My wife is currently re-tapping her skills in writing. I anxiously await her first book, as I know it’ll be well-written, entertaining and full of her English wit.
The reason I mention it is because she is doing writing exercises to get her creative juices flowing. One exercise is to put down on paper her first memory. I always jokingly say mine is about age sixteen, but then it all gets foggy with the beginning of too much alcohol consumption in my days ‘hanging out’ in The Bronx. The truth be told my first memory isn’t even real, but until I was in my late twenties I thought it was.
For those of you who know me I have a ‘V’ shaped scar on my right facial cheek. I’ve had the scar most of my life and received it in the P.S. 87 schoolyard. The schoolyard was a big hangout when I was young and I passed many adolescent hours in and around ’87’ handball courts, or just hanging around. I used to be tempted to tell an exciting story about my scar, adding, “You should have seen the other guy,” but it wasn’t like that.
How much of what we see, hear and reiterate as absolute truth is real? Who knows? Reality is just a brain connection being made through one of our five or six senses. The way we perceive the world is through those senses, but that doesn’t mean it is actually true or makes it real for the other seven billion of us.
So, how did I get my scar? I can see in my mind’s eye a detailed description of the twelve year old boy who flung the metal swing into my face, then high-tailed it out of the chainlink-enclosed park, T-shirt flapping and white converse hi-tops scuffing the concrete. My horrified sister ran to get help while my cousin held the wound together. It all transpired when I was five. Throughout my life the scar was something I basically always had, and the story of the boy was just part and parcel of my history. That is until one day, aged twenty-six in a small apartment in California I was told the truth.
My cousin had been pushing the swing for my sister to catch when it swung out of control and smashed into my cheek. Only one person was doing the running in reality on that warm afternoon in 1966, my sister, running like mad out of the school gates going over the story in her head of what really didn’t happen.
When my cousin eventually confessed about the made up story to protect herself and my sister, it didn’t blow me away or make me angry, I simply couldn’t believe it. My mind wouldn’t accept it, and even today as I write this forty-six years after my ‘branding’ I can’t for the life of me conjure up an image other than the one I have owned since my five year old self was told a fabrication which became so lifelike in my brain, that for years I recounted it to the finest detail when asked about my personalized “V”. I even think over the years both sis and cuz started to believe it as well.
I have spent most of my single and married life traveling. I find it interesting to see what is deemed important in one country is not even in the collective memory of another. The take on world events vary greatly on both personal and national levels. Our vision of the world is colored by many things. Our reality is very much determined by the stories we’ve been told. Our cultural, social, national and political selves are all just a made up story. If anyone of us were born elsewhere into a different reality we’d be a very different version of ourselves and we’d believe it to the marrow of our bones. Try to remember though, to some extent it all isn’t true, yet it is all that we intellectualize about who we are. If we trim all the stories away we might even laugh at our made-up histories believing that our religion, nationality or political point of reference is worth protecting, killing or dying for. In the end, we are all just a compilation of stories, cut away the superfluous and our scars both physical and mental are only a tiny part of the bigger picture.
My scar still lingers on, although almost imperceptible. I have moved around so much of my life that my historical stories are also fading. I sometimes feel like I am once again sitting in an apartment being nonchalantly told a truth that actually makes no difference to the innermost real me.
Am I French now because I live here? I’d pretty much have to say no. Am I no longer a New Yorker because I left that city a quarter of a century ago? Again, a resounding no. That part of my story is strong though, I hold dear many of the people who are still part of that New York story, but I now see all those people more for who they are and what they mean to me, even though distance and years separate us. The human side of our collective lives is much more important, not their geographical, political or religious stories. So what am I really? British because of some paperwork? French by location? American by birth? Italian by blood and roots? I am me and we are all different versions of ourselves because of our life choices, but the essence of what we are remains immutable, and that’s the description that defies the man-made rules.
I sometimes hold my head in disbelief just like two certain fifteen year old girls did nearly a half-century ago in an inner city schoolyard. What are we doing? How can big business, and politicians believe their stories so much that they destroy the environment, care little for the future, and rally the masses to go out and kill each other for vested interests? Have they kidded themselves with a fabrication all their lives that they have totally disconnected from the inner truth and somehow taken us along for their disjointed crazy ride? I don’t understand, surely they are just part of our human story, not above or beyond it.
I have been to many corners of this round planet and have first-hand experience that we’re all just one big mass of wonderful colorful humanity wanting to express our collective human story and share in what this world has to offer all of us. Maybe together we can all start to write a different story about the day it all turned around and we realized it.
Like my wife’s book I’m anxiously waiting to read one day, I also look forward to the history book recounting the world waking up to the truth that the people mildly brainwashing us to benefit their own greedy selves didn’t mean a thing to the alternative inner reality.