I read to him most nights. His freckled abandonment to life now absorbed in other worlds, eyes searching out that uniquely human distance, seeing and witnessing. Hiding behind his hands to peep out at the unseen when it threatens our adventurers. Three stories, sometimes five, sometimes only one if Rabbit has a busy day and we have an earnest discussion about the absolute and relative attributes of the Backson (orange hair, horns, steals your socks, scary, etc). 

Resting his head on my shoulder, I smell his straw hair like the precipitate of shining. 

My sleep is as homo incurvatus se, the last defensive posture of one beaten down. But he sleeps as though he flung himself to it. Head, limbs, scattered as though drifting and weightless. When I return hours later to take him to the toilet, I have to gather him from the four poles of the bed into one flannel bundle that overflows my arms. He burrows into my chest and settles, face close to mine. On the bridge of his nose, the sun has written his age in a constellation of freckles. Claiming him for the world, irresistibly drawing him into its orbit. And from my arms.

Jorge Luis Borges once related to me the story of Funes the Memorious—a poor man cursed with absolute memory; yes everything, every detail. But absolute memory is also the negation of memory. Everything is present to absolute memory, and so nothing is thinkable. To forget the endless differences between objects of our awareness so that we can build them together into regularities and concepts, this is to think. To forget another in the discriminatory interest of love is to remember. Funes cannot know and he cannot love because he has lost the discriminatory interest that is essential to consciousness, that is the experience of love. 

Memory is constituted of discriminatory interest, fading and kindling. It is not the world’s photograph. It is the future’s enchridion, teaching how and not to fear. What does it mean that I have no memory of my son other than of this moment now? And as I consider, I see that this is true of all those I am long in loving. I do not really remember any of them, other than as the backward projections of those I love now. I have digital images that I can display of a 2 year old bald child with a 34 year old man who looks much like me. But I cannot think of him, or me, other than as we are now and those images as strange simulacra of us. Because we are not what we were then. 

Memory, the handbook of what I love, speaks only of loving him: whatever he is and not what he is not, even if that is his own past. Love is endlessly particular about who it loves.

Show Comments