Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

The Persistence of Memory

Your memory is a monster; you forget--it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things from you--and summons them to your recall with a will all its own You think you have a memory, but it has you.

--John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

This quote is the epigraph for the reading publication of David Lindsay-Abaire's play Fuddy Meers, in which I had the great privilege of performing in 2002 and which remains one of my favorite plays. When I bought the reader's script, I didn't think much about the epigraph, merely noted how appropriate it was to the play (which, for those who don't know, is about a woman who loses her memory every day), but I have come to find it increasingly haunting and prophetic.

I consider my memory to be good but, on the whole, not very practical. It is true that I manage to keep track of my appointments and engagements without writing them down, most of the time, but I don't know that that can be chalked up so much to me having a good memory as to things occurring in patterns and routines. I have an excellent memory for things like song lyrics and movie dialogue--and, indeed, lines from plays, which was extremely helpful when I was performing in Fuddy Meers and all my lines were stroke-induced gibberish. But I have difficulty remembering things like where I parked my car (try as I might to make note of landmarks), what I need to buy at the grocery store, etc.

I don't know if it's happening more now or I just never noticed it before, but I'm noticing that my subconscious will just spit a random sound bite of information into my consciousness, with no explanation and sometimes with no discernible stimulus, leaving me to try to figure out what it is, why it's significant, and why my subconscious chose this particular moment to bring it up again. With varying amounts of success.

In Stephen King's The Green Mile there's a woman with a brain tumor who randomly blurts out profanities as a symptom of the malignant growth in her head. Her husband is shocked and saddened by this, and also mystified as to where she could have heard such language. It would be comforting to believe that this was one of Mr. King's amusing flights of fancy, but no, apparently people who have endured brain damage or suffer from some other neurological disorder will just randomly say things that they never would have said otherwise.

This is really quite a distressing thought. The thought of someday, God forbid, losing control of my conscious words and actions is scary enough, but when I think of everything I've seen and everything I've heard, even when I would have preferred not to, even when I've tried to avert my eyes and shut my ears, coming back to haunt not only me but the unsuspecting people around's quite disturbing.
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