I Need a Decoder Ring
I’m having a hard time writing these days. No special reason why, at least not that I have settled on. I jot down a few paragraphs on the streetcar, or over a latte at my desk. I email myself quick reminders so that when I have a free moment later that evening, I don’t forget how badly I want to draft a character sketch of the man on the sidewalk who shouted at D. and I, “you’re a SEEEEXXXXXXYYYYY couple yes you are yes you are yes you are!” when we were on our third date. The man mocked and taunted us for holding hands in public, recommended that we get a room in which to do such disgusting humping instead of gagging on each other’s faces right there in public. As far as trials by fire go, that moment was a good test of what my date and I were made of.
My notes and emails and jottings and scraps of paper fall from pockets and notebooks and satchels and purses like balled-up snow. Most include other, superfluous and yet more pragmatic, information. Grocery lists, bill payment totals, addresses and telephone numbers, all of which is usually out of date by the time I find the note again. People have moved, switched cell providers, the eggs have been bought (and eaten, and more bought after those ones). But, just in case the story prompt comes in handy, I throw none of this stuff away.
…which means that from time to time, searching for a sensible note about a sensible thing, I instead find little notes like this one tucked between the pages of a notebook long since retired from use. “That’s what you get for rubbing your dick on the fat kid.” Period; no exclamation point. Indicating a simple and level-headed statement, rather than a sudden, impassioned verbal ejaculation. Yes, that is my handwriting. Yes, it appears in a notebook owned exclusively by me, and which is never shared with others. There’s no chance of accusing another person of writing this stuff and leaving it for me to find. All this rude stuff occurs by my own hand, though I definitely had help coming up with it. Sometimes, that notebook would be pulled out mid-conversation, let’s say for instance maybe at a bar when someone said something so funny (at least, in the context of the bar) that we could imagine nothing so tragic as forgetting it. Ever. And so, into the notebook it went. The thing is, I remember who said it, and I remember writing it down, but what the fuck K. was on about, that bit is long gone.
And, while the fat-kid note is more colourful, it is by no means an only child. There are more. Plenty more. Each one truly unique; each one truly vulgar. Shudder. More disturbing than the fact that I half-recall the conversations (in public places) that produced these little treats is the fact that I can read my handwriting with ease. Meaning I was relatively sober when I wrote them, which infers that I was also quite sober while having such a stupid conversation in the first place. Typically, my penmanship is far lovelier and better sculpted than in either of those notes, suggesting a martini or two under the belt. But, the product of full-blown drunken chronicling is easily identified:
That. Is. Not. Anything. Drunken shorthand that mercifully loses its meaning like a carriage returning to pumpkin form by morning.
I remember inventing Reggie the Forgetful Genius. Sort of. I think it might’ve been a nickname cooked up by Z. and D. and I one evening, while we also cooked a sensational dinner and enjoyed this dinner with plenty of sensational wine. It sounds like the kind of thing one of us might blurt. But, about whom we blurted it? Lost to gastronomic fog.
Test the cake smashing! Thirty of them on Wednesday night! Which is also, apparently, the night I ought to make it. Apparently, I had a busy Wednesday sometime in 2009, what with all the making-it and caking-it and smashing-it and so on. Good thing I wrote it all down!
And, speaking of busy, my short-term memory is so poor as to be frankly embarrassing, so I keep lists. Then, I turn up at the shops and forget that I made a list in the first place, load my basket with items that are perhaps even things I need but which are not the things I went to the store to pick up. When I get home and unpack, I often see the roasting pan sitting ready for the chicken I did not purchase, or the empty toilet paper roll, a tissue tuft waving from otherwise bare cardboard. I make lists to remind me of tasks and payments and chores and dates and appointments (those I need to remember to attend and others I need to remember to make), birthdays and groceries and toiletries and phonecalls to return and emails to write. I keep lists before trips, reminding me that a bikini and a towel and a passport are pretty much all I need to bring. I keep lists before holidays I take with other people, and sometimes end up crying when I find the list of cottage supplies I made with an ex, even if I don’t much give a shit about that particular affair anymore.
And, there are lists like this. My scorecard from studying to get my driver’s licence. I was certain I would fail the written portion since the guidebook included questions so obtuse that I wasn’t sure I understood what they were asking. Little riddles designed to fuck me up and keep me off the road, which, three years later as I struggle to understand spatial relations in traffic, I think might’ve been a good thing!
I sort of love the notes I no longer understand. Staring, head-scratching, reading and re-reading, pondering, appealing to whomever I think might’ve been present when I wrote that mess down — these efforts all fail, and eventually, I accept the note for the mystery it has become. Make space in my head for other things, like maybe that list about how I should really remember to buy toilet paper and chicken and soap and eggs. And so, even though I remember everything about the last note here (the morning I drew that dirty little picture, who I drew it for, and the backstory that explains why I was drawing something like that in the first place), I leave you with a blank…
(for more on this apparently emerging trend in writing crazy shit that later I can’t recall, see this post from a couple years back.)