The past eludes remembrance. So we contend with remembering sidewalks’ sides that are swirly at the edges, like CGI that the brain composed to make memory magical. These words won’t be complete. They’re doomeed to inadequacy. They work with their incomplete partner, memory. I’m zipping through images like their names are only now being invented. As if their meanings could ever live in the lettered cages I give them. I can’t explain myself out of this. I can’t pull in characters and sentences to fill in the gaps of a wholeness that can only be lived in, not remembered, nor relived through lines on paper. Because he was everything. And it’s not easy to catch everything and paste it on a page. I can try to build him with all the words I have in my pocket, but he will still refuse rebuilding. So, instead, I listen to my inventive memory, who imagines remembering something that might have happened completely differently, predicting the past, injecting magic and reality in equal measures to balance his believability.
Was he magical?
He was everything.
I wish there was a way to remember completely the first time we met. There was a kitchen full of people, and the most casual upward glance to receive the introduction. Someone was rolling a joint. Me, to be specific. Someone was telling a ribald story to someone else. Someone was laughing with her beer teeth yellow. A hi, an excitement, a wariness. And a return to normal universe. The one we all inhabit, arm in arm with the rational friend we keep talking to in our heads. Drinking wine, sip by putrid sip. The going-back to non-introduction. Do our shadow selves hold their breath? Do they cross their fingers when you receive the chance to step out of the flush and touch someone you just met with fingers warm with animal fire – hoping against hope that you won’t look away and fall back into resumption with a snap? I’ve always wondered at how distinctly we separate our disappointment with the lives we live and any other possible disappointment we may ever feel about the way we live our lives. But there were allowed things and unallowed things, so I slid back to where I was and refused memory the chance to commit with accuracy, so that when we sit down here to start our retelling, I can only imagine it happening, and not it happening actually.
There are full pictures. Like that time when he stood over the swimming pool and looked up at the sky, and it was a crazy night, he had been stuck in some scary swivel of a drugmare, and it had felt like it would go on forever, but then he looked up at the sky, and I said, “Look at the moon,” and then he grinned his gold-tooth grin and said, like a child, “Home! Finally!”, and I wanted to say, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along.” I felt like we won. Like the whole thing was a show about reality, people getting voted in and voted out, and him and I, when we found the moon, it felt like we won the whole, amazing race.
Let’s take a train. Again. Just meet me near home, we can jump on a train because we have nowhere else to go. We can slide through the side of Colombo together, again, you secretly holding my hand, and then daringly, even when the teenaged boys arguing in tamil can clearly see us from where they stand. Let’s repeat. Go through all those conversations we’ve had, about who knew whom the most in a way he has never been known before, but this time, let’s be cautious. Let’s be honest, this time. Because are you really that easy to get to know?
I didn’t think I knew you when we stood outside that empty swimming pool full of people, everybody holding a drink in their hands. The music was amazing, but it felt like we were all pretending, like we all had to prove our right to stand on that spot of earth we had been given, the light slapping the walls like a cinemascope, beating. You give me a can of beer that I don’t remember how to open. All I remember is the siren going on in my head, just get away, just get away, don’t you think you know a stranger when you know the facts which make him the stranger. But you put your best face on, and I told the rational friend inside my head to step aside: let this night be awkward, I know I don’t know how to snap a beer open, but tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll tell him he was right, and that I was wrong, and that I’ll go back to knowing him the most he’d ever been known by someone else. The most understanding person he’s ever met.