I don’t remember being so peculiar. Perhaps this is because I have always remembered myself as incredibly sophisticated and unbelievably cool. However, a quick flick through the family photo album is a terrible shock to the system. It reminds me that I was never anywhere near the ‘popular kid’ status.
I had a winning smile. Some might say it was great. Some might say it was enormous. In fact, it was so big and unruly that a paediatric dentist decided to put braces on it. To top it off, two very beguiling jaw-aligning, orthodontic bands were added. One thing to note is that the bands were rubber. I’m not kidding! They were real rubber bands. You could tie a doll’s hair back with them; they were perfect miniature scrunchies (let’s be clear, my mouth was large for a human not a whale). You could also swallow the rubber bands. I found this out one day when I was unquestionably impressing my classmates by pretending to play the guitar with my chic orthodontic fashion accessories. Half way through a chorus one of the rubber bands broke and, in my astonishment, I swallowed it. Of course, I was horrified and so were my classmates. If their horror stemmed from my digestion or my music skills, I must admit that I remain unsure. On the other hand, my whale metamorphosis was becoming more of a reality with my stomach harbouring unwanted plastic. Anyway, my point is, I wasn’t the coolest kid on the block. I really could have sworn I was though.
My ability to remember things accurately has been thrown into question again quite recently. More specifically, this question arose when I stumbled across a few of my old journals. Now, I’m going to describe the context as to the time in which I was writing these journals – this is not for your sake but for mine. At the time of my writing, I was nineteen and traveling through Spain. It is important for you to know that I had only recently left my hometown, a countryside village in the United States where the population was still declining from its peak headcount of 740. I had a rudimentary understanding of the Spanish language. I also had a few choice phrases that I could whip out at a particularly singular occasion. Example: a giraffe receives an injection. So, with my stellar language skills, I ventured into Spain.
According to my diary, here’s what happened:
I locked myself in a bathroom. I don’t know how I did it. Almost immediately, I got a little nervous because I was in a café and there weren’t many people around. The other customers would have seen me walk off to the toilet. If I was gone too long … well, there would be assumptions. I jiggled the handle and got a little frantic because my Spanish isn’t all that good yet. I was scared to call out. I probably wouldn’t understand anyone if they spoke to me. Anyway, that was under the assumption that anyone would want to help. I think I would be a little hesitant if someone was calling out for help in a bathroom. So, I started to get worked up and then I hit the door handle very hard. The noise was loud, and I stumbled into the café seating area, red-faced. There was perspiration from fear. I paid the bill and left.
However, I don’t remember the event like this at all. What I do remember was being particularly excited to sit in a café because my village in the US didn’t have one. In fact, it didn’t have a grocery store either. After using the café toilet, I had a small problem with the lock. I knew that I was working against the clock in order to ward off any incorrect assumptions regarding my bathroom use. (Here is where memory and journal entry differ.) I negotiated the door handle like a trained and silent spy, real suave and savvy-like. I let myself out of the bathroom calm as a cucumber. I paid the bill and left.
After reading this entry, I began to wonder if my other memories were questionable too. Once again, I compared paper with memory.
A woman started speaking to me in Spanish and I didn’t know what she was saying. I was sitting next to her on a bench in the plaza. I didn’t want to leave because I thought that would be rude. Instead, I sat and listened attentively. I nodded when she nodded, laughed when she laughed. After a while, I realised that she had asked me a question. I was confident in saying ‘I like your dog’ in Spanish. I said this to her and left. She had a dog.
I remember that story without an issue. It was embarrassing then. It’s still a little embarrassing now.
Needless to say, I’m on the fence about journals and photographs and anything designed to document things. They can really do a number on self-esteem. At the same time, what a laugh they can be! So, I’m not sure how to wrap this up, to deliver one of those fantastic and satisfying conclusions. All I know is that regardless of what I write now, in a couple months I’ll forget what I’ve said exactly. In fact, if all goes well, I might remember having written a very cohesive, fascinating piece. As long as I don’t look back at the truth, that’s how things will stay.
[Reilly Dufresne – she/her]
[Illustration by Reilly Dufresne]