memory, the unreliable narrator

The single biggest theme in my creative work is memory. I am obsessed with how memory preserves, re-creates, fabricates and fictionalises events. How memory is the most unreliable narrator of all, yet how we desperately cling to our memories for truth. We are so deceived about the factual, and yet we continue operating as if everything we remember is truth, with a capital T.

The more I work on pieces about memory, the less faith I have in myself. I doubt myself at such a fundamental level, I can’t even take what’s real as what’s true. No wonder my hold on reality is so flimsy. I’m a fabrication of my own hallucinated remembrances.

The implications of this are huge. I feel shadowy, faint outlined. I’m perplexed by everyone and their responses. I want to shake the world like a snowglobe and scream out nothing is as you remember! nothing is the way it was! We don’t even know how things were.

The romanticisation of memory is nostalgia. Blows my mind how yesteryear is so wonderful, warm. I grew up in London, and the last time I visited, I pilgrimmed to the chip shop at the bottom of Tottenham Court Road. Seeking the memory of over-salted vinegar-y potatoes in my mouth. In Khartoum, my eyes burn until I see the Nile. In Regina, it’s the driving of the one-ways just south of downtown. Thought all these actions were old habits, but they’re not. Just my way of cementing memory – see, the chips still taste incredible. The Blue and White Niles still soothe me. Ergo, my memories must be real. But they’re not. They are not.

There’s a lot of repetition in my writing – and my speech. By saying the same thing over and over, I’m not advertising a damaged short-term memory. I’m just cementing things, making sure they’re fixed more factually in my mental. I understand why people repeat stories, why old folks tell you the same thing over and over again. Repetition turns falsehoods into truths. We need to do this to make sure that we’re not delusional. But some of us don’t understand this. I think that’s the easier way to be.

I’m not the only one obsessed with memory. Anyone who creates anything – painters, writers, musicians – are controlled by memory, whether they consciously recognise this or not. What’s dangerous is when you start operating as if every memory you have is false. I see my intimates now as constructs, and I really need to stop that. Operating from the notion that if they’re constructs, there’s nothing to stop me projecting my own desires and needs on to them.

And that’s not a place anyone wants to be in, my needs are intense untempered.

Leave a Reply