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The Impersistence of Memory, Part 1

The other day, I had dinner with my high school locker partner and college friend Tom Barounis. He handed me something that he had found among his own things: a college-era non-SF story manuscript of mine, a typewritten original and not a Xerox copy, complete with comments by an unknown third party who sounded like a college prof. On the back of the last sheet, in my own distinctive block printing, was the date: 4/30/72.

There were two things wrong with this: 1) I don’t remember having my Selectric typewriter in the spring of 1972, and 2) I don’t remember writing the story itself.

Point 1 is checkable. I used to date typewritten manuscripts, and I have two moving boxes full of them back home, so as soon as we get back to Colorado I can haul out my writer’s trunk and see when exactly I made the transition from Smith-Corona to IBM. I recall it being a year later, as I was ramping up for the Clarion SF workshop, which I attended in the summer of 1973.

Point 2 is more peculiar. I vaguely remember writing a story with that title, but the story I remember writing was nothing like the story I read last night, for probably the first time in 37 years. I know what probably happened with the manuscript: After getting it back from the prof I wrote it for, I passed it on to Tom to read, and it remained with him since the spring of 1972.

But why do I remember the story being about something else entirely?

I remember the story being a failed experiment, about two (male) friends who experience a physical attraction between them and don’t know how to deal with it. Instead, it was about two male friends stressing about the draft lottery, and how one of them runs to Canada when he pulls number 5. Furthermore, it was not a failure but a pretty decent story, considering that I only wrote “mainstream” (non-SF) fiction with a gun to my head in those days. (I’d even consider sending it out for publication, except that I don’t think anybody remembers what the draft lotteries were about anymore.)

It’s a headscratcher. It’s also the latest in a series of headscratchers that have turned up here and there as I’ve grown older, and have realized that a growing number of things that I remember happening did not happen anything like the way I remember them. Some did not, in fact, happen at all. I’ve begun to wonder what other memory holes are waiting for me to discover, and how much the life that I remember living resembles the life that I actually lived.

More in coming days.

4 Comments

  1. Memory, like perception, is extremely subjective. But I have to say, I’m glad it’s not just me this happens to. 🙂

    -JRS

  2. Rich, N8UX says:

    Several days ago my family was discussing where we were and what we were doing during Apollo 11. I recollected laying in front of the tv, my head resting on a roll of new carpet that was to be laid. My little brother came up behind me and whacked me on top of the head with a frying pan. So for the record, I put the blame squarely on him for any memory issues I may or may not have.

    My dad and I have had an ongoing dispute about a Saturn-V model he built for me in 1968. I am sure it only consisted of the S-IVB stage and up, while dad contends it was of the entire rocket. He’s older, and I was beaned with a frying pan at an early age. Unsolved mystery.

  3. […] and (disturbingly) things that I remember vividly that simply didn’t happen at all. I introduced this topic with a simple example: A friend of mine found a college-era manuscript of a short story I wrote […]

  4. […] to get the facts and impressions about my life down in written form before the memories decay, as memories clearly do. I don’t expect to publish them, though I may allow friends to read them. In a sense, […]

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