#33 – Marisol, or on memory and other stuff

It’s 4:53am on a Sunday morning.  I’m awake, though not sure why.  I wouldn’t say it’s a huge problem, how and when and how long I sleep, but it’s definitely something.  Often enough I sleep too much or too little.

I try not to think about it too much, though I think about most everything too much, so I’m not always successful at it.

I’m pretty sure I know why I sleep too much.  It’s usually avoidance.  The more I sleep, the less I have to think.

Thinking about stuff is not bad in and of itself.  I do tend to overthink things though.  I’d like to be more spontaneous, in the things I do and the things I say and in the things I write.  Sometimes (often times, all of the time) the thinking leads to paralysis and avoidance and procrastination.  Most of the time I end up doing nothing, not anything of the things I want to do.  I usually only do the things I have to do (work, eat) in order to get to the next time I can avoid everything.  It hasn’t been going on too long – maybe just around 44 years or so.

But I try, at least, to do the things I want or should be doing.  Doing the things I want to do instead of just thinking about doing them, thinking about doing them someday, that there will always be another day to do them is a better way and a better way to have a fulfilling life instead of just doing the things I have to do, the basic things that are necessary to live.  When I do the things I want to do (like writing this, for example) I feel better afterwards. But the lead-up to doing anything I want to can be excruciating.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy.  And there’s always tomorrow.

Only there isn’t, right?

It’s not something anyone likes to think about.  I mean, we’re all going to die.  I’m not trying to be morbid or anything.  It’s just a fact.  I think most of us are good at ignoring that fact.  I think if you don’t you could drive yourself insane.  It seems really abstract, doesn’t it?  Something so inevitable and something we’ll all have in common and something that is the truest and most absolute things about ourselves doesn’t really seem real, does it?

So whatever, that’s not my point (if I have a point, now or ever) and there’s no reason to dwell on it.  I guess the point is that tomorrow, or today, or the next minute is not promised to anyone.  I’ll probably be here tomorrow and so will you, but who knows?  I hope I am and that you are too.

So I waste time and don’t do much.  Like I said, I’m trying, but then I’m always in the stage of trying, with limited success of stop and starts.  I want to be a certain way, and I only get to that way for very short periods of time.  Maybe it’s like chasing your shadow.  It’s right there, in front of you or behind you.  You’ll never quite catch it though, will you?

So now it’s 5:14am and I’m up writing this and I know why I cannot sleep sometimes.  Most of these silly blogs I write have been brewing in my mind for some time.  A lot of time.  And I delay and procrastinate and don’t write them down because there is always tomorrow.  But most of the time they can only stay in my mind for so long until they demand to come out.  They used to have nowhere to go, not really, except a couple of pages in whatever notebook I happened to be scribbling my silly words on at the time.  That always helped, but didn’t seem like enough.

And so typing them here is maybe kind of the same thing, but maybe something better.  I honestly don’t think anyone will read any of these, or care about them.  It’s not like a lot of people read them, but someone does, which is always bewildering to me.  I tell myself that I don’t want anyone to read them because I feel that when the thoughts from my mind are translated to my fingers to the screen something gets lost.  But that’s not true.  Why put it, or myself out there if I didn’t want someone to read it?  I usually think the things I write are awesome and awful at the same time.  And when one of these are done (honestly they are never done – I forget stuff I wanted to say, or I cut it short because I think that I’ve typed to many words and who the heck wants to read all of them?  I mean, if an internet article is longer than a couple paragraphs I usually get bored and on to the next one.  Thanks internet) I go back and forth as to whether or not to click on the “publish” button and when I do I usually instantly regret it.  What’s the point of putting these words down and sometimes laying myself bare for people to read (and possibly judge)?

But as you can see I’ve sucked it up 32 times before and hit publish so whatever.  And if you’ve been with me from the start, from blog post#1 (you probably haven’t and that’s ok, and even if you have been why would you even remember) I said something like (“something like” because I’m not going to go back and reread it so I hope I don’t quote myself incorrectly or out of context.  Talk about being lazy.  Also, how many parentheses in one sentence and paragraph are too many before you confuse and/or lose a reader?  I’m getting confused writing this sentence) I’m writing these mostly just to get them out of my head.  I’m writing them for myself and for a place to put them, and anything that happens after that (like another living person reading it) is just a really great bonus.  And as I’m typing this I feel better, clearer, not as gummed or clogged up.  It’s odd to me, this writing stuff.  I’m unable to consciously sit down and make up something to write, a story or any of this.  The words are just kind of there, sitting in my mind.  They just come to me and wait to get out and get mad at me if they are not allowed to and then maybe I can’t sleep.

So now it’s 5:30am and there is a little word counter to the right as I type this draft and it’s at 1050 words plus and all of the above has only been the preamble to what I was going to write about in the first place.  So I apologize in advance for the length and how rambling the previous 1000+ words have been.  I’d imagine it’s how a crazy person writes, though if I’m writing it I don’t really have to imagine that much.  It is a crazy person writing it.  So as most of these are it’s nothing particularly interesting, or any great story, but whatever I’ll keep going.  If you’ve made it this far you might as well keep going.  I’d understand if you quit now, or quit a while back and do not even see this sentence.

