Sometimes we have to reinvent history to prepare ourselves for the future. We have to reinvent our pasts, to alter our memories in order to cope with the present and the possible futures. Memory becomes hazy to protect our hearts. So there was not as much love as we thought there was. There was not as much wonder. It was not as spectacular as we thought at the time. Looking back, it wasn’t that great. I was not as in love as I thought I was. I did not care about her as much as I thought I did. It wasn’t that intense. It wasn’t that big a deal. It wasn’t so important. I wasn’t in that much pain. It didn’t hurt me as much as I thought it would. It did not mean nearly as much as it seemed to at the time. I was being over-dramatic.
Our coping mechanisms are predictable. I was determined not to do this to Eve’s memory. It was unfair because she could not come and contest whatever I invented. History is written by the living, and truth become skewed by those who live to change it, to offer it.
What was the truth any more? I wasn’t sure. It could be so fragile, so malleable. I knew that it would be wrong to pretend that Eve did not mean as much to me as she did. That she was not in my heart.
The trouble was the going-on. The continuing with life, with knowing what I felt before, with knowing what could no longer be in the future.
What did I really want? Mel asked me now. Mel, trying to see me. Mel, trying to learn something about me. Mel, trying to help me find something about myself I did not previously know. Or was she just trying to re-invent me into some image, too?
No, she was asking me. She was trying to see what kind of life I wanted to live. Who was she to try and offer that to me? Who was she to try to find what lay in those depths? Had I given her permission? Was it a tacit agreement? Had I agreed to listen to her by agreeing to stay at her place?
I had wanted to come back here. I had wanted to try my hand at making a life here. It would be possible. I could see it through Eve’s eyes. I had to learn to see it through my own. I had to learn to see the world through my own eyes and not simply through a memory of what Eve might have seen.
“You look like you’re drifting off to somewhere far away. Where is your mind going? Where does it want to go?”
“I– I don’t know, actually.” How weak. How pitiful. “You know where we came from. There was not much there. I wouldn’t want to go home. But maybe staying here isn’t good for me, either. Maybe I don’t actually want to be here.”
“Or, you do, but you just haven’t figured out your own reasons why yet. Lara, what do you want?”
“Why are you asking me this? Why is it so important to you?”
Mel did not answer immediately. She looked down at her hands on the table. She tried to find the words. “I just want you to do what makes you happy. Is that so strange?”
She looked up at me with those eyes that were so different than mine. I wondered what those eyes had seen, why they sat in her face the way they did. I wondered what she was trying to ask me with them.
“I guess it’s something I have to think about a lot. I guess there’s a lot to choose from. Infinite possibilities. But why not just stay here?”
“Because I can tell that it’s not what you want. I can tell that you’re not finding what you’re looking for here. I can tell that you’re looking for something. But I can’t tell what that is.”
“You’re acting like you know me so well. What makes you think that? What makes you think that you know any more about me than anyone else? What makes you think you can ask me these things?”
“I don’t know. I feel like you need it. I feel like there are things that you haven’t asked yourself yet. So I ask you. Is that so terrible?”
I thought about history. How it is written by the victors. How our memories can be re-written. I had been poring over history, trying to see myself there. Trying to pull that self into the present. But that person was no longer real. There was only the person whose skin I would walk into. I needed to find that person.