It’s 2:52 am. Tomorrow I have to give a presentation on whether or not Richard Nixon was the father of the modern Republican party and take an exam over the entirety of the Iliad. In my procrastination to prepare for both of those things, I’ve found myself going through old folders on my computer. I came across this short assignment that I turned in for an autobiographical writing course during my junior year (I wrote it in January 2019). I don’t know how many people will ever make it to this little corner of the internet or read anything I write, but I want to put it here, even if only for myself. The prompt is right there in the title — we were asked to write about things we had forgotten.
Some of the things I no longer remember are of little importance to me now, and I don’t mind that I’ve forgotten them. I couldn’t tell you how to solve differentials or integrals in AP Calculus, or which numbers I chose to set as the combination to my middle-school locker, or what I scribbled down with invisible ink in that fuzzy pink journal I got for Christmas in the second grade. These details of my life have eroded with the passage of time, and I do not lament their loss.
But there are other things, too, more lamentable things. I cannot say that I fully remember now, in my twenties, the magic I used to find in going ‘snake-hunting’ with my dad and my brother. (This ritual consisted of the three of us hopping on our bikes and pedaling to the creek at the back of our neighborhood, then crouching silently on the banks until one of us spotted a green head sticking out of the water — or, if we were lucky, a body coiled on the rocks in full view — staring in awe until our eyelids felt heavy, and then, finally, hopping back on our bikes to return home once the street lamps came on and the Katydids began to sing). I’ve forgotten what it feels like to wake up under the thick duvet comforter in my childhood bedroom to the sound of rain pattering on the window and the smell of my mother’s coffee cake wafting through the house. (The coffee cake was a delicacy, because it meant that my mother had woken up an hour early to put it in the oven for us). I’ve forgotten who I sat with on my first day of kindergarten, and who I sat with on all the days that followed that one. I’ve forgotten most of the nightmares that sent me sprinting down the hall and into my parent’s bedroom for comfort. I’ve forgotten the way it feels to be a small child with sticky fingers and scraped knees in this unforgiving world.
I am no longer that sticky-fingered child, but even now I’m living out a life that I will someday look back on through a hazy lens. Even now I forget. Just recently, I found out that I’ve somewhat forgotten how to navigate the streets of my hometown, the same streets that had bordered the map of my life for eighteen years. My friends who stayed in Baton Rouge for college laughed at me when I tried to discreetly enter the name of a popular downtown restaurant into my phone’s GPS because I couldn’t remember the route. Surely, you haven’t already forgotten?
But I think I was overthinking that night, because as soon as I’m alone in my car muscle memory takes over and those streets become familiar again. I let my hands steer without realizing which roads I’m going down, and it all comes flooding back to me. Left blinker, left turn on Broussard Street. Right blinker, right turn on Dalrymple. I use the oak trees and the potholes and that Mexican restaurant under the overpass as my guides. And that field where I had my first sip of Jack and Coke out of a styrofoam cup. And that quiet neighborhood street where my breath was visible in the cold February air as I whispered I love you. And, six months later, on the night before I left for college, that empty lot by the LSU lakes where I parked my car and cried. I suppose there are some things you can’t forget.