In the latest installment of “Love, Recorded,” Matt Salesses wonders if two people can really understand the treasures of each other’s past.
I haven’t been sleeping well. My skin feels as if it is flaking off, like old scales. Last night, I took some store-brand Nyquil that only made me more tired as I failed for hours to fall asleep.
Now, at work, I drink cup after cup of green tea. A little energy pops up, then fades, like a stomach ache. I worry about making a mistake large enough to be noticed. I don’t want to be noticed. There are things I’m supposed to be doing that will eventually have to get done.
I worry that life has become about making my mistakes small enough to slip by.
My wife, our cat, and I are supposed to go to Maine this weekend, stay with old family friends. I keep waiting for a phone call. Days pass. I haven’t seen these friends for years. I wonder if their memories are as kindly selective.
My Maine is a fog of swimming and boating and euchre. My Maine is a mood.
I wonder if this column sounds too rambling. I wonder if rambling is a mood like Maine. I think that this is the mood I am in now, for good or ill.
Earlier this week, Cathreen and I went to see a free movie at the Omni theater in the Boston Museum of Science. The Omni is a wonder of my youth—the screen, an entire domed ceiling; the steep climb to your seat; the tipped-back, falling-forward, dizzying sense of movement. The Omni was a sort of castle to me, as a child. Yet I doubt that I have seen more than five movies there, in all.
Cathreen looks underwhelmed. “You don’t like it,” I say. She says I had told her that the seats moved, that the movie was 3-D. I don’t remember saying this. I think I only built up my castle in her imagination; I think her imagination took hold of my youth.
We rate the movie lowly. My youth pales before her critical eye.
She called my brother to talk about Maine—he spoke of our trips in the same hallowed tone as I had. “What’s so great about Maine?” Cathreen asked.
There is no way to explain. I imagine her stepping into my past, like the shock of cold lake water: you dip your toes first, let them acclimate; then wade in up to your waist; then plunge.
My sister has been in a car accident, my mother tells me on the phone. A car hit her from behind. I read about my sister’s car on Facebook. Luna, my sister calls her Civic. Luna is dead. There doesn’t seem to be any human damage, at least.
Cathreen and I have both been in accidents before. She has a problem with her shoulder that flares up from time to time. I have a bad memory of an ex-girlfriend.
The old pain lingers.
The phone lines buzz as my family calls round-robin. Cathreen calls her family. I try to sleep.
On Tuesday, Boise whines and then moans, an almost ape-like growl. He throws up. We count the number of times, anxious that he might be ill again. We praise his hairball. He has thrown up, this time, with reason.
Four more yellow messes follow in quick succession. He whines again, telling us he was sick.
“I know,” I say. “I know.”
Imagining swallowing that much hair.
I had a friend who could chronicle every time he’d ever vomited.
My sister is in the hospital. My sister is fine. Our nephews grow up and regress. One goes to school—they are two years old. The other refuses to eat.
I look at pictures of them in Korea. They’ve forgotten who I am. I ask my sister if she is okay, on Facebook.
Cathreen and I talk about our childhoods, at one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock. She grew up with a rich father, a fear of needles, disdain for school, a big heart. Her parents sent her off to Australia for seven years. I grew up adopted, with a love of reading, a fear of myself, the willingness to fight. An orphanage sent me to America when I was two.
“Maine,” I tell her, “—I remember being happy.” But it could be baseball for someone else, or fishing, or the ocean, or apple-picking, or The Legend of Zelda. It could be anything fogged with emotional memory.
I feel exhausted. I can hardly keep my eyes open. My mother tells me on the phone that I am sick.
Cathreen and I have vast cultural differences, gulfs between us that can keep us awake at night, sometimes. And yet, even without those differences, can two people really understand the treasures of each other’s pasts? We were like, I was about to write. No: we were children then, what we loved is now buried under the sand.
Maybe our maps to the past aren’t clear enough. Or maybe to unearth that treasure was never the point.