I have always had a rather odd knack for trivia. I’m something of a savant, idiot and otherwise, when it comes to movies, tv, pop culture, etc. The kind of things that the derivation of trivia extends from, trivial things. I was born in 1973, yet I could tell you that the actor Ben Fong played “Number Two Son” in the Charlie Chan movies of the 1930’s. It is a talent that has made me quite compatible and entertaining to many a WWII generation admirer. My talent for remembering does occasionally extend into more practical matters. I’m good at pulling strings out of my memory banks and unravelling them into stories I tell. I can even remember the deep azure of the tile and the orange reflection it held of the sunset in my parent’s bathroom and the song my mom sang to me as she rocked my two year old body to sleep. So it is with much self-loathing and sorrow that I realize I can’t remember the last time I actually kissed my soon to be ex-wife.
“I’ve made a list.” Her voice comes through my phone. It’s so damn clear, she might as well be right beside me, inches away or less. Her breath crackles and pops in ways that betray her shy confidence, exposing an undercurrent of doubt and sadness. “There’s a list of things I’m definitely keeping and a list of things I’d like to keep.” she continues.
The meta quality of the phone call, the more than perfect clarity, has less to do with the digital quality of Comcast. She’s calling me from the next room. She’s beside me. There’s a distance greater than sum between these two rooms, though. A chasm that spans a decade; a river of blood, semen and tears, rushing through the center of it, making things impossible to hear and too dangerous to cross. I wonder what might have happened if all of our difficult conversations carried over this medium. Maybe our frequencies would have equalized; I might have been able to make out the hidden cracks, the ones I missed. If only we’d always been this close, and this far away.
“What do you want?” she asks in response to my uncharacteristic silence.
Again, there’s a clarity revealing the golden strands of better meanings that run through the words she uses. I think I understand what she means by this. She’s not simply asking me what rugs or tables or paintings I want to take with me. She’s giving me a chance, allowing me one more opportunity to say the right thing. I will respond in such an electrifyingly insightful manner which, like a serum or a defibrillator, will jump start her heart. My words, or choice of words, will uncover the raw nature of where we lie as humans and illuminate what we instinctually need as lovers. All she will be able to do in response is break down, and in a sobbing, yet, revelatory and telephonic embrace admit we are meant to be together, after all.
I can’t do it though. I have no words, only thoughts. Thoughts I don’t want to share.
I can remember the lilting, A-D chord structure of the Liz Phair song that was playing when we first kissed, but in all the desperate attempts to rack my brain, I can’t summon up a clue to anything about our last. For me, this is the final clue to a puzzle I have been working at for over a year, or maybe over lifetimes. I can see how all the pieces fit. I have lost, or maybe I’ve won. Either way, I can only answer her question about what I’d like to take with me as I go my own way after twelve years together, honestly and respectfully.
“I want all the things that I’d like not to forget, and, if possible, the things I forgot that I’d like to remember.”