HOW LONG TO FORGET THE SECRET?

The music of video games. They are fitted into tables. You can drink, you can lunch, and go on playing. They open onto the street. By listening to them you can play from memory.

The Pizza Hut in Gaffney had a cocktail-table video game of “1942.” Mom buys me a pair of Solar Shades and passes a quarter to play while we wait on a pepperoni with green pepper and onion. I play from memory: take a barrel roll and blow those Nakajimas out of the sky.

He claims that electronic texture is the only one that can deal with sentiment, memory, and imagination.

I’ve never agreed. Who says no? It’s not so easy forgetting how to play the drums.

He described to me the ceremony held at the zoo in Ueno in memory of animals that had died during the year.

At the Cleveland Zoo, I asked my aunt why she married my uncle.

And beneath each of these faces a memory. And in place of what we were told had been forged into a collective memory, a thousand memories of men who parade their personal laceration in the great wound of history.

Each leaving a loss, each loss a wound: Canton, Gaffney, São Paulo, Tokyo, Wooster, London, Pittsburgh, Prague, Brest, Dębica, Kraków. Even leaving Dubrovnik after a few days is masakra.

That’s how history advances, plugging its memory as one plugs one’s ears.

Memories are knocked out poorly without earplugs.

I’m writing you all this from another world, a world of appearances. In a way the two worlds communicate with each other. Memory is to one what history is to the other: an impossibility.

Memory all too possible: forgetting does the real damage in its impossibility. History is never impossible; only as compared to history is memory sometimes impossible.

I envy Hayao in his “zone,” he plays with the signs of his memory. He pins them down and decorates them like insects that would have flown beyond time, and which he could contemplate from a point outside of time: the only eternity we have left. I look at his machines. I think of a world where each memory could create its own legend.

A world in which each memory creates its own machine, more likely. Cannot—must not—sufficiently investigate that simulation. Too fatigued by outrage and devtool-babble.

Everything works to perfection, all that we allow to slumber, including memory. Logical consequence: total recall is memory anesthetized. After so many stories of men who had lost their memory, here is the story of one who has lost forgetting, and who—through some peculiarity of his nature—instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning mankind of the past and its shadows, turned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world he comes from, to call forth a vision, to be moved by a portrait, to tremble at the sound of music, can only be signs of a long and painful prehistory.

To understand that prehistory before forgetting it. To understand very little, to already have forgotten some, most.

But it was then that for the first time he perceived the presence of that thing he didn’t understand which had something to do with unhappiness and memory, and towards which slowly, heavily, he began to walk.

After each happiness of memory, ASMR.

I remember that month of January in Tokyo, or rather I remember the images I filmed of the month of January in Tokyo. They have substituted themselves for my memory. They are my memory. I wonder how people remember things who don’t film, don’t photograph, don’t tape. How has mankind managed to remember? I know: it wrote the Bible. The new Bible will be an eternal magnetic tape of a time that will have to reread itself constantly just to know it existed.

I remember snow in the month of January in Tokyo. Two inches, max. School called off. We met in Harajuku and tried out some longboards. By afternoon the snow had melted, we skated around Shinjuku.

That a short wave announcement from Hong Kong radio picked up on a Cape Verde island projects to Tokyo, and that the memory of a precise color in the street bounces back on another country, another distance, another music, endlessly.

Is it a choice? Precise colors on the streets of Santo Amaro, Ebisu, Ohio City, Farringdon, Ridgewood, College of Wooster, Squirrel Hill, Žižkov, Krowodrza, Hongdae, Újlipótváros, Delfshaven.

All those who remember the war remember him.

His father took photos in Vietnam with a Japanese camera. The tail of a downed American bomber, torn off the fuselage, down the road.

Madeline traced the short distance between two of those concentric lines that measured the age of the tree and said, ‘Here I was born… and here I died.’ He remembered another film in which this passage was quoted. The sequoia was the one in the Jardin des plantes in Paris, and the hand pointed to a place outside the tree, outside of time.

