Call them signs, an emerging theme, God talking, or coincidence. Within a week of my birthday, life was showing/telling me, I'm bad at being with other people; better to get better at connecting while I'm still young.
I don't know if this is normal, but I have problems with episodic memory. This was embarrassingly clear to me when my high school barkada was complete for the first time in months, maybe years, for just one night last weekend. And I could not detail an anecdote from our shared adolescence to save my life.
"I remember when there was a luau. They let us decorate. And Kat pushed Lei into the pool."
Really? I found myself thinking. Then, Oh, yeah. But, I couldn't remember any of the details, just the dim fact that I had indeed pushed Lei into the pool.
The remorse, on the other hand, was pretty fresh; how bad I felt immediately after I'd picked on my water-hating friend, that I can definitely remember.
There are other memories of memories I don't recall. Once, when I was in high school, my senior homeroom teacher told me that she remembered when I was 10 or 11 and threw a tantrum over a lower-than-expected science grade. I kicked like a little kid, she said. I have no memory of this at all and refused to believe it had happened, though I did have a reputation for tantrums back then.
More recently, my lola recalled how my lolo spent his last Christmas in the hospital, and I was horrified that I could not remember this, either. I was there that Christmas, but I don't remember the hospital at all.
I thank whatever seized me at nine years old to start keeping diaries, and I go cold at the thought that I was thinking of shredding them earlier this year. The first thing I'm going to do when I go home is dig them up and take them back with me.
What's wrong with me? I'd like to know. Cris marvels at my ability to learn songs in a snap, but I'd much rather be able to remember scenes from my own life, shared with my nearest and dearest, no less.
Now that I look back and try to pull out specific memories, I'm frustrated to see how wrapped up inside myself I've been. I can remember how I felt and the thoughts I liked to think, fancying myself special. But specific events I do remember can be separated into two main categories: the times I was by myself and felt mostly awesome, and the times I was with other people and felt different shades of bad. A third category, happy memories with other people, is pitifully sparse in comparison.
It's not to say that nobody cared about me; I think it's that I haven't cared much for other people. My memories feature mostly me because I focused on mostly me. I chose friends, crushes, and people to date for mostly selfish reasons: they made me feel good about myself. I probably felt horrible around other people because I was always wishing they'd treat me the way I wanted, instead of simply enjoying their company, much less making them feel special also.
How cold I must have been.
Somehow, I have friends like my friends and family members who are still interested in spending time with me. I would have ditched someone like me a long time ago — and I don't blame the old friends who did. Realizing just how wonderful some people can be is why, in the middle of the sensory overload that was Cafe Juanita on my birthday, I felt so unworthy I wanted to cry.
There's something else that makes me panicky about my lack of connection. Between my mom in physical therapy for some mysterious back pain and my grama recently admitted for appendicitis, plus how bird-like my lola feels whenever I get to hug her and how more defined my dad's face is every time I see him, I can't help seeing how old my family is getting. Dad has more hobbies now. It's my turn now, to — what?
Grama was admitted Monday. I visited her Tuesday, and she told me that it was the first time she'd been hospitalized for anything other than the births of her children. She also told me that with her children grown and scattered, she was thankful for her friends. It wasn't a slight against my dad, my aunt, and my uncles; I think she was just stating a fact. Her friends constantly checked on her. One of them spent the first night with her there in that little ward, before the surgery.
I immediately thought of my own friends, the girls I'd had a slumber party with the weekend before, as well as the few friends I've [barely] kept in touch with since college. Perhaps selfishly, I wondered if, with all of them scattered as well, I'd have anyone like them the way Grama had her friends that Monday night. Again, I cringed at how bad I've been at keeping friends.
And of course, it wasn't until later that I thought about being there for them myself.
I guess the saving grace is that I'm still young, and it can't be too late to be better.
As for my terrible memory for good things, I'll have to be more conscious of the present and my present company. Remember this good thing happening to you and these good people you get to share it with, Kat. Then maybe, when they ask you about something great you did together, you have something real to say.
This letter features a soundtrack: two songs that came to mind while I was writing, and one that followed after I fed the first two songs into Grooveshark. Call it a sign, God talking, or coincidence.
1. Only if for a Night, by Florence + the Machine
The grass was so green against my new clothes / And I did cartwheels in your honor / Dancing on tiptoes, my own secret ceremonials / Before the service began / In the graveyard / Doing handstands // And I heard your voice / As clear as day / And you told me I / Should concentrate / It was all so strange / And so surreal / That a ghost should be / So practical / Only if for a night // And the only solution was the stand and fight / And my body was bruised, and I was set alight / But you came over me like some holy rite / And although I was burning, you're the only light / Only if for a night
2. A Better Son/Daughter, by Rilo Kiley
Then you hang up the phone and feel badly for upsetting things / And crawl back into bed to dream of a time / When your heart was open wide and you loved things just because
And you'll be better, and you'll be smarter / And more grown-up and a better daughter / Or son and a real good friend / You'll be awake, and you'll be alert / You'll be positive though it hurts / And you'll laugh and embrace all your friends / You'll be a real good listener / You'll be honest; you'll be brave
3. It's Cool to Love Your Family, by Feist
And someone loved them once / And someone loves them still / And someone misses them / And someone always will // It's cool, it's cool to love your family