For a forgetful man, his memories are precious gems. The fewer the memories, the more valuable they become. We have had a lot of memories together. But my mind could only hang on to a few, making them more valuable.
I still remember the first time we met. It was at the 10th year anniversary of the Leadership Congress we both attended. You immediately caught my eye despite your attempts to be inconspicuous. You had your camera with you, moving about, like a professional photographer, directing people to smile and pose while you saved the memory of their reunion into a digital repository. If only memories were like that—moving digital pictures inside one’s head.
I don’t remember why I noticed you. Maybe it was the way your eyebrows were always furrowed. It gave you that inquisitive look. The way you stared at your subjects, and the look when you preview the image you took in the LCD of your camera gave the impression that you were scrutinizing them, studying every detail, like an artist obsessing about the beauty he is attempting to capture. Maybe I saw myself in the way you looked at people. There is that look of wonder and curiosity.
We crossed paths several times in that gathering but we never really talked. Later on you told me that you noticed me earlier. Then, the alumni broke out into groups of interest, to talk shop about their various advocacies and how they can convince more members to join in. I was in the publication group. And I was surprised when you arrived, half-way into the discussion, sitting right in front of me. You started sharing your insights, passionately, making me feel I didn’t know what I was doing. You stared while you talked. As if we were the only two people at the table. At that moment, I knew I had to ask you out.
You asked for my number because I was too slow in trying to compose the words to ask you for yours. The rest, some will say, is history. But my memory fails to come up with a coherent narrative of the sequence of events. All I have are snippets of dialogue from various scenes of our encounters, faded mental photographs of our times together, and an incoherent montage of significant events that would probably make a good film if only I had a sharper memory to sort these sequences out. Maybe this is an attempt to turn it into a history—something recorded, something to look at, for when the time comes that my memory completely fails me.
Now, I am beginning to forget your face.
Not that you have a forgettable face, but you see, and I know that you will believe me, I was given a very short memory. I would like to think that I was not given a sharp and longer memory so that I am forced to write the images and feelings that come with these fleeting moments. This is very good for my art, but not very helpful for a relationship. You told me that sometimes you feel that I never cared much about you because I forget important things; that I loved my art more than I loved you—if I ever did love you. But you see, it was a curse. I was made to forget, so I am forced to write these moments down before they are completely forgotten.
It was my last dream about you that made me realize that I do not know your face anymore. We crossed paths again, in this unfamiliar place. You were with Sophie. We tried our best not to acknowledge each other. But you know how dreams work: the subconscious has a way of forcing the matter and bending the narrative to fit its ultimate desires. We exchanged a few words filled with subtext. It was a wonderful scene, something I would write into a play. We didn’t say much to each other but the subtexts were louder than the dialogue. It was then that I realized you had a different face. I did not know the face of the woman I was talking to. But I knew, I was certain, that I was talking to you. It was then when I realized that I was beginning to forget your face.
I do not know if this is a good thing or not. I wouldn’t know if that is what you might have wanted since we don’t talk anymore. I do not yet know what this means. But for sure, I dreamt it so I could tell you about it, even in this letter.
Sometimes I am tempted to look at our old photos together. I do not know if I want to remember your face again. The slipping of these fleeting moments, these memories, drive me to write them all down. The fear of losing all of them drives me to write. Remembering your face might stop me from writing. I do not know what I really want—to remember you vividly through a photograph or to immortalize our memories in prose. I can still hear your voice, though. I can hear it say, with much bitterness, that you know I will choose to write because I have this inordinate love affair with the muse. You have always been jealous of my muse. You asked me once why you never were my muse. But this, I shall explain in another letter. Suffice it to say that my love affair with the muse does not make me care about you any less. Writing all these is the only way I know to show you that I did care, despite your belief that I am emotionally retarded. Maybe I was. But like I said, this thing is a curse that is essential to my art but destructive to our relationship.
If I were given a choice by the muse, whether to have the strength to chronicle these memories or to just relive them, I would not know which one to choose. But right now, I do not have much of a choice. I have to write them down because I am not allowed to relive them.