Past Perfect; or, Doubt is not the Highest Form of Wisdom [Short Fiction]

I remember. What do I remember as I am remembering? To remember or not to remember mayor may not be to recollect; recollection something other than all the ways remembering becomes an act of of re-memory. Remembering may or may not be active; recollection cannot be passive. I remember thus I have remembered; what is it that I do or have done when I remember? I remembered, thus I had remembered? I am remembering–again, what am I remembering? To remember is to become a member of the past again, I have said before. Once more, this special membership in the mind isa place in memory everything about in memoriam; living, an old man once told me when I was a boy, is an accumulation of death and dying. Wordsworth talked about recollections, not remembrances. Here I am on the shore at surf’s edge in Montauk. 180 degrees of ocean horizon, from the shore looking out onto the water, to the horizon–horizontal–how does a curved space maintain horizons? That’s all you see for 180 degrees, ocean horizon, in all directions from left to right, ocean and sky and a line that sometimes appears as if it were wobbling, horizons in New York are foreshortened, unless you get high up enough, 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–there are many obstacles that 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 you would see if you were to have a glimpse of things as they happen millennially–but no. You won’t. You have other eyes in another mind. You won’t get this. You come from a generation that believes we must rethink our old laws that do not pertain to things now, and that’s talking about the First Amendment! Reveries now and then of all–how can we remember all the things that happen except in some hyper-fragmented way, like collecting confetti and piecing it together into the sheets of paper they once were. I recall each of us, both of us 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 love walking with you–I would not want to walk here with anyone else.

What I recollect from mornings on the beach in Montauk waiting for sunrise, standing in the changing shades of the gloaming, I cannot put precisely in words, so I record it on film, digital, video. I also take, in photographs of the sun over the horizon, the length of shadows it casts, the changing length as it rises higher and higher, the sun, its 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 more do I say? What else can I? I do not need to consider this at present. What present am I talking about you might think? 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; but what I am I am not and always. True? 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 . . . what then do we say about what it is we do in mind, in, with and for memory? I now recall what the French say when they want 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. Doubt is not the highest form of wisdom.

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