The Never-Ending Memoirs
by Pete Sierra
You haven’t said a word since the session began, Eric,” said Dr. F.
“I was waiting for you to finish typing on your laptop.”
“No, no. Typing happens by itself. My mind is all yours. Go ahead.”
“Aha! Sure. I’m here because I’m disturbed, not because I’m dumb.”
“No, really, Eric, everything happens on its own. I am expert at multitasking. Tell me about your father. Do you feel better, now that we discussed him in our last session?”
“You can’t multitask. You’re either lying or deceiving yourself. You suffer from cognitive dissonance,” said Eric.
Dr. F smiled condecendingly. “Does anyone you know, besides me, suffer from this tension of believing two contradictory ideas?”
“President Bush. He knows the war in Iraq is lost, but he also believes a miracle can happen if he stays the course. To have a president that believes in miracles is the worst disaster that can happen to a country.”
“You just said that because you know I’m a Republican. I was looking for an example closer to home.”
“My father. He knew he had lived a boring life, and believed it could be made exciting by writing fictitious memories.”
“How about you Eric, do you suffer from dissonance?”
“Give me example.”
“Sometimes, at work, a customer doesn’t like how I did her hair. I know it’s perfect, but I also believe the customer is always right. So these two ideas create tension. I solve the tension by believing that doing her hair the way she wants will be an interesting challenge.”
“That’s not what I was looking for, Eric. Do you feel better about you father now?
“Yes, I do.”
“How do you feel about him now?”
“He is no longer an issue.”
“Excellent! How did that come about?”
“I killed him.”
“Hmm! I hope you don’t mean that literally, Eric.”
“Yes I do. I stabbed him to death.”
“Hmm! Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Yes, I’m very upset.”
“Good! Tell me about it.”
“I stabbed him while he was asleep on my bed. He bled a lot, Doctor. He ruined my new orthopedic mattress. That thing cost me a fortune.”
“Don’t you feel sorry for what you did? Don’t you wish you could take it back?”
“I certainly do.”
“Very good. That’s a healthy reaction. Tell me more.”
“Well, it was a hassle to cut him in little pieces and stuff him in Ziploc bags. It took me a whole day. Then, all the bags didn’t fit in the old freezer, so I had to buy a new one. New mattress, new freezer, my credit card is maxed out. On top of it all, I was fired from my job for being honest.”
“What do you mean fired for being honest?”
“Well, I had to ask for two days off to take care of him. So my boss asked me what was wrong with my father, and I told her I was chopping him up and putting him in Ziploc bags. She said my absenteeism wasn’t a thing to joke about any longer. And she yelled, ‘You’re fired’!”
“Do you understand that honesty is not always the best policy?” Dr. F said, looking worried.
“I can see that now. You have been typing all along, but you are going to charge me for the whole session.”
“You have a serious problem accepting reality, Eric. You don’t pay for my services, your medical insurance does. There is nothing wrong with overcharging an insurance company, or even Medicare,” said Dr. F in a stern tone of voice.
“It’s cheating, it’s fraud. You are committing a crime.”
“No son, it’s a perfectly acceptable practice and entirely within the ‘hypocritical’ oath as interpreted by most doctors as well as the Republican Party.”
“Even so, why do you have to do all that typing? Let your medical assistant do it.”
“I’m the owner of a philosophical internet group. I have a duty to stimulate sincere inquiry.”
“Wow! What’s the name of the group?”
“The Room for This and That.”
“Cool! Can I join?”
“No, Eric. It’s by invitation only, and for mature, serious seekers.”
“I killed my father. Isn’t that serious enough?”
“Hmm! Let me think about it. Is there anything else you want to discuss? We still have a minute.”
“Do you have any room in your freezer?”
“No, I don’t. I’m going to let you read the last message your father wrote. Your sister gave me this to pass on to you at the right moment.” Dr. F took from his desk drawer a pair white underwear on which this message was written:
Old people, as they get close to that opaque, disquieting wall we call death, begin to look back on what they fancy were their lives. But I found little comfort in those jumbled, imprecise memories. They seemed to drift and change like clouds avoiding my grasp.
So I decided to write my memoirs.
My children wish I never had. I was hoping to bring order and substance to my past. What could be more solid than a book that you can take in your hands, lay on your lap, and say, ‘There, that’s my life’?
I began to realize it was a fool’s errand. Nothing a stranger would find worth reading happened to me, and my writing style was sure to make my lackluster subsistence seem even duller. I was too fond of passive sentences, gerunds, dangling adverbial phrases and the like. If something could be said with one word, I needed five. The odds were stacked against my memoir. The planets were in all the wrong houses from the start. But then, something miraculous happened. My book took over and wrote itself.
I was unable to write my life as I remembered it. Another life, one more fanciful, more poetic began to emerge from my pen and superimpose itself on my prosaic existence.
I found with dismay that I had no control over what I wrote. Someone else was writing my memoirs. Words poured into my head, flowed from my hand, and I had no say on what was what. It didn’t matter that my wife, as far as I know, had been faithful to the end. The story required a lover, and that was that. The story also demanded a movie star to play that role. And against my best judgment, it also demanded a ménage à trois.
Needless to say, my children, on reading what I had written, were aghast.
“Dad, Mother was never unfaithful, she wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the world and she didn’t have green eyes. Have you gone mad?”
I didn’t know what to say, except it was my life, and I could remember it in any way I wanted. I couldn’t blame them for resenting the memoir. In my book, I have endowed them with new lives they never knew they had. I wrote that my youngest, Eric, fought in the Iraq war and had been killed while capturing Saddam even though he was alive and a hairdresser in San Francisco, living with a roommate named Carl.
Had I been satisfied with one memoir, it would have been all right. But I was infested with the memoir bug. I wrote memoir after memoir, each one more bizarre than the last. To my children’s dismay, they all were best sellers, and now their friends stared at them with knowing smiles.
So, I can’t really blame them for doing what they did. They found a judge to declare me mad. Now, in my cell, I’m deprived of paper or laptop. But the memoir bug has not died. I’m thinking about writing a new memoir on these bare walls, one in which neither I nor my children were ever born.
But I’m having a little trouble finding anything to write regarding such a life.
With a look of disgust, Eric refused to accept the underwear. “I’ve read enough of my father’s ravings, thank you very much.” He stood up and rushed out of the office.
Dr. F returned the underwear to his desk drawer with a smile. He considered Eric’s murder confession a positive sign. Eric’s father had died of a heart attack shortly after writing that message. But Eric claimed that his father was not only alive but that he appeared at his apartment at the most inappropriate times. Maybe now the hallucinations would cease and Eric would be able to crap in peace.
Copyright © 2008 by Pete Sierra