We are each allotted a specific amount of time on Earth. The clock starts when we’re born. Perhaps on days like today, for me anyways, you realize whilst idly sitting in a chair how many whose clocks have stopped – some you knew well, some you didn’t.
In that great mystery of the human brain a consequence gear starts to turn. What have I done right? What have I done wrong? What have I done…that I am still allowed to shine my miniscule light on this great big orb that sustains us all?
Then an off-handed comment from someone, a glimpse of nothing in particular and something else suddenly happens…
Further back, behind the levers and the sprockets, the memory machine may start to turn. And oh what a ride when that happens! We can plan our days, plan our diets, our outfits, but one can never tell where the memory machine will take us.
Sometimes it whirs us past a flurry of moments without chronological explanation. Sometimes it flings us to a certain memory, stalls, and then hovers while we are left to wonder why we are looking at what it brought us to revisit.
Why, for example, did I arrive at the conclusion I came to today? A dispatcher, my day went something like this: a little girl, crying, not understanding why her father went to jail, a teenage prostitute without a home and newborn baby, an abandoned dog who just wanted a new home, and a drug addict that would do anything for his next fix rather than fix his life.
I’m not impenetrable and yet I can’t afford to be overly sentimental. We joke. We ignore. We distract. These are the things we revert to when solutions are beyond our grasp. We talk about the news. Today – U.S. soldiers missing in Afghanistan. The memory machine churns. I have to do my part to participate in my co-workers avoidance of our reality.
I tell them about a man who died when I was in Iraq. Tell them about a mission I was on. Tell them about a friend I had when I was there. The memory machine made me do it. The words came out before I could think because the inner lens was fixated on those images I hadn’t ever spoken of to a soul. Why did it point there? Back to lucidity and the solitude of my home, the memory machine is off now. The consequence gears rumble as I ponder what, if anything, this all meant.
What did I do wrong? What did I do right? Why am I here? And another question – who am I?
I am a dispatcher, but I don’t feel like that is me. I was a soldier, but I’m not anymore. Fairy dust, a genetic pre-disposition – I will never understand the urge that dwells inside of me to pick up my pack, rush out a door, and help someone. It will always be there, so perhaps that is why I am a dispatcher, why I will always have a soldier’s mindset. Yet, somewhere along the way I decided that I couldn’t save the world. I may have been able to save itty-bitty parts of it, but there were other parts of me too – parts that were always there.
Jo March from Little Women said, “I should have been a great many things.” I often think my expectations of myself tell me, I too should have been a great many things. Why did the memory machine point me to that part of myself today and so many other days?
Why do memories exist? At times like this, I have wondered if they existed to fuel that chivalrous urge, send me out the door, and back to a life I once knew. Today…today, I realized it’s not that complex. Maybe memories exist to remind us how wild the ride has been – to remind us that we are still here, no matter what we’ve done right or wrong. Maybe they exist to remind us of that ticking clock and our personal light we uphold.
It has been a wild ride. I wanted to change that crying girl’s life. I want to go back and save that man’s life in Iraq. I want to do a great many things, like take the time to write even though I always felt guilty for the “hobby” I was taught wasn’t a worthy profession. I should have been a great many things, but my clock is ticking and I only have one light. Why am I here? Who am I?
I force the lens to focus on those memories. The gears moan violently against the order. A voice inside that perhaps belongs to someone I have yet to meet whispers, “You are a writer and that’s okay.”
I am a writer. Who are you?