Hiro wrote this beautiful, captivating piece last week called Tsunamis in the House of Wholeness.
And while I was reading, something began tugging at my sleeve of my memory.
At first a vague pulling sensation. Resistance. Where?
There. She said December. She said the day after Christmas. But that’s not possible.
She sounds so sure. No. Impossible. There it is. Markers of time. Dates. Holidays. References.
I didn’t want to check. I couldn’t afford to be wrong. What does that even mean.
Still this slippery circling around. Something is not right something is not right something is not right. That voice that says stop the bus and get off.
So I stopped. What is the part that is wrong?
A logical statement, followed by a flood of scenes to back it up:
It can’t be December 26th because I left Tel Aviv and moved to Berlin the first week in January.
And far too many things happened between those two points to fit into a week.
Therefore, the tsunami must have been in October. Beginning of November, at the latest.
Of course, I am mistaken. At some deep, forgotten place inside of me I even know this. Something in my memory has crumbled.
But my memory is functioning, argues my memory: look at this rush of experiences I can display for you. Such crisp perfect images in the most specific order. Impeccable. So what could possibly be crumbling?
The defense rests.
You see, my memory explains, there is far too much here. Assemble it any way you like but you will agree that all this could not have happened in only one week. See the images. Hear the voices. Breathe in the smells.
I’m walking into the library.
Actually, I’m about to walk into the library when I see the piece of paper on the door. A death notice with its stark black edges.
I know the name but nothing about this situation makes sense.
The daughter of the librarian is dead at sea. That’s what it says: drowned in the sea. I know her. I didn’t know she was the librarian’s daughter though. She’s a close friend of my German friend.
Someone has to tell him. He’s traveling. Email.
How well do I speak German? Enough to get through a novel without a dictionary at my side. But I’d never had to say your friend is dead.
How to say it? Do you say passed away. Do you say gone. Do you say was killed. Do you say tsunami. Do you say I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.
My friend who is dead had a gig playing for the band of this guy I absolutely couldn’t stand.
He said, keep me company. And I said, I will always go to hear you play. Just don’t make me talk to X.
It was at the lesbian bar and I hadn’t been there in years — all my girlfriends had moved to Berlin and the owner didn’t even recognize me, that’s how long it had been.
I was wearing a red hoodie and I broke my year-long alcohol ban and drank whiskey. They were out of Jameson. I had Bushmills. Pouty.
See, my memory whispers, all the details are still here. Why would I be wrong.
Some girl came up and started kissing me, and I thought, things have really changed around here.
I turned away and bumped into the cousin of my ex. Literally. Bump. Because Israel is so completely tiny that things like this cannot not happen.
That’s all I remember. That, and all the talk about who was in Thailand and who wasn’t. And that it was the night I really, truly quit smoking. How do I know that? I just know.
One of the girls who studied with my teacher survived. Barely.
When she came back, Orna asked her to tell the story of how she was rescued.
She talked for half an hour. It was heartbreaking. Packed with impossible loss and impossible miracles.
I remember Sivan squeezing my hand. I remember how hard it was to breathe.
The thing I remember most though was her long skirt.
She’d gone religious since she came back.
This wasn’t new, of course. Every Sunday night you’d see more girls in long skirts but that was when things turned. I knew it was time to leave. Whatever was going to happen to me couldn’t happen here.
And then, impossibly, laughter.
Leaving Sigal’s house after yoga. Dark. Digging in my pocket to answer the phone.
The owner of the bar had killed himself.
The bar where I had once put in ten hour days five days a week for two years. And there was some kind of impromptu wake happening at the Czech pub and did I want to go.
I didn’t but I was two blocks away.
All the waitresses were there. Plus the Romanian cook, the Russian dish washer and the Nigerian.
And everyone had a story. None of the stories were very nice, of course, because this guy had been the bastard of all bastards.
For hours we exchanged vignettes about the various ways he had cheated, screwed us over, charmed us out of things and into other things. Oh, that time I almost had to go to jail for him!
But somehow without bitterness. We laughed. Ruefully, yes. We mourned the money he owed us that we would never see. But with oddly genuine affection for someone we’d all deeply hated at one time or another.
A few weeks later, I discovered we’d mourned too soon.
He wasn’t dead. He’d gotten into trouble with the grey market, the black market, owed money all over town. This part wasn’t news.
The suicide had been faked. His son had discovered him. They put him in a mental care facility for observation, which put him temporarily out of the sights of all the people who were after him. And then at night he broke out.
Left the country. Flew to New York. With three million shekels. Of other people’s money.
I dropped in on the owner of the bar down the street to get the full story.
Which turned out to be the right thing, because guess who was the last one to have seen him.
And the more he tells me, the harder I laugh.
It’s all appalling. It’s all inappropriate. It’s all tragic. Tragic in a tiny way. Not like the tragedy of the people being rescued. Not like the tragedy of the people who didn’t get rescued.
A lowercase tragedy. And I just need to laugh.
What’s he going to do in New York with all that money, I ask, gasping for breath.
He’s already had two heart attacks. And heart surgery. He has asthma. He smokes two packs a day. His lungs are shot. As is his liver. He’s a raging alcoholic who puts absinthe in his morning coffee.
Also, he has cancer of the stomach. And he’s wanted by the mafia.
Things are not really looking his way. From the distance of five and a half years later, it’s hard for me to remember how this was funny. But there I am, perched on the bar stool, laughing until I cry.
Worlds are crumbling.
Hiro is right. End of December.
And now I have weeks and weeks of memories that don’t fit anywhere.
Do you already know what I uncovered? First: I didn’t actually go to Berlin the first week in January.
It was five weeks later. I don’t remember delaying the trip. I don’t know why I delayed.
But there were five weeks of transition that I then erased. Not the memories. Just the when. Something about this felt so … familiar.
It turns out that erasing transitions is what I do.
I had been so sure about moving to Berlin right after the yoga teacher training.
Such a big, symbolic move. After ten years. And this whole time I’ve had the wrong information about when it happened.
I had to play the tapes. Investigate the stories. Find other parts of my narrative that include the formula “as soon as X happened, Y came immediately after that”.
And all of my transitions have false fronts. Trap doors to hidden passages.
There are six, eight, ten week gaps in places where I would have sworn to not more than two.
I have deleted the transitions of my complicated stories, leaving only abrupt edges. Creating a protagonist who can move from one thing to another thing without ever really going through.
The voice knows, though.
The one that used to tell me to get off the bus in a country where exploding buses were closer to the norm than one would like.
The one that says stop. The one that says ask.
The hum of intuition that shadows the shivanautical epiphanies. Even when I cannot trust my own history, it will lead me to the seams.
Comment zen for today …
This is a place where we make room for people to have their own experiences. And to maintain the kind of safety that allows for shared stories, we give each other love and we don’t give advice.