To meet the person you could have become, become that person prepared to meet who you could have become.

He said, “I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?

How long will you take to forget the secret?

LITTLE FORGETTING AND THE VZPOMÍNKY

The title of Pavlína Zemanová collection of illustrations is a perfect example of what Poles mean when they say Czech sounds childish to them, as if the language is automatically all diminutives. In the New English File Upper-Intermediate course book, which I used plenty of while teaching English here in Kraków (it’s a classic of the trade), there was a listening exercise based around the 2002 floods in Prague. A snippet of a radio broadcast was used, and as the broadcaster began speaking Czech the students would start giggling confusedly, often unable to locate the Slavic tongue while giggling at what sounded like a Polish riddled with diminutives.

Vzpomínky (“Memories“) isn’t that far from the Polish wspomnienia, but that –ínky can make a difference when examining the technique used here. What are we dealing with between the title and these drawings, could they really be portrayals of little memories that factor in this slight mistranslation? Would this littleness signify just smallness, or immateriality, or even triviality? There is a sentimentality possible as well, as in, “hold on to your dear, little, tender memories, they’re all you’ve got,” but this is a patronizing, saccharine approach that should surely be avoided.

Leaving the misreading of the title aside – as well as a potential political reading, as the photo manipulation in Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting immediately springs to mind – it is most useful to look at the space in these drawings and make a quick skip (whether graceful or jerky, I known not) from memory to forgetting. Is the positive space in Zemanová’s drawings the mnemonic and the negative space the forgetting, is it that simple? It is the negative space that remains most powerful, after all, interminably undefinable, but not so opaque that we cannot search for the little forgetting under the surface.

Little forgetting, minor, insignificant forgetting, trivial, even – how to identify this, attach some specific objects to it? Isn’t sifting through whatever substance there may be of the negative space – the space of the little forgetting – just the same as dredging up some quickly flickering memories, searching actively from a desire to produce recollection, to record it textually or in someone’s ear? But what really is produced and recorded, what happens in the negative space? If we think of negative space instead in terms of mandates, little forgetting becomes a series of desires to forget, and these desires may at least be outlined, regardless of the degree of longing or supposed trauma involved, and regardless of the visual (or, in this case, textual) finality.

Forget the ones around no less than those who have left. Forget the cat that can see you through the window. Forget waking up to two men in your room on the other side of the river, near Vítězná at dawn, as they grabbed your wallet and ran. Forget that lump in your throat, that baseball in her stomach. Forget what it is like in the other country. Forget the products you work for, who buys them and what they do. Forget picking strawberries with him. Forget her graham-cracker cake with the coffee icing. Forget that undrinkable śliwowica. Forget that meathead cabby chasing you down Dlouhá with a billy-club, you tripping on the cobblestones in your orange Saucony sneakers, him trying to pull you into his taxi to throw you in the river. Forget the dances to Parno Graszt. Forget riding with a bunch of vodka-reeking soldiers in the dining car on the night train from Poznań. Forget your outrage fatigue. Forget reading three-fourths of A Short History of Decay. Forget your hand shaking and the absinthe dribbling fire on the bar your first time there with A. Forget eating too much fried cheese with Gambrinus. Forget P cycling from Amsterdam to your place in the fourth district, his stories of singing to himself, him dropping his camera in the Vltava. Forget your anxiety over being cursed in front of the Hlavní Nádraží. Forget the “super central location” and that wonderfully hot shower. Forget listening to some psych-rock radio station while trying without success to make a decent spaghetti sauce. Forget N with a bottle of Cisowianka on a train from Warszawa Centralna. Forget seeing the early morning moon sinister over the city on the train from Nyugati Pályaudvar. Forget hightailing it to Vyskočilova to stay at the engineer’s, how he spoke no English and made you weak tea, or at the old lady’s who spoke French and had barely any hot water. Forget the relief you felt each time you left.