Readers, I have the world's worst memory. I often have to have other people remind of things; and then when they remind me, while it may seem vaguely familiar, like I might have read about it in a book many years ago, I still can't quite really grasp it. Part of this is trauma, and part of this is having depressive periods since I was 14 - your brain doesn't encode memories such that it can retrieve them when you are depressed, and it can leave big holes in time when you try to reconstruct the past.
The period after my rape, for instance, when I was refusing to deal with it, or acknowledge that I was raped at all? I remember I was depressed. And I remember I watched a lot of movies then - but I cannot remember the movies at all. I cannot remember the plot, the characters, the scenes, the endings. Nothing. Big black holes. Also, any memory in which my rapist was involved (I knew him for over a decade before he raped me) is completely gone. Just, I try to remember back, and I get nothing. At all. Like someone has gone through and scrubbed it all right out.
It's always a little unnerving, suddenly realizing pieces of you are gone.
But recently, and maybe this is a sign of healing of some sort, all these memories of high school have come flooding back. In images, but mostly in feelings. I can recreate the memory for each and every sense.
I was just walking home from the metro when I remembered, and felt again, all the feelings of sneaking out of my parents house and seeing the car of the boy I was dating parked around the corner. I remember his car, I remember the emotions it conjured in me - happiness, anxiety, excitement. He was waiting for me, in the shadows. It must have been midnight. I had told him I'd take him for a walk through the woods.
Ok, this is a wee little wood, in the middle of a suburban South Jersey development, but there were plenty of little windy paths through brush, and then a field with low bushes and scrub and pine you could stand in the sandy middle of and not see a single house or hear a single car. Just birds and the loud silence of trees. And us. That was the plan. On the other side were tall trees and an easy walk out to a well-lit street. But we weren't walking that way. I had played in this wood as I child; I could walk in blindfolded. I would walk him through the thin, windy, almost nonexistent way to the field, where we would lay down and look at the stars and kiss and lie next to each other just to feel the other breathe.
So, I took his hand, and he didn't really trust me, and that gave me a sudden twinge of nerves - what if I did get us lost? He'd brought a flashlight, but I immediately told him to put it out - flashlights can make it harder to see in the dark and find my way, because they make me blind to everything outside the light of the beam, and it made me feel like I was in a foreign place, some strange, scary woods waiting for me just beyond the light. We had the moon. These were my woods. I knew my way. He hesitated and I could see his face no matter the dark, so I laughed at him and called him a chicken, and he chuckled and flicked the flashlight off, and I took his hand and led him forward to be swallowed into the tall reeds that reached far above our heads to the night sky.
I pulled him behind, knowing just when to warn there was a branch to step over or the ground buckled a bit. I did not stumble once. I was in love. I was taking him somewhere magic. The air was cool and soft and the woods were welcoming us, holding us gently in an embrace that made everything else outside the bounds of the trees cease to be.
We emerged into the field. He moved to walk beside me instead of behind me, and put his arm around my waist. We walked up a sandy incline where kids had built a bike ramp and a jump out of the earth. The stars were sparkling crisply against the black. Leaves breathed softly. We sat down Indian-style on the ground, on a tiny patch of grass, facing each other. I looked up at the stars so long I got a little lost in them, and then I looked down, and then I realized he was just looking at me.
The only world that existed was he and I in that field that night, pared down to just this small little universe all our own, but there are few times in my life I remember my love and joy ever feeling so huge and infinite.