Essay

Past Perfect; or, The Reconciliation of Inaccuracies [A Short Story]

Past Perfect;

or, The Reconciliation of Inaccuracies

[A Short Story]

 

I remember you every day. I am remembering you now. I remember you always; I have remembered you since the day we met. Memory engaged in the act of itself for you, I remembered you this morning. I had remembered you in my dreams. I am remembering you fondly; I was remembering you fondly; I have been remembering you fondly since we first . . . I will be remembering this for many years to come. I will have been remembering this for many years when it comes time for me to die. I have remembered fondly many times in my life; I had remembered you many times before we separated. I will have remembered you for my whole life when it comes time for me to die, I suspect. I would remember you even if I forgot my name; I would have remembered you even if I had forgotten my name; equally, I could and I could have; I should and I should have, however, whenever, wherever.

To remember is to become a member of the past again. Once more ,this special membership of the mind. In memory—you are all about in memoriam. Living, an old man once told me when I was a boy, is an accumulation of death and dying; and here I am on the shore at surf’s edge in Montauk. 180 degrees of ocean horizon, from the shore looking out over the ocean to the horizon, all directions, from left to right, ocean and sky, a line that sometimes appears as if it were wobbling, horizons in New York are foreshortened, unless you get high enough up, everyone needs to get to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, at least once in a life. I do not recollect how many times I’ve been to the top, in the day and at night, clear skies most preferable, of course, the horizon is not foreshortened at Land’s End, as far away as the curvature of the earth allows us to glimpse when there are no obstacles . . .

Obstacles are at the ready wherever we go, wherever we are, however we arrive. No matter how we imagine we can avoid them, they are ever present, and not within our control as to whether or not they come up before us . . . memories of the ocean, memories of the shore, more memories of the sand of the sun of the sky, of the photos I took of the clouds, the horizon, the surf with the waves rising, curling, turning, tumbling one after another in perpetuity forever and ever no mater how the beach shifts, erodes, changes irrevocably as we would see if we were to have a glimpse of things as they happen millennially. Reveries now and then, of all–how can we remember all the things that have happened except in some hyper-fragmented way, like trying to collect confetti and piecing it together into the sheets of paper they once were. I recall of each of us, both of us, there, as we were, have been this time or that, on the beach… I see her walking ahead of me. I turn to find her walking behind me. I reach out to touch her as we walk side-by-side.

I recollect mornings on the beach in Montauk waiting for sunrise . . . standing in the changing shades of the gloaming I cannot put precisely in words, I record on film, digital, video. I also take in photographs of the sun over the horizon, the length of shadows it casts and the changing length of the shadows as it rises higher and higher, the light in the sky from gray to blue gray to an enriching blue, at least on the day I last recorded sunrise from the shore—what the fuck is an enriching blue?

What more do I say? else can I? I do not need to consider this at present . . . what present am I talking about? You might think to ask, ask in-loud . . . a present in time, now at this moment; present in time now in my life; present as in present tense, usually, not now at this moment, but maybe now in my life, as what I usually do I am doing now in my life, darkness everywhere pervading my life . . . the shadows are shades are ghosts–ghosts, I have imagined; ghost stories I have always liked more than horror stories with monsters. I have learned others have believed in ghosts . . . all of them, these shadows, these shades, this Wayang performance I once saw, puppet master from Indonesia . . . all of them–are they them there . . . here and there, now and then, everything falling between, all reaching for me, clutching at me, scraped as I have said elsewhere . . . ghosts–I have not seen a ghost in a long, long time.

A skeleton hand clutching at me from behind, not the ghost’s hand, the ghost did not have a hand I could see, no skeleton ghost, always close behind me, behind everyone, the icicles of a skeleton hand. The fear of the dark is another kind of fear of the unknown . . . remembering is by volition or without volition, recollecting is to remember by volition, and to recall is to bring to mind, remember by volition, that is, to recollect with the intention of telling. No one recalls without telling, even if we recollect to tell ourselves, an attempt to fix more securely in mind so recollection can be had and it will not be subject to the random side of remembering.

We would walk to Ditch Plains and collect shells, collect rocks, pebbles, I have a collection of wave worn stones on a window sill in our bedroom. I have them arranged around the small pieces of driftwood we brought back from Montauk after our son found them and picked them up from the beach one walk how long ago I cannot say.

I have tried to sketch the shadows of the rocks on the sill in the afternoon light, the window in the wall perpendicular to the wall with the window facing east and the rising sun. The setting sun reflects off the windows opposite the window perpendicular to the window that lets in the morning light. I have tried to catch the shadows in the knotted hollows of the cliffs of Shadmoor, the Hoo Doos, the natives called, the spirits that dwelled in the echoes, we used to pause to listen to the ocean echoing off the cliffs of Shadmoor coming to them from our room, coming back from them, times of the day different, walking there late morning, coming back early afternoon, walking there, virtually due east, some time mid afternoon, coming back with the nearly late afternoon summer sun in our eyes.

When I was a boy walking at night, I imagined the shadows clutching me jumping out at me grabbing me, taking me to some unknown between, what lies between here and there, I have asked this elsewhere. I watch the branches, winter bare, on my block all the way home alone after after-school, look to, look at, watch. The London Plane trees in my old neighborhood–East Flatbush–we had a lot of trees on our streets. Winter bare trees shaking in the wind–I would sometimes scare myself and have to run home beneath them, convinced that if I slowed, they would bend and grab me, pick me up and that would be it, I’d be gone, I used to run out of rooms after turning out the light when I am a boy, not the same fear now, but the memories of then are fiercely vivid, and sometimes I find myself hastening my step out of room after turning out the light at night, recollecting with the same intensity as the felt what I had experienced as a boy.

To remember, to recall, to recollect, to remind, how is it we keep track of which one to use? What then do I say about what it is I do in mind, in, with and for memory? I now recall what the French say when they ant to say I remember; they say, Je me souviens, or, literally, I overcome myself, the French souvenir a compound of over and come as in the English to overcome or to be overcome, a different connotation, but then, to remember is a way of overcoming one’s self, to be overcome with images or emotions or the echoes of words . . .

And why he imagines that he has not mis-taken the word is not beyond me. I can see why he thinks souvenir is sous venir.  I just do not understand how he has not understood that he has mis-taken sous for ‘over’ and not ‘under,’ so then the compound, if it is in fact one, would be under-come, or I under-come myself? What he says about memory being a way to overcome one’s self is true. The rest of it is confused.

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