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Let me preface this by saying that to not remember is not to forget. Maybe they are according to the thesaurus. But not according to me. (I should also say that this will probably sound a bit like a fourteen year old’s angst ridden Zeen submission (and that I’m not sure if that’s spelled “Zeen” or “Xine.”)
The other day, I was walking with another girl from my program. We were talking about how, in Petersburg, the abnormal occurs with such normalcy. People bump into each other and nobody seems to mind. Shopkeepers are impatient with their customers out of practice, not principle. Buses break down and Point A magically morphs into Point B somewhere alone somebody else’s journey, and it’s same as it ever was (and, simultaneously, not). And we talked about how odd it was to consider the regularly occurring bizarre so average, and how we had routines here, though neither one of us could remember their moment of origin. And then she told me that, while texting with her Russian phone, she thought of her American one. And she couldn’t remember what it looked like. And I, in turn, told her that, while filling out a form for some thing or another, I realized that I could not immediately remember my American cell phone number.
It all happens so quickly. “I can’t even remember a time I didn’t live in Russia,” I told my parents over Skype. I was joking, but, in a way, I meant it. All of the above (and more! oh, so much more!) kind of quietly became customary. And though I haven’t forgotten things or routines, they don’t come to mind without command. And sometimes the memories hesitate and hang back even when I ask them to hurry.
In a way, I suppose, it’s a bit sad. They (you know—THEY) say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And maybe that’s true for some in some circumstances. But absence can also make the heart say, “Oh, right. That happened.” That which was once at the center moves out toward the periphery.
But, in another way, it’s nice to know that identity and activity and all that is ever evolving. It isn’t that what was once important doesn’t matter anymore, or even that it matters any less. But it matters less centrally.
One does not go through life missing the way one has once lived. Or old habits. Or places. Or anything at all.
Not even what a cell phone looks like or a phone number.