This is the place where I always find myself. Believing and not believing.
Memory is not a video tape. It is not stored conveniently in an IKEA cabinet. It is not filed away with a date and names in leather binding. I cannot blow the dust off and sit in a pool of sunlight in a stained glass window as I read and the mites and motes blow around me. That is not memory.
Memory is messy, and layered. Memory changes everytime you disturb it. It sits in a thousand places. It misbehaves. I have used sticky tape to bind bits of it to other bits – but I don’t know if they are right bits to the right bits. And everytime I have done that I have created a new memory. And the memory I thought I had has disappeared. Memory is only what I hold when I hold it. Its not from the past. Its not static or fixed. When I think I am holding the same thing tomorrow it will have changed again. Memory is thought. It is of the instant. And even the thinking of it is a corruption. Even a word applied gently makes it become something else. Memory doesn’t exist.
I asked her. My sister, what my memories meant. I drove with my friend to her mobile home by the motorway in Whiston. I was about 25 and it was the first time I had seen her in 4 years. I asked what it meant. I asked her who it was. She told me my stepfather. She told me you. She told me my granddad. She told me my friend. She told me my uncle, the milkman and Jack. All her lies attached to my memory. Spilled like honey, sticky, untouchable. I never knew until I knew. I still don’t know. But I give her that memory. Of all people I give it to her. To twist it into something I no longer remember. She named it and served it back to me.
She is with me. Inside my head. I know if I say something someone will come and take me away. I will be left alone in a room and I will never see Sally again.I will be taken away for lying. Or they will find me in the night and cut my tongue out. I will have no voice. And if I do it, she will burn me. She will tell them how bad I am and that I lie.
In court her own barrister said: “Ms Jones may not be her own most reliable historian”. She is not mine either, but she is all I had. And lying is part of her personality. And when they told me that – the shrinks and social workers and doctors, I took all my memories apart. Which are her lies and which are my memories? And how do I know? When I believe myself I am sad. When I disbelieve I am angry.
You read it here. You will know some truth, But you can’t tell me. You’re dead mother, you’re very very dead. I know what I am writing is true. Germany and the hospital and the sense of falling. The light beyond me. I cannot prove it though and this drives me mad. What do I have that I have? I have pictures. I have smells and colours. I have the sight of myself.
I also have the sight of her. This is later. It is her found out. Her revealed. Her discovered. Her becoming a diagnosis, disappearing into the system. I grieve for her. I say it is not true. The reports and personality indices and tests. I read the diagnosis they give her – Narcissistic, Anti Social and Borderline Personality Disorders. (I had known for a while it would be one of those – ever since she told me they were sending her to the day centre for “clever people with very big egos”. I never thought she’d pull off a trinity.) I hear the things that she has done read out in court. I sit with the psychiatrist as she tells me what my sister has done on the ward, how she touched the other women, how she made them do things. This all feels like proof. Like vindication. But it is still me who has to visit. Still me who has to take the calls, read the letters. Hear the lies again and again. And I don’t know if I believe myself when I remember
When I first remembered what I believe I remembered I began to feel very quickly that it was false. It was all the rage at the time. Memory was false and there was innocence everywhere except those whose innocence had been taken. And their assumed falsehood meant that they were never innocent. I felt that. I silenced myself. After all what was there to say? That I flinch and jump when someone comes up behind me. That I am unable to look at my whole face in a mirror. That good people will leave because they smell how bad I am. A cat leaving a house. Silently. Forever. And you know its made a judgement.
Memory is everything. It is who I am. I trace myself through it. I know I am Pogle. I know where I was born and to whom. I know the facts I know. I have photographs. I have feelings. I have stories. I wake with no covers raw or deep deep down drowning in the bed. I dream things so real I can taste and touch them. I have memories that slam into me walking down the street. Thoughts that fall into my head in the middle of conversations with strangers.
When you read what I write, read the feeling. It is what I know for sure. I can tell you I was frightened. I can tell you she scared me. I can tell you I felt always less than, unless I stepped outside everything that was familiar. And when she entered into what was familiar to me she brought fear.
That’s too cryptic isn’t it? Let me try again.
My childhood is dark and long ago to me. Those who shared it with me are gone. I can ask no one. But I feel it most days. Now I need proof. I need to know because it has got too big and I can no longer contain it. It bursts out of me at the wrong times. I feel things I don’t feel, at times I don’t feel them. With help I name them. That is trauma and that is grief. I soothe myself. I function.
As a child I learned to control pain. If I hurt myself or if someone hurt me I learned to completely release any resistance to the pain. I let the pain become me. I felt it everywhere and in everything. . And that way although the pain is there it doesn’t hurt me. That is how I write now.
That is also a memory. And memory is true.