Tonight, as I write this, I’m up past my bedtime. This is not a usual occurrence. After eight in the evening, you can’t have a coherent conversation with me as I drift in and out of daydreams. By nine, I’m lazily petting the dog on the couch, and once 10:30 rolls around, I’m tucked into soft clean sheets sleeping on my Tempurpedic mattress. Tonight, though, is different. When Jeremiah, my partner, told me that he was going to bed, I said, “okay. I’m going to read for a bit.”
The weekend has been busy. We’re building Jeremiah’s dream shop; I had to finish up some work; our living room was cluttered with pieces of clothing that needed to be dispersed, and when 9:30 rolled around, as it does every night, I thought, “I just need more time tonight.”
And so instead of powering down, I stayed up to read a book. Not one of the must-reads-of-2021. Nope. Just a repeat by JK Rowling. You guess the one I’m re-reading. It doesn't matter. All that matters is I wanted time in my day to do what I want.
Time is elusive and strange and intangible as it floats through air lighter than pollen. And with that fairy-light time, that time I can’t quite touch for more than an instant, with it follow my memories.
I remember reading some years ago— and I think I've even referenced this in some earlier piece I’ve written—that people remember something like five days from an average year. Five days. Every other day? It just fades into all the masses of days we live. But there are outliers: those experiencing hyperthymesia - a condition which forces people with it to remember every day of their life- they remember it all, and for some reason, I have more memories from when I was six years old and my first year of college than most other years. Three years ago, I wanted to force an outlier by moving into an RV and traveling. If I experienced enough in each year on the road then I’d remember more than five days each year. That’s what I decided. And I certainly do remember more than five specific days from each of the last three years. But a lot of my memories have already started to grow a yellow haze over them. I see them like old movies I haven’t watched in years in which I know the lines, but I can’t place the scenes in exact order.
I just rewatched The Goonies, a flick I’ve seen a dozen times, last week. When I rewatched it for a moment I thought, How does Chunk get separated from the rest of the group? I knew 80% of the lines, but they got jumbled in my brain. Time. It separates memories, adds a film.
As I was hocking lumber yesterday, the scent of the wood shavings reminded me of hiking in the deserts of Nevada and knowing I was being stalked by a cougar. I thought of all the strange places I’d recently been, and all the while our RV loomed behind me. It watches what we do as we build its future home. If the motorhome could think, it would think it was being sent to a dark retirement.
But I was thinking of the places I’ve traveled, all the places the motorhome has taken me, and I recalled a time when the motorhome was stuck eight inches into loose sand and I was able to pull it out with the Tahoe. And I remembered needing to get down to the nearest tractor supply after getting on the highway to replace a key part of keeping the electricity on in the motorhome afterward, but what I can’t remember is where I slept that night. Or the night after.
When I asked Jeremiah about these details, he said, “we were heading to Mexico.” And so we were...but there was at least a week before we were in Mexico. I know this because we entered Mexico with clean clothes, and we hadn’t had those in the desert of Johnson Valley. What happened to two of those nights? They are gone. Deleted from Memory. Over a lunch of pepperoni-and-pickle pizza, I quizzed Jeremiah, and we put the pieces together of where we had landed that night.
We had made it, exhaustingly, to a truck stop in Palm Springs, hours later than intended. We found a tiny bar with a hand-painted sign with lights that enticed moths that said “Homemade burgers,” and we had stepped inside. The crisp coolness of the mango beer before our burgers arrived coated my empty stomach and I sat there, in a strange half-circle sticky-seated booth, watching the locals play billiards. A group of seven or eight white-haired people asked for the usual, and the bartender brought over a pitcher of light-colored beer and a couple of red plastic baskets filled with fries. Tiny televisions hung inches from the ceiling in corners of the bar. And let me tell you, that greasy burger that arrived was one of the best meals I’d had on the road. I think. I like those memories, but I’ve clouded them over in my mind. Even this memory replays like a scene I’ve watched, witnessed, but not taken part in. With enough convincing, you could tell me it was a lie. You could make me believe that had occurred in another state, another year.
Most people will simply not remember everything. I’m rather glad I can’t. It makes the stand-out moments so much more exciting.
But I can’t help thinking that this life feels so very far away from any reality I’ve ever lived. There are weeks that are void of memories. As someone who usually has strange memories popping up in her head at any given moment, it’s peculiar to think how many lie below the surface. How many memories are sinking further below, never to be remembered? A movie never re-watched.
I’m not alone. The trauma of the pandemic has forced us to think about time and how we use it. I go through an intense fear of losing people I love. I want to make the most of that time. There are other days I itch to create memories, but I’m reminded that I can’t go much further than the porch. Time and memories: they are all we have. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough of either, especially as I further myself from memories I’ve created on the road.
The memories of my travels have lessened in emotion in many ways. I flip through the channels of my recollections and stop at one for a moment, another for a moment longer. Some feel as though I have lived them. Others are removed, like I could never think to remember the realness of that moment.
So what can I do, besides sit outside on a warm evening in Tennessee, my eyes closed, listening to the crickets and night bugs: thinking about travel, thinking about time, knowing many more memories will be made. Three years ago (almost to the day) we started our RV travel adventures. And if I know me, and I think I do, it’s not the last adventure I’ll have. All we have is time. Tonight, I’m using mine to read a little Harry Potter and to recognize the memories I have still yet to make.
Thanks for traveling with me,
It isn't even yet 5:00 in the morning but I have thoroughly enjoyed this piece you wrote a year ago. Time.
this was a really good one, sasha. ty