Monday, May 28, 2018

A Letter to the Woman I've Always Loved

Dear Trudy,

I've been thinking lately about how you can only remember other people as they were the last time you saw them. For some reason the human brain seems incapable of storing more than one memory of a person's physical appearance and constantly overwrites the previous memory when you see that person.

Even though you've had various "phases" throughout your life and your appearance (hairstyle, clothing, etc.) changed as often as each week, I can still only remember you as how you looked eight years ago, the last time I saw you, when you were dressed like a French mime and you had just had surgery done to make your lips much bigger.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with the concept of brainwashing. In school, I read The Manchurian Candidate and it made me afraid that maybe I had been brainwashed but I didn't know it. I thought that maybe my mind had been erased. How do you know if your mind has been erased? There's no way of knowing if your mind has been erased. It kept me up at night.

But now I know that my mind has been erased, because I can only remember you dressed like a French mime with freakishly plump lips even though I have photos to prove you once went through a punk phase, a hippie phase, a police officer phase, a businesswoman phase, a prostitute phase, a baby phase, and a Nazi phase, to name a few. But lacking physical evidence, my mind is only able to conjure up the image of you wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and a black beret, your face painted white, screaming at me about something, presumably, but I couldn't understand what you were saying because you weren't making a sound.

People only ever remember TV quality in HD because we see the world in HD. People think that before the 1950s the world was colorless, and hundreds of years ago, everybody was made out of paint, or marble, or clay, or whatever. When we met for the first time, the world, as I remember it, was the same color and tone as the depressing, hazy sepia filter of movies made in the '90s, like Se7en or Fight Club, but that's only because those movies were made around that time. While looking through an old photo album, I was reminded that at that time in our lives you were going through your Italian phase, and on that day you had on a chef's hat and jacket and a false mustache.

I was 55 and you were 26. I asked you if you came to that particular bar often, and you said, "Welcome to Umberto's Italian Ristorante, can I take-a you order, signorrreeee?" I was instantly overcome with a sense of sexual arousal that I had not felt since my wife had passed away sometime earlier that month. I asked you if you were from New York originally or if you moved from somewhere else and you pinched your fingers together and exclaimed, "Wow, that's-a spicy meatball!"

I remember you were initially uninterested in my advances until I told you my name, and you asked if I was a real -------------, and I said yes, and you asked me how, and I said that ------------- is my last name because it's my father's last name, and you asked me if I was a member of the real ------------- Family, the ones who own all those skyscrapers. I said yes, and six months later, we were married.

Against the wishes of our family attorneys, you insisted on not obtaining a prenuptial arrangement, and for the sake of our love, I agreed, which made the divorce process two months later very arduous and painful. I recently rediscovered a newspaper clipping about us and there you were, with an eyepatch and a parrot, flashing a gold tooth at the photographer. You were quoted in the article. "Arr," you said, "I've captured his ships and taken half of his booty, yar!" My father was furious and I was cut off from the family trust.

I know that my mind has been erased because there are large chunks of the next few decades that are a total blank for me. I know that at one point I was in a car accident because I still have the scars, but I don't remember you ramming into the side of my car at full speed in your Hummer, and I certainly don't think you would have tried to strangle my unconscious body with the seatbelt until the paramedics pulled you away, despite what the police or any of the eyewitnesses say, although I do have nightmares about an Egyptian pharaoh trying to strangle me ever since I saw your mugshot photo on TV and saw that you looked like Tutankhamun.

The last time I saw you was eight years ago, a little while after you got out of prison. I came to try to win you back. I told you that I still loved you but I couldn't hear what you said, so I yelled, "You're not a real mime!" and you wrote "Fuck off!" in Sharpie on the hood of the Porsche that I had bought you as an apology gift, before you smashed the mirrors and windows with one of my golf clubs that you, despite never having played golf once in your life, were able to convince the judge belonged to you. I always said you were the most charming woman on the planet and this is just more proof.

I'm worried that soon, all of my mind is going to be gone. I'll be 79 years old soon and I know that they've been brainwashing me or erasing my memory because there's less and less that I remember each day. I've started forgetting darn near everything. It took me weeks to write this letter because I kept forgetting who I am. I've sent you maybe 50 or so letters since the last time I saw you and you haven't replied once, but I'm begging you this time to please, please write me back, or call me, or visit me, if you truly love me like I know you do. I'm afraid that soon my mind will be totally wiped and I won't be able to remember who you are, or who you were, the astronaut, the viking, the zookeeper.