Saturday, July 19, 2014

Random Access Memory

There are days like today when you are doing your best to live in the moment when suddenly...

It's 1982. I'm in the town of Eunice for some reason, and we stop at a drug store. There I find a copy of Justice League of America #207. I feel like I've uncovered pirate's treasure, since I had earlier that year purchased All-Star Squadron #14. The Justice League book is Part 1 of a 5 part story, and the All Star book is Part 2. I resolve that I will need to return to this drug store in the future if such finds are to be made there. I never do. It's probably a bit late to think about making the trip.

It's 2012. I've been chosen for jury duty the week of my 40th birthday. This feels like I've been sentenced to hard time for the crime of having my name randomly selected. I sit in a jury room arguing with total strangers on that birthday, ruminating silently that this may turn out to be the worst in my litany of disappointing birthdays. Only time will tell if that's true.

Now it's 1991. A different birthday. For some reason, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT runs a feature on GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH on their program. This despite the fact that the film will never play theatrically in the United States, and will only receive a video release years later. I am uncommonly excited by this, and even tape the show when it airs on a different station that night. I watch the show so much over the years that I can still tell you the forgotten Emilio Estevez/Mick Jagger co-starring effort also previewed therein (it's FREEJACK).

I don't even remember the year. I know I'm on a payphone when I call her. I don't even recall why, but I could hear her smile over the lines as we talked. Neither of us know that in the not-too-distant future, she will grow to hate me. For that moment, at least, we are just happy to hear the other's voice.

It's 2007, and I am hopelessly lost in Houston. A friendly older gentleman in a cowboy hat is getting coffee, and I ask him for directions. He sets me on the right track, and I make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. It turns out to be one of the greatest days of my life. None of the heartaches in the ensuing years will ever change that fact, or that weekend.

Back to 1986. It's a crazy hot summer day. I am sitting in the parking lot of Bookworm's Apple with my copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, the conclusion of DC Comics' giant maxi-series. I am ready for it to be finished, for a lot of different reasons. I have no way of knowing that it is the beginning of my long, strange trip to disillusionment with comics. I further have no way of knowing that in a few years, Bookworm's Apple will be gone forever.

It's 1994. I am walking across the bridge on my college campus. I am talking to the girl I've silently had a crush on for the last two years. Every part of me is screaming to tell her, at least to have the peace of mind that I got it off my chest. I don't. I let her walk away, all the while thinking that I will never see her again. I never have.

This is 1996. This is the day I found out I would lose my job when a secretary asked me when I was returning my contract and I had to tell her I hadn't received one. I'm not sure how I held that humiliation in without breaking down right there, but I did. Later, I excused myself to the restroom and cried. I don't think I've ever gotten over the betrayal I felt right then.

Forward to 1998. I am trudging through the mud for a job interview in a temporary trailer. I am desperate and at the end of my rope. I could never guess I would be spending the better part of the next 16 years in the half-finished building occupying the same lot.

...And with that, I am back to today, feeling a lot like I did on that day in 1998. It's more of a quiet desperation still, but it's lurking there. I wonder sometimes if the past is really as happy as we make it seem in our memories, or if we just long for the innocence and not knowing unhappy truths and the way things turn out.

My memory is random. I cannot retain most of what happened yesterday, but something from junior high is as vivid as if it did happen yesterday. Sometimes it's as obviously important as high school graduation, and sometimes it's something seemingly trivial like helping someone air up their tire. I have long ago stopped trying to figure out how my brain operates. I am who I am.

I don't seek answers from these slivers of memory, because I am not sure they even contain any. I try not live inside of them, although the temptation is great at times. I tend to think of them as markers signifying where I have been and how far I have traveled. And the thing about any trip is, you can't spend too much time looking at where you've been or you'll never get where you're going.

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