Some people take great pride in their physical appearance– say long silky hair or great calves. I am not one of those people, but I am not above taking great pride in one attribute I believe I possess. For years, the spotlight of my pride has been shining on my memory.
I have a killer memory. I remember what I wore on the first day of every single job I’ve had. I remember the first question that someone (Steve) fired at me the first morning I went to group therapy (“Are you a top or a bottom?”). I remember old boyfriends’ dogs’ names and the meal I ate right before I saw E.T.
But just as someone whose good looks are chipped away by the ravages of time, my memory has deteriorated faster than Paula Deen’s reputation. It would take me a few minutes to remember what I had for breakfast this morning (banana and KIND bar) and an unforgiveable five minutes to remember what I wore last Thursday.
I hardly know myself anymore.
The other night Jeff and I went to see The Great Gatsby, which was one of my favorite books in high school. My senior quote was the last line of the book: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I’ve considered myself something of a Gatsby expert.
The only problem is that I haven’t read the book since junior year. That’s over *cough* *cough* two decades between me and Mr. Fitzgerald’s tale. But still. I was smug. I kept leaning over to Jeff “explaining” what was happening. “Jeff, that billboard of T.J. Eckleburg symbolizes the loss of spiritual values in America and the growing commercialism of the time.”
I was aglow with self-congratulation that I remembered the themes, the names, and that I was drinking a Diet Coke right before the Gatsby exam in Miss Baker’s honors English class.
But, then, Daisy did that thing where she killed her husband’s mistress accidentally. Oops! I hadn’t remembered that. At all.
I assured myself that it was just a tiny blip in my gray matter. There’d be no more surprises. But, then, to my everlasting shock, Gatsby got shot. What the what? I had zero memory of that. I didn’t even remember that he died in the book. What kind of a Gatsby scholar forgets that he died?
I decided that Baz Luhrmann must have taken some serious poetic license with his “retelling” of the story. But when I got home and Googled the plot, turns out that Mr. Luhrmann was sticking pretty close to the book. Or at least, he was closer than I was.
Upon reflection, I believe I had confused the ending of Gatsby with the ending of Our Town, the play by Thornton Wilder, which adds yet another nail to the coffin in my chances of getting tenure as an English professor.
The only upshot, if any, to all this demoralization and loss of identity is that in a few short days, I’m hoping I won’t remember it!