Last night, I found myself in the most likely place: in the back of a taxi with my high school boyfriend …
It was late at night, and as the car made its way through midtown Manhattan, his face flashed in the glow of flashing parachutes. When we stopped at a red signal, he bent over to whisper in my ear. He said, “I don’t love you.” “And I don’t have it.”
The ending of the scene matched every short story I wrote as a child: I woke up. It was all just a dream. But as I progressed through my day, I kept being haunted. Why would my subconscious mind want to dance with someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in nearly 20 years?
Joan Didion writes, “We recommend maintaining nodding terms with the people we are used to, whether we find them an attractive company or not.” As much as I sacred the Law of Joan, this point was never my strong suit.
In the past myself was sometimes scary. They were wearing strange clothes, saying embarrassing things, and then staying up late, worried about it. They sometimes made errors in judgment, although this is necessary to learn, I prefer not to regain life. But lately, in these months largely at home, I’ve had to contend with them – the procession of people I used to be. Without new memories to feast on, my brain brings back old memories, like group replays of a show that didn’t age well.
For many of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in the number of cases Vivid and strange dreams, Due to changes in stress levels and activity, sleep patterns, and nearly every aspect of our life. For me, long-forgotten memories have also resurfaced. They appear not only when I’m asleep, but often in the midst of some harmless daily task.
Scooping up the coffee evokes colorful pictures of my elementary school playground, while taking out the trash reminds me of Halloween, at age 10, dressed like a walk, with copious rubber ants. And don’t let me start showering. There, flashbacks of what I said join me. The thing is I he wishes I said. The chief who was unable to find the stapler. Another boss threw things and called me names. The job you left too early. The job you stayed in for a long time. There is a lot more to where this came from, but we’ll leave it at that.
I have a lot to say, and as it turns out, they didn’t go far. They live inside me like a Matryoshka doll, and the costumes get worse with every layer. The more time I spend with myself in the past, the more I discover that embarrassment goes both ways. I am not only revealing old disappointments, but also old dreams – things that I wanted but were too afraid to experience. My younger self is clamoring to know what happened, and I don’t have an adequate response.
I decided the only way out was to encounter them, like a friendly ghost. Since Didion was right about all of this, I started keeping a notebook. If memories could live on on paper, I guess, they probably wouldn’t feel the need to get around my head. Sometimes, I feel lighter. Other times, I feel as though I have immortalized the very thing I wished to forget. Like character, it’s an imperfect science.
When writing fails me, I look outside. Whenever I immerse myself in my inner conversations, there is a game that I love to play. I look out my urban window, which overlooks many other urban windows, and glowing little chests of life. I imagine what the people behind each of these boxes feel, grieve, and look forward to. I enjoy feeling connected, happy, and of course small. It’s like the opposite of Instagram: actual, unmodified parts of people’s humanity.
Lately, I’m playing a similar game with my memories. I looked out the window, picturing all the rooms I had occupied, all the places and people I had been. Here I am: at five, at twelve, at twenty. In some quantum universe, I would imagine I’m still there, albeit with the benefit of experience. Slowly, I discovered that I am not a threat to myself.
Myself reminds me in the past that we are not a single, stable entity (thank God for that). We are the sum of our experiences. We are before and after, both Phoenix and Ash. Even when the scene appears to be stagnant, we’re subject to constant reinvention, like annoying upgrades that threaten to overtake my phone. Finally, I realize that my ex isn’t here (only) to bother me, they are here too to keep me healthy.
I wish to tell you that I merged myself with joy and reconciliation with my past, and that I go through my days (and nights) without flickering the memory. But that would be a lie. However, we’re all a little closer to nodding terms. This was probably the best I could wish for.
Have you had dreams or heightened memories these days? Are you in a nodding relationship with your ex?
Note Five words changed everything And the How did your life surprise you?