The Forgetting Curve

Forgetting is less linear
than exponential; it starts out
fast, racing with time, then
slows, thins out to nothing,
leaves behind a kernel
of knowledge that will inevitably
get stuck under your tongue
when you try to spit it out,
years later. Names, formulas,
directions, they all disappear
within the first day – some
syllables within the first
twenty minutes – but the
strangest things stay for longer,
so that I cannot remember
the sound of your voice, only
the insistent curve of
your hands over your chest,
final and certain. It’s the
time of the year when I get
out all the pictures
of people and places that
are gone, and looking at them
I can almost see the desert
sky the way it looked five
years ago, taste the ice
cream we ate on our first
boat ride. I do not know
where these memories will be
tomorrow, treacherous
as the ground in my mind
has become, but I wonder if
people would spend longer
telling each other goodbye,
pressing their cheeks into hair,
memorizing the exact contour
of eyelids and freckles, if they
knew that memories, too,
were faithless.

“it may not always be so” – e.e. cummings

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch
another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

if this should be, i say if this should be—
you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
saying, Accept all happiness from me.
then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

Letters from the Hedge: September 27, 2014

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.

– Sylvia Plath

One of the most disappointing things about real life is that it isn’t structured like a movie.  Nothing ever resolves the way it’s supposed to, more loose ends are left dangling than you could ever count, and there are no truly good or bad people – only people in varying shades of grey.  (Another disappointing thing is the first time you realize that you, too, are grey – but that’s a topic for a different time.)

I probably talk too much about adjusting to the “new normal” that comes with a diagnosis of chronic illness.  There are really so many other things that can drastically change your perception of what is normal – either permanently or for a very, very long time.  When I picked up last year’s yearbook this morning and read Soorya’s memorial page in the back, I again felt the finality of his absence settle on my shoulders like a heavy cloak.  And on a lighter note (I suppose), I live away from my family, in Texas, and that’s a new normal too.

The credits to my life didn’t roll after I walked out of my high school for the last time.  They didn’t roll on my first day of college, and they won’t roll on my last, or after I get married, or after the birth of my first child.  Life doesn’t pause after something wonderfully good or terribly bad happens so you can sigh contentedly, throw away your popcorn bag, and walk out of the theater to your car.  Life just keeps flowing on, and there’s something comforting about that, but something terrifying, too.

Yesterday, I started crying for no reason that I could readily explain.  I was among people I didn’t know, too, people I really wanted to impress, so I couldn’t very well explain that I just cry sometimes, as if I were a bruised pear and someone had dug their thumbnail into me, letting the juice squeeze out.  I cry when I am tired, I cry when I am sick, I cry when I am scared, and as I sat in the bathroom, hugging my knees and trying to calm my stomach, I thought, I’ve ruined it all again.

But crying, unlike death and unlike certain illnesses, is not a chronic state of affairs.  I stopped after a while, even though no one had come after me, and looked down at my bare feet on the bathroom tile, and tried to believe that I hadn’t ruined everything after all.

(Of course, I hadn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.)

I’ve long ago learned to stop expecting people to care if I tell them I am sad or I am lonely.  Dependable happiness, after all, starts inside.  As I sit here, at 11:55 AM, with my chemistry books in front of me and a bag of generic cough drops by my hip, I’m not exactly sure what happiness is, except that for me it starts with releasing my sadness into the flow of time.

When I was little, my grandparents used to live in Florida, and every time we visited them I would always beg to go to the beach.  We’d spend all day out there, eating McDonald’s and hunting for seashells, and when I got into bed that night I could still feel the rocking of the ocean inside my bones.  When I close my eyes, especially on difficult days like this, I swear I can feel that movement, picture the waves ebbing out to sea.  We move forward.  That’s all we can ever do.

From the sun I learned this; when she goes down, overrich; she pours gold into the sea of inexhaustible riches, so that even the poorest fisherman still rows with golden oars. For this I once saw and did not tire of my tears as I watched it.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Automatic Writing: September 24, 2014

I’m sad because I know I will never
be as loved as I need to be and because
at the end of the year someone else will open
their door for you, bury their face in
your neck, welcome you home. I’m sad
because I am a river carved cold and deep
into the bare rock, my water black
with age, and you are a flash of gold
on my surface, you are the glint
of sunset upon my waves.

Side Effects

I like to say
that they saved my life, but it’s harder
to talk about what a life
they left to be saved. Really,

I could be worse off: depression
took my appetite and my energy,
left my eyes a darker, less
fertile shade of brown. These days,

all that’s left is a low, quiet
ache in the pit of my stomach
and a certain inability to hold
pipettes steady in lab, although

I am still able to cry. Sometimes,
smearing tears across my cheeks
like blood, I think: this is what
the Israelites must have felt like

after Passover. The twisting
darkness in the gut a reminder
of what could have been lost.