It was 2005. I had my own phone line and it had a custom ringer. But I didn't have a printer. The night before some kind of English paper was due, I pressed print, turned on my AIM away message and went to retrieve my paper from our home printer. You're probably smart enough to guess that it was located in my parents' bedroom. At approximately 10:15pm, I opened the door to their room. I'll note that it was unlocked. I then laid eyes on a situation depicted as natural, basic, even meaningful by National Geographic and "What's Happening to my Body," but -- much more rightly-- as a horrifying, irrecoverable rite of passage by almost every sitcom ever: my parents doin it. Unfortunately, my gangly duck-footed stride prevented any form of stealth, so the offenders sensed an entry. My blood went cold. The imaginary camera in front of me panned the scene and queued the Jaws soundtrack. I silently closed the door and retreated to my room, sans paper, without them ever knowing the identity of the interloper. Obviously we never spoke of it.
I think my great memory is a curse. I can easily, almost involuntarily, recall not just the gruesome carnal imagery, but the choking feeling of every single one of my organs congregating in my throat, the clammy humidity that overtook my palms. Fuck fuck fuck it's happening now.
My memory also means that I think of everything as part of my "glory days." How could I possibly move on from senior year of high school when I can so distinctly recall the joy of ruling over our student body of 92? Will I ever feel more free than backpacking through the US National Parks with 3 near-strangers that became some of my closest friends? [See what I did there? Drew ya in with the sex and now I get to talk about this?]
People love asking me what it was like as a woman to spend a month in tents, cars, and western trails with 3 guys I had barely even met. But there's so much more that I remember perfectly! The minutia! Ask me about the never-ending conversations that spiraled away from logic and into pure conjecture without Google to aid us in the backcountry, or about the taste of uncooked noodles and powdered cheese when we were too high to remember to bring the cooking gas to the top of the mountain! Or about our total loss of social norms after our first backcountry trip, or about seeing both ends of a rainbow in the Wyoming hillsides! Ask me what it was like to spend nonstop weeks learning absolutely everything about each other and to love each other not in spite but because of it! And fine, you can ask how I managed to pee around them too.
The truth is, it's hard to know if my memory is great. I could just be another hapless, idealistic romantic who thinks sepia haze equates to glory, or who really just has an active imagination, which would explain why I remember so many things that no one else does. I guess I'm either a savant or a liar. This whole memory thing is probably also the reason why I find myself narrating experiences in real time -- it's like "living in the moment" for me means "living for the memories," so my mind tailors my experiences to fit a narrative form for memories' sake. Anyone else out there share this wacko inclination??
PS. You know how we can't relate to our grandparents' past because the photos are in black and white? Well, I think our grandkids' equivalent will be that our histories are 2D, and their photos will be holograms. I can't be the only one in our generation crippled by nostalgia who wants to be able to relive memories forever. Any tech developers out there who want to make my dream come true?
From Elena, working in criminal justice reform in NYC.
New York City