Sunday, August 21, 2016

Cloth, Paper, Memory

At certain moments, I don't realize that I have forgotten who I am, until a photograph or a scrap of handwriting brings it back to me. It's amazing, the vast amount of sensory information the human brain can store: how it clings like sediment to the darkest corners of your memory, only to be shaken loose by an outline of light in chemicals, or a child's scrawl.

Which neighbor's cat was sick but her mother couldn't afford the vet. Which friend wrote letters on paper that smelled like drugstore perfume, mailed from Auckland with an international stamp at the top of the envelope. Which friend slept on her living room floor next to me, how the sun woke me up through the back door and her little red dog was always at my feet. 

I wonder, how did I forget the name of the boy who wrote that I was lovely at any angle?

How did I fall out of touch with the girls from camp who wrote me letters - Chipy and Mouse were their names, but what was mine? I still remember the sound of our voices echoing in the rafters of the mess hall, a chorus of soprano and grit in our throats, hoarse from saltwater and too much yelling. 

And there we were, yelling again, just the same.

Paper in my hands, I'm tempted to tell the ones I still know that I remember them. In my mind they are all six or twelve or seventeen, and their faces still as freckled and smiling as they were that day - that summer, that winter, that fall, that spring - of my remembering. But older now: with medical degrees and babies and fellowships, fewer braces, more scars. My old friends.

Remember when we all rolled up our sweatshirts and fell asleep on the cliff above the canal, whispering and looking at the stars? I'd ask.

Yes, they might say. I do.


All photographs taken at the Mood Indigo exhibit and permanent collection at Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Exhibit closing October 9th 2016.)

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