A Memorial to Whom You Used to Be
The first month we tried to conceive I thought it had worked. We went out to a restaurant one night, and I was positive that my abdomen felt bubbly. Odd. As if a tiny embryo was digging down deep in my uterus. I had brought a Your Pregnancy Week by Week book along on the trip, and I consulted it as if this was a test and there was only one possible answer: twinges = pregnancy.
That cycle, of course, didn’t work. The restaurant burned down a few years later, a month or two after we conceived the twins.
In both cases — myself and the restaurant — the original versions were gone.
I don’t know why we’re always surprised when our thoughts and feelings don’t return to their pre-situation state; as if we believe that our lives are like rain slickers that the downpours just roll off of, pooling on the ground so we can step aside.
I would say that we exit experiences changed, but that insinuates that there is an exit.
Maybe it’s more like a nautilus, starting with this small, dense core of self, that tiny original circle of our personality that existed before the nautilus started circling out in an ongoing loop. The nautilus completes circle after circle, growing and expanding, getting farther away from that original space in the center. We’re able to always look ahead as we grow while looking back as we wind our way around our old experiences.
There is no rhyme or reason to which way I’ll go: Sometimes I am excited as all get out for a new baby. Other times I need to avoid it for self-preservation. All I know is that the Melissa who exists today isn’t the Melissa who was sitting at that restaurant, a pregnancy book in her bag and her hand on her stomach, talking to someone who wasn’t there.
Image: Hitchster via Flickr
In the Magician King, you learn the backstory of how all the characters came together, moving between now and many years ago, until the two points in time meet. We know the story before the main character, Quentin, knows the story, discovering it just pages before one of the characters sits down to tell him.
He says, on page 381, the woman “sitting next to him on his bed was like a magnificent memorial to the girl she used to be.”
Isn’t that a gorgeous thought? That we’re all just memorials, walking memorials, to the people we used to be.
The woman (and I’m not naming her because it would be a spoiler for the first book) explains to Quentin on page 380, “I wanted to go back to before what happened, when I was still human. But I couldn’t, and I couldn’t go forward either. Then somehow in the underworld I realized for the first time, really understood, that I was never going back. So I let go. And that’s when it happened.”
She can’t go back to who she used to be; she can only move forward, carrying with her all the old versions of herself.
Just like everyone else, outside the pages of a book.