The City of Manifest Memory

By ManWithHat

Our minds are fickle things, especially when it comes to memory. Each time we remember a moment, we do not so much reconstruct as re-imagine. Details change, events shift order to fit new vision, but the memory never becomes less true, at least for the one who remembers.


Should you like, there's a train that will take you to a place where memory is manifest in objects, in all of the exactitude and realness of three dimensional Things. One need never forget, if one choose not to do so.


Imagine: Awakening on a train, you will notice on approach that this city is evenly bisected by the tracks upon which you ride, a dividing line not of class or race but of reality.


On one side, the houses are stately, well-kept. They are solid and sound; structures built to last. Their interiors are another matter, a cacophony of matter; they are each a library of memory, and each with its own decimal system unique to its rememberer. The glasses your mother wore. Your grandfather's waffle baker, an appliance that never fell into disuse, even after the diner closed. Your brother's first concert poster. An art project from high school. A dress that doesn't fit. A hammer. Eleven cents. A defunct computer. All of these things are keys to the mysterious code of the brain, unlocking its most distorted, scattered information. They must be kept. Their scent, texture, image, their presence opens up universes.


People on this side of the tracks live slow, stable lives. They get on well with relations, live in the family home, never travel far from their memories. History is their passion, and they love nothing more than to instruct the uninstructed as to this founding father or that classic statue. Development is limited in this neighborhood, and people almost never move for fear of the loss that is inevitable with such a change. And when you really get down to it, aren't homes memories, too?


These Keepers, they wish they could travel, see distant places. They feel cheated of their own stories. Many spend their days dreaming of things that must happen in other cities, other worlds. Many write of their dreams, imagining entire fictions, piecing together bits of a world they hear about only through rumor. But such grand adventures require a lightness they lack. The Keepers' drive for exactitude of memory conquers all other passions.


On the other side of the track, life moves at a more clipped, frenzied pace. Poorly-built towers and complexes are not allowed to crumble before being replaced by the Next Big Thing. Parks are replaced by gas stations, and power plants by parks, and gas stations by apartments, and apartments by power plants, and on and on and on. Destruction and renewal are omnipresent and ever-flowing.


The inhabitants of this neighborhood, you see, have not so much accepted the loss of memory, but rather its mercurial nature. These people travel light, choosing to not place value in all perfect memories, but rather a select few, changing as time goes on. A book. A neck tie. A postcard. Whatever can fit into a suitcase. Perhaps even the suitcase itself. All other memories are subject to the whim of their author.


These people keep homes only so long as they are pleased by them, break with their families over any and all disputes, live lives full of adventures both real and imagined. Their homes, if you can call them that, are neat and organized, always ready for a speedy departure. Friends, lovers, these are dropped, lost, forgotten as often as memories. One never lacks.


These pursuers, too, wish for things contrary to their nature. They wonder why they didn't keep the exact color of their first lover's hair, the sound of their father's voice, the song they sang at their wedding, the book that changed their life at age sixteen. They feel like a seed in the wind with no ground upon which to plant themselves. But these pursuers have a momentum that can never be blunted.


Day after day, these two neighborhoods work and sleep, coexisting not as friends but as reluctant allies in a symbiotic relationship of the mind. And day after day, at the same time of day, in a moment, the whole city stops, Keeper and Pursuer alike, to hear the distant whistle of the train as it rumbles through the city. The whistle, the rumble, the moment reminds all within earshot of the train that will someday come for them, to take them away to their next destination.

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The City of Manifest Memory

Created: Sep 08, 2010

Tags: allegory, city

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