In 2004, I lost twenty dollars. I don’t know how and I don’t know where. If I did, I’d probably have set up camp there and would still be on my hands and knees looking for it. In the twelve years or so since then, I’ve spent way more twenty dollar bills than I could track. Some I spent wisely, many I squandered. On candy. On food I shouldn’t have eaten. On drinks I didn’t need. On clothes I wore once and hated. On experiences I’ve long since forgotten. But I never forgot that I lost some money somewhere between my apartment and school back in 2004.
I remember looking for the missing Andrew Jackson note when I got to the cafeteria, searching my pockets, turning my purse inside out, then my pockets a second time. I remember the feeling of despair, of sadness, of loss of control. Already, I am at that place where one forgets, I panicked. It couldn’t be. I retraced my steps, searched under every desk in my classroom, opened every page of every book in my bag. At home, I cleaned every corner of my apartment, looking for something I had lost. Twelve years have passed. The same length of time Solomon Northup lost and regained his freedom. Enough time to turn a Jewish baby boy into a man. Yet I hold on to the memory of something I lost and can never get back.
What makes us remember bad things and forget the good? Why do I remember the sacrifices I had to make to bridge my unforgiving student budget in 2004 yet have long since forgotten the meal they served on my first-class flight to Jamaica the year after that? Why do I hold on to the curtness of his tone when he was emotional and forget all the times he stroked my hair and called me beautiful? Why memorialize his failings, my resultant disappointment, and let the good times sink into the oblivion of forgetfulness? Why, every time I think of him, I remember the tears when he walked out, not the way my heart lifted when he walked in?
After a good thing ends, why do we remember the bad and forget the good? And shouldn’t we do everything we can to change that?
Read more of my short stories and essays in my book, It’s Complicated: Short Stories About Long Relationships, available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon