Memory is a funny thing. Things, places, people can slip away imperceptibly until they are gone; sometimes to be retrieved, sometimes lost forever. I had an encounter with the limits of my own long-term memory recently when I came across an old address book of mine. It was ancient and battered and frayed at the edges. I recognized my old friend immediately.
It was a sweet journey, flicking through the pages of names and addresses and the memories that go with them. I came across the contact info for an old lover and delved into the reasons I had so enjoyed him and the good decision I made when I sliced him from my life. No regrets there.
On the front blank pages I have listed the direct international codes for several countries and European cities. This address book is from the days when I kept in contact with people by postcard, letter and the occasional expensive phone call. There are only three e-mail addresses listed – all from universities. How things have changed! I have several “beeper” numbers listed. Ah, the good old days.
I found a planned around-the-world itinerary, but I don’t remember why I wanted to spend so much time in North Africa and the Middle East. I’m certainly far less adventurous these days. Tucked into this page was a number to call for information about working your way across the world on ocean liners. Did I ever call it?
I don’t remember some of these people. Roberto from Sicily sounds lovely, but who the hell is he? Why did I have five contact numbers for Zack from Oregon, of whom I have not the slightest memory? Jess Cho – who are you and why are you in my address book? Why did I have the number for an emergency priest? I’m not even catholic.
There are little sketches and caricatures of a man I once had a huge painful crush on. I’m married to him now. Was I really considering attending Coventry University? I must have been; I have an advisor listed. And too many of the people listed are now dead. Too many.
I’m still friends and in touch with many of the people listed. And just glancing through their previous addresses brought back wonderful memories of them, myself and the person I was when I met them. But those lost corners of my memory? They bother me. How could I have forgotten Roberto, Zack, Jess and the reason I might desperately need a priest? Maybe they’ll pop back into my memory some day like they’ve never been gone. Or maybe they’re gone forever.