden level, that something had been lost, something that would have connected this man to that boy, this writer to some invisible reader?
Memory is a mystery, and awareness an enigma.