It all began with a Book of Memories.
A few weeks and nights ago I’d decided to a do a little premature spring cleaning. So many conversations with myself and endless rumination led to me believe that divesting my self of a few tangible possessions would be an excellent exercise on impermanence. You know? How things change, how quickly they change, how little we truly control? This book, I speak of, seemed to me to be a totem to all that had passed.
In truth, it’s a simple non-descript single line 90 page notebook. Like the kind you find tucked away in schoolbags everywhere. Many years ago, it was brand new and the only thing lying around when I suddenly needed to archive a memory. a sentiment. a feeling. Oddly enough, there were no words ever written on its sheets. But squirreled away amongst its pages were…Train tickets from a final journey, Flower petals from the first and last bloom, A paperclip made into the shape of a heart…And doodles of stick figures in love, dancing on a napkin.
Among other things.
So there I sat with the book in hand, flipping its page, evicting it of its inhabitants for the past many years. Occasionally I let loose a laugh, sometimes I gazed in wonderment and all the time, ignored the errant teardrops.
As I turned the page, I came across one more memory. A Hotel Room Keycard.
In our collective post valentine’s haze, I think back on times in my life that embodied romance and I suppose the keycard is one of my favorite stories. It’s a good story – a tale of love, sex, romance, a traitorous stomach (mine), jet lag, croissants and gajar ka halwa.
Quite simply, I once travelled 9300 miles – something like 23 hours packed in like a sardine in a tin can split among 3 plane journeys to spend a narrow window of 24 hours with a gorgeous, warm, spirited lady with whom I was head over heels in love. Now, If this was going to have been a perfect story and not a parody, we would’ve gone to the hotel room, tumbled into each others arms, made unending love and tearfully said goodbye a day later.
But that’s what I love about this memory – it was hilariously imperfect. Somewhere between the excitement of actually seeing her and my disdain for airplane food, I’d stopped eating or sleeping. As a result, I walked into the lady’s arms with a churning tummy and a tsunami of jet lag waiting to hit me around the corner.
There we were. Plush hotel room. Nervous me with a newspaper in hand, a gurgling tummy, impending jet lag reading aloud about political strife in Tamil Nadu to a bemused audience of one. Thankfully, she had her hormones about her. She got onto the bed and humored me for a few minutes. And 10 deep breaths later, without a word – she pulled my face to hers. And just like that, we had our romance back.
After 24 hours of sexy discovery regularly punctuated by my not-so-sexy errant tummy (briefly saved by the excellent croissants at the hotel we were at) and flagging energy levels – I, myself, a tub of gajar ka halwa and this keycard boarded a flight and came back home.
As I came back to the present I chanced upon one more memory, ensconced between the book’s pages. This one achingly bittersweet. A receipt for Chinese takeaway.
At the time, my partner and I had been having problems that appeared unsurmountable. Yet after a long day away from her, I stood outside a Chinese restaurant in the Asian part of town giving her a ring to ask her what she’d fancy. I recall in that moment all I wanted to do was grab some takeout, take the short train ride back home to her, give her a hug and a kiss and the little surprise I’d gotten from the all encompassing Asian store, watch a scandinavian crime series we’d both started to like as we ate and just be with her, around her again. The love, the eagerness, the desire I felt then, gave me hope. Perhaps I thought good chinese food would be all it took to solve our underlying issues. Sometimes I really do wish that were true of all things in this world. and yes. I really really like Chinese food.
It wasn’t to be. We parted ways shortly after. The receipt, however, I kept. To me, it signified hope against all odds. A fool’s hope even, but I think that a wondrous thing.
The Book of Memories now no longer exists. It’s remains are scattered at sea.
But as I’d flipped through its pages my fingers letting go of each, I slowly realised a singular truth.
The real memories were the ones I held in my head and not my hands.