My memory is hazy. Of what, you might ask, to which I’ll respond: everything. This isn’t to say that I don’t have any vivid recollections, just that I don’t trust the ones I do. I’ve been gaslit into living this way. There have been times when I’ll ask someone whether they remember an event from years back that is, in my head, clear as crystal. They’ll tell me it never happened, that I must’ve dreamt it. How much of my past have I dreamt? Am I alone in this experience?
It isn’t all this dramatic, of course, but I’m realizing that most of my memories are tainted by the state of mind I was in as I experienced them. When I look back at last summer, the final extended period I spent under my parents’ roof, I remember that house shrouded in a warm, orange glow. Literally. I remember sitting on the deck only on cloudless, sunlit mornings, sipping coffee perfect in both temperature and sweetness (an elusive combination, for those who know). I sat out on the deck in the shade sometimes, too. And there must have been mornings when the coffee was bitter, or burned my tongue. I don’t remember them.
It’s a product of my mental state. Back in May, June, July, August, I couldn’t believe the promise of my future. I was moving to the city of my dreams. I was surrounded by my family. I was in love. The prospect of life itself was sunny; so are all my memories.
When I go back now, on weekends few and far between, everything is sharper, clearer, blue. Not in the typical, sad, “everything is blue” kind of way, but as if my subconscious grew up. I’m living through what used to be my future. Some days, it’s purple. Others, it’s red. Interpret these colors as you like; I’m not unhappy, it’s just that my life can no longer be confined to a single tone.
Some of what I don’t remember is intentional. I’ve forced myself to erase a good chunk of last summer, when I was happier than I’d ever been in the company of a person I haven’t spoken to in months. Of those days, I recall only beige mornings and stale, colorless afternoons. It’s a forced practice. I feel safer this way.
On the flipside, there’s a lot I wish to remember forever. The feeling I fell asleep with last Wednesday night, of being enveloped in love after a regular dinner turned into a surprise birthday celebration with eight of my favorite people in this city. I remember feeling similarly on my last turn around the sun, which I spent quarantined in my Chapel Hill apartment with my roommates and a couple of friends. Already, though, so many of those details have faded.
I wonder how I’ll remember last Wednesday night. I hope that at 60, I remember Aneem and Arun sitting side by side in the dim light of the living room, each hunched forward, one leg crossed over the other and a striped scarf end dangling slightly lower than its counterpart. I hope I remember the group’s collective gasp as Ryanne swallowed three raw eggs without so much as a grimace after he realized, in the night’s progression, that he hadn’t yet hit his bulking season protein quota. I hope I remember the soreness of my sides that followed explosive laughter when Toqa failed to convincingly retract a line of word vomit about one of such aforementioned scarves. I hope I remember feeling overwhelmed by the fact that I don’t know how I ended up here, but that I’m glad I did.
There’s a strong chance I won’t remember Wednesday night at all. When I think back just five years ago, my first year of college, I remember maybe 4 nights distinctly. The whole year is a series of flashing moments: laying on the quad, laughing in the library, waiting in the lobby of the dining hall. That used to be my entire life. Now, it’s outdated, irrelevant. I enjoyed that phase enough that my hazy memory warrants an internal mourning of sorts. How do I retrieve moments I didn’t deem notable enough to store?
I don’t think it’s possible to remember with objectivity. Years down the line, when I think back to my life in New York, the colors of this period will depend on where it’s led me. If I’m happy, fulfilled, satisfied, I’m sure this time will radiate a rosy pink in my head. If I’m lonely and regretful, these years will likely emit a murky brown, having preceded my eventual demise.
It’s high risk, high reward, this single-toned memory habit of mine. Sometimes, I wish I was colorblind.