For the last few days I’ve been going quietly nuts. I’ve had something on my mind, which has been twisting and turning like intricate intertwining mobius strips trying to come up with one simple word. I’ve been trying to remember what one of my ex girlfriend’s favourite flowers was. Naturally if I can’t remember what a word is, my brain tells me that it starts with a “p”. In 9/10 cases it doesn’t. I remember being hamstrung for about 2 weeks trying to remember the term that began with a “p” that had something to do with memory. Nostalgia Trip ended up being that “p” word. Thanks brain.
Still, I couldn’t remember this flower and it was stressing me out more than it needed to. I didn’t care because I thought I’d have contact with her ever again. I wasn’t feeling forlorn or wistful. I wasn’t thinking of the time we spent together, I was thinking of how shit my memory has become if it can’t recall a simple flower that held some semblance of worth in our relationship. I hate the idea that I have knowledge with no way to access it. It’s like having a delicious cake behind a thick pane of glass. So close you can almost smell it, but licking the glass only leaves a sterile, empty taste in your mouth. Trust me, I was an inquisitive child. I tasted many weird things before I knew any better.
It wasn’t good enough for me to accept that some things just drift off into the aether. I remembered what it looked like. For her 21st birthday I once found a beautiful gold pendant in the shape of this flower. It was a slam dunk, I’d gone out looking for exactly that piece and it happened to be in the last store I looked. It was at a time that we were really solid and had fallen deep. With inevitable post-breakup Facebook profile watching, I saw that she was still wearing it. It kind of affected me how much it clearly meant to her. That the sentiment and memories surrounding it were enough that she wasn’t ditching it just because we’d split. Quid pro quo, I still have things she gave me that I loved. The dissolution of the relationship hasn’t diminished the love and spirit with which they were given, so they’re sticking around. Memories can be beautiful things, irrespective of the times that followed.
With a memory of what it looked like and the misguided notion that it started with a “p”, I drew a picture and passed it around my team at work. A white, reasonably large flower with 5 petals. A yellow centre. How hard could it be? Too hard with that small amount of information. There are many many many flowers. I know, because I went through a number of Wikipedia articles with lists of flowers, waiting for the name to pop out at me. It wasn’t a rose, that one was easy. Not a crysanthemum, not a pansy or daisy, orchid or lily. I was out. I tried image searching “white flower 5 petals”. Usually Google can handle nebulous requests like that. In this case it gave me a tons. Tons of incorrect answers anyway. I can’t blame it, it’s a pretty good algorithm that doesn’t know my history well enough (yet, right?). Its memory, while impressive, doesn’t have emotion attached like mine does. It knows simple facts and contextual links, but the only answer was looking deeper into my psyche to fish this out. I don’t know why it was bugging me so much, but I had to know.
Really though, I do know why it hit me so hard. We’re human and fallible, that I can accept. The part I have a harder time accepting is that with everything we’re doing here, so little of it really makes a mark. So much can happen in a week, a month, year or decade. How much of it do we actually retain? Like it or not, I’ve lost years of my life because my brain hasn’t deemed those memories worthy of sticking around. It’s like looking at mp3 compression, how it keeps the larger waveform, but takes out the minutiae in order to cut things down to a manageable, accessible size. How do our brains decide what the minutiae is? Why was an important and even a little formative detail in a relationship that was both of those things to me deemed to be ephemera? How many years of my life have been lost to the aether in the name of efficiency of memory? It’s heartbreaking to think that we do so much, the smaller elements of which rarely make it through. Or is that just because we like to ascribe meaning to our actions, our interactions and interrelationships between the two? We want to be known, remembered and admired for the things we represented, because that tells us we meant something to someone somewhere. If we can’t even recall the seemingly inconsequential details that brought us to where we are, what was the point? It was a lot to have in my head fighting consciousness in the name of slumber. A wonder I even got to bed at all. When I awoke, one word crested my mind: