Rituals and Reminders of the Past.
My husband and I have a Saturday ritual: coffee at Angel Falls, followed by a stop at Square Records. I usually check the new releases, and look at what weird books have come in. I start at the opposite end of the newly added used stuff, and work my way back to the beginning (because- you guessed it- my husband starts at the new releases and works his way over). We've done this for years, and it's one of those little things that I look forward to all week.
A few weeks ago as I was flipping through, I noticed a lot of familiar records in the just in used section. The grouping of bands was way too specific to just be a coincidence. These were records that someone had held onto forever, until shit just got that bad and they had to start selling the things that meant a lot to them. I knew whose records these were. It felt like seeing a ghost. I didn't tell my husband, because this happened way before I met him, and I don't like talking about this guy or my brief time tangled up with him. But I was still curious, because I'm always fucking curious.
I went home and looked him up, because that's what we do in the age of information, right? I saw that, yes, this person had gone through some bad shit recently, so I was probably totally right and those were his records. I had touched these records in my past life as a perpetually lonely, drunk girl, and I touched those records again as a happy married (mostly) sober lady, enjoying a day of record flipping with her husband. It sparked something significant for me.
I spent years avoiding my feelings about literally everything. Over the past couple years, I've let a lot of it out, in the safety of a therapist's office. I've learned to sit with the feelings. I've learned to move past it and back into my present. I've learned how to regulate my emotions and not let things destroy me.
I had never honestly dealt with my shit surrounding this guy, because I never felt like I needed to. The time spent with him was short, and it didn't feel like it warranted much of my attention. But my writing showed me otherwise. I sat down and started writing, about him, about us, about what went down. The words just flowed out of my fingertips and onto the screen. I haven't written so clearly and honestly in many years. I wrote so much, in so much detail and so much emotion that I had to take a break from it, but I was able to go back to it and write more.
It felt so good to write this guy out of my system after his intrusion back into my brain via vinyl. It felt good to be able to write about it and not hate him or hate myself while writing it. It felt good to be able to think and understand the fact that I don't know him anymore, and I'm not the same person anymore.
It's a strange thing when people who you know very well become people you knew. But now, there's this digital tether to all of your memories, good and bad. Facebook Memories remind me of fun trips I've taken and the dumb shit I've done. But it also reminds me of the years I spent drunk and high and trying to destroy myself, and surrounding myself with people who were doing the exact same thing. It's still hard to look at Facebook Memories sometimes. I've curated out (read: deleted or blocked) the *really* bad stuff, but every once in a while, something comes through and makes me sad, or feel ashamed or embarrassed.
I've started looking at my digital memories like I'm re-watching an old TV show, which has really helped. Some memories are fun, some are horrible, and I even have a few that are fun AND horrible. I spent a big chunk of time drunk in weird cities, covered in glitter and full of intoxicants, but I also spent a big chunk of time wondering why I was always so lonely, even though I was rarely alone.
All characters go through story arcs, and not all of them are good. If the show is on long enough, the entire writer's room can change. They may kill off a favorite character, or have a new actor take over an existing role. The lead character may get a haircut or a new job or off drugs. Eiher way, the show goes on until it doesn't anymore.
Today, I saw the same guy on the street. I was going to the store to pick up things for the week, as I do every Monday morning before I start working. He was standing at the entrance of the strip mall; he had a cardboard sign in his hand. "Down on my luck, anything helps" it read in familiar writing. I looked away, feeling sad for him for falling so far, and feeling thankful for where I am and who I am now. And then I switched the channel.