Last night I posted a riff titled “Some People Lack Resonance.” The money line was that “the past never evaporates.” HE commenter “Sammy” took exception, asserting that “bad memories evaporate fairly rapidly whereas the good ones stay forever with you.” To which I responded, “You think?” I posted the following this morning:
Not sure how you’d define “bad” memories. but piercing, intense or blunt trauma ones last a lifetime.
I was playing outdoors with a young boy when we were both three or four, in some kind of rugged grassy area — possibly an empty lot, possibly a down-at-the-heels cemetery. We were running, and suddenly he’d fallen and badly cut his forehead on shards of glass. All I know is that in a flash his face was covered in blood. I’ve never forgotten the screams and howls and his father trying to comfort him while dabbing the blood with a rag or sponge of some kind.
Ditto the shrieks and screams of a very young neighborhood girl, Sue Ellen (whom I called “Swellin’”, or so my mom reminded me). Her parents had bought her a black cocker spaniel puppy, and suddenly one afternoon the poor thing was dead — squished flat as a pancake by a large truck that had been parked in front of her home.
I distinctly recall staring at the bloody, gutty remains with those big floppy ears flattened against the asphalt, and noticing with semi-horrified amazement that the puppy’s pink tongue had been pushed a good two or three inches out of his snout — the truck had lurched backward and a rear tire had caught the puppy in the hind leg region, and so the head was seemingly the last part to be crushed. Swellin’ either saw it happen and heard the yelp, or found the tiny, soaked, rug-like carcass immediately after. She may have been three or thereabouts. That trauma, trust me, has been with her ever since.
I may have been the same age one afternoon as I watched a neighbor with some kind of backyard-barn operation chop off a chicken’s head, and — stop me if you’ve heard this one — the chicken’s body striding or strutting around, or the legs kicking or whatever..
I was also around that age (or younger) with my mother one day in the car. After parking on a busy street with fast-moving traffic, she opened the driver-side door without looking or thinking and a speeding vehicle slammed into it and ripped the door off the hinges. I recall the sound of the impact and my mother’s shocked cry the instant it happened.
All my life these memories have been branded into my brain. Good memories also (love, warmth, kind voices, laughter, kitchen aromas) or epic sights like an entire nearby home being moved on a huge, slow-moving flatbed truck (“the house that moved”), but nothing leaves a durable impression like a shocking incident.