The Past is Not Enough
by Thomas Loughney
The timing is all wrong.
I don’t want to be here—hurtling through memory. It comes at inopportune times: at work, driving home, at the movies, on the computer.
A thought intrudes and sticks and spreads, and before I can do anything, a wellspring of thoughts/feelings/images rush into my chest. Tightening. They spread through my limbs. I shake; I feel like I am going to collapse. But despite the volume and intensity of these memories, I can never make sense of the image they form.
The senseless jumble is impossible to coalesce. There will never be enough room to house it all.
What Isn’t Saved (will be lost) places that failure under your grasping fingertips. A terrible tragedy has befallen your partner, and you are crafting their being anew with some bastard technology. Not all memories can be saved. What you are doing is selfish, and the control you exercise is upsetting.
No one should pick and choose what a person remembers—what a person believes to be true.
Do you shave off the rough edges of your partnership? Do you squirrel away the hurt you’ve caused and received? And even if you don’t, there is still not enough space to achieve an honest representation of what came before. What Isn’t Saved haunts me. As text skitters and pronouns change—‘her’ to ‘my’ (who do these memories really belong to?)—it looks at its player coldly. It hums with a grim, machine buzz. What you are doing is wrong. At the end, it’s not memory that isn’t saved—it’s personhood.
As a victim of gaslighting at the hands of an abusive partner, there are two and a half years of my life that I cannot fully account for. Much of this gaslighting exploited my alcoholism, in the form of invented actions that took place during invented blackouts. Though I eventually discovered these fabrications and understood that they were a tool of abuse, the damage was done.
What other memories had been implanted? Which ones had been removed? How do I understand myself—how do I know how to function—when I’m working off of an untrustworthy base?
What Isn’t Saved doesn’t answer that, but I can.
This is the strength we survivors have—we build ourselves up from mental decimation, and re-form in spite of a framework of personhood crafted and imposed upon us to maximize our dependence and destroy our autonomy. It is like a second childhood, where you decide who you are for the first time; but the past is tied to being, and so, inevitably, my devalued memories bubble up again.
This is the price of survival—enduring these reminders that the past is not enough. ◒