love, life, and the pursuit of liberation
“memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain.”~eve’s bayou
i’ve always been a clairvoyant of sorts. when i was in the second grade, i distinctly remember being upset during show and tell day because paul brought his stuffed pig again. he brought it already, i told the teacher, and i commenced to retelling the story of how he got it from his grandparents. i remember all the children looking at me weird, but i was used to this. i was the short, precocious black girl, in a room of average white children. so i knew the look. but this time it was different. the teacher assured me that paul hadn’t brought the pig before and allowed him his turn. he told the same story i recounted moments earlier.
it happened off and on during my childhood. mostly as dreams that i would remember once they happened in real life. one time it happened while i was wide awake.
my grandmother had been in remission from her cancer for several months and was visiting family for thanksgiving. on her way back, she got sick with the flu and was taken to the hospital for fluids. on my way to say goodbye to her before i took the red-eye back to college, i had a vision, a knowing, and broke into hysterics. i knew that she was going to be dead before christmas. my aunt, a god-fearing, church-going woman, who was also a nurse herself held me up and told me the cancer was gone. that i was just feeling emotional but everything was okay. i heard the words but i saw the look in her eyes, that same look my second-grade classmates had given me. and i heard the words that weren’t being said. that maybe she believed me but didn’t want to.
fast forward about 3 weeks and i got a call late one evening while i was babysitting. i was to fly home, 3,000 miles, away immediately. the cancer had come back and my grandmother had about 10 days left to live. but she was given that number a week ago. “we wanted you to get through finals,” my mother said. i made it home in time to hear my grandmother speak for the last time. she died christmas eve.
not only do i remember things before they come to be, i also remember things of my very early days. i remember being potty trained and being left on the toilet for what seemed like hours in the hot pink bathroom of my babysitter. i remember when my sister was a newborn (we are 2.5 years apart) and i would sneak in her crib during naptime. i remember christmas when i was 4 and my father let me pick out all my own gifts and then made me turn my head while he wrapped them. since that was the first chirstmas i remembered, i never had a reason to believe in santa claus.
but when i need my memory, of both things seen and unseen, it’s not there. i don’t remember what happened or when it happened. it does come back to me from time to time, the smell of men’s cologne, the sick feeling when my left breast is touched, the way i tense up when i’m touched in certain ways, the fear i felt when my father touched me on the small of my back.
there are holes in my memory that shouldn’t be there. my mother says i set a hotel table on fire when i was about 4. but i was old enough to remember things around that time, so why don’t i remember it? she said she found my diary when i was 12 and mentioned being mad at her because she made me go there with him, about my cousin touching me. but i don’t remember writing that. i don’t remember that happening. i don’t know who this cousin was. most importantly, i dont understand how she could have read that yet did nothing.
they say that the lack of memories is a protection. i’m not sure whether i want that protection there anymore.