 

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So one of the things I think about a lot and that holds interest for me is memory and dreams and how the human brain works.  I don’t know what memory is, and I don’t know that even people who study things that happen in the human brain do or can fully understand all of it.  I’ve read some stuff on the brain and on memory (not enough to I know anything.  Like most things I think I know, I only know enough to spout uninformed half truths and as I’ve always said you shouldn’t really take my word for most anything.  You should look up stuff yourself) and one of the things I’ve read somewhere is that when you remember something you are not really remembering the event.  You are remembering the last time you thought about or remembered it, like a copy of the original.  And while copying machines are pretty good now, in the old days when you made a copy of something, and then made a copy of that, and made a copy of that, the result would become unintelligible until the meaning or quality of the original would no longer be clear.  That’s why they say (again, look it up I don’t feel like finding a link to a source right now) that eyewitness testimony becomes unreliable the further away they are relaying it from the actual event they witnessed.

And I find it interesting that there are some memories I have are so clear and so true and that others I misremember or do not remember at all.  I’ve been told that when my parents were married 20 years that my sibs and I held a party for them.  I have no actual memory of that occurring and will swear to you that everyone is making that up.  But I can remember and place myself in the time and place when I was about 5 and my mother wasn’t feeling well and she took a nap on the couch and as she was sleeping I decided to take some scissors and try and cut her hair.  Why I remember that I have no idea but here it is.

I think the human brain is like outer space.  They know a lot of things about space, but what they know is a tiny spec of nothing compared to what they don’t know.  At any moment aliens could show up and blow up everything we think we know.  I feel like that’s the same thing with the human brain, and how memory and identity and consciousness works.  We think we know, but we have no idea.

One of the things I remember now and again, and remembered suddenly for no reason a few months back is this little girl I knew only slightly and then for not very long back when I was in middle school in Oak Park, Il.  (We didn’t call it middle school back then.  I don’t know if it was the same everywhere, but we had junior high and it was only 7th and 8th grades.  Now they have middle schools, one of which my daughter attends, and it’s 6th through 8th grades.  I hear that some middle schools are even going from 5th through 8th.)

I entered 7th grade at Hawthorne Junior High school.  It was named after the author Nathanial Hawthorne.  He wrote the Scarlet Letter, amongst other books.  I recall reading that book either in junior high or maybe early in high school.  I’m sure it’s a book I couldn’t go back and read without a teachers help because it would be too obtuse and I’m not that smart, but I remember reading it and liking it and the themes it presented.  (Again, look it up yourself.)  I graduated 8th grade from Percy Julian Junior High school.  It was the same school but they changed the name between 7th and 8th grades.  They renamed it after the scientist and Oak Park resident Percy Julian.  He and his family were the first African-Americans to take residence in Oak Park, and he got the usual runaround as many people of color received when they moved into mostly or all white suburbs and neighborhoods.  Crosses burned on his front lawn, etc.  Oak Park became a fairly progressive town as time when on, but it was just as shitty as the rest of them back then.  I don’t really know how it is now because I haven’t lived there in over 25 years but I know people who still live there and I don’t think they still would if it had become any less progressive.

And I know people grumbled at the time but I always thought it was a cool and appropriate name change.  It was nothing, but I thought it was something to be the last of one and the first of the other.

I don’t remember a lot of the people I went to school with in OP.  I remember some, some that I was friends with since I can remember.  But especially starting in Junior High, somewhere around puberty and accelerated in high school I suddenly became aware that I was digging myself out of a hole that I didn’t even realize I had dug in the first place.  I know that a lot of those years I just sat in the hole in the dark.  I did start climbing at some point, and I don’t think I’ve ever stopped or ever made it to the top, though I can occasionally get close and see the light above.   It’s kind of like falling upwards in a bottomless pit.  I don’t know that I’ll ever reach the top – the hole grows, but sometimes I can outpace it for a little while.  At best I keep the pace of the growth.  Sometimes I give up, but most times I try and keep climbing.

But this girl, though, she started at Hawthorne but never made it to Percy Julian.  She did not go to the same grade school as me, so I didn’t really know her like I knew the kids that went to the same grade school as me and that I had known since I was 6 or 7 or whenever you start grade school.  One of the fun and scary things about reaching the next milestone in your school career was moving up in school, junior high and high school and college.  You knew some kids, a lot of kids, but not all of the kids.  And especially in junior high and high school, they were like you and had a commonality of living in the same place as you, so you kind of knew them but really didn’t at all.  And that was both exciting and scary.

So this girl was new, at least new to me.  Her name was Marisol.  I think her last name was Santana but I could be wrong about that.  I can’t remember any of my teachers from junior high.  I can barely remember what the school looked like on the inside (it doesn’t look the same on the outside – when it became a middle school they redid the whole thing.  It’s way bigger now and looks almost like a high school.  They filmed the movie ‘Vice Versa’ with Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold there back sometime when or around when I went to school there.  If you want to know what it looked like back then you could watch that movie.  It’s not particularly good but it’s not awful.  It was one of those body switching movies, where the kid is in the adult body and…vice versa.  I think it might have come out after Tom Hanks ‘Big’ and seemed to be copying that a bit.  A lot of kids that went to school there were extras in the movie, and I’m pretty sure I would recognize some of the kids if I were to watch the movie again, if not their names.)

I don’t remember anyone, but I remember Marisol Santana.  She had light brown skin.  She was probably what some people call ‘mixed’ or multi-ethnic or multi-cultural.  (Or maybe she was just a person.  Labels, though, they drive me crazy.  I mean, honestly, aren’t we all ‘mixed’?  Just because I have white skin doesn’t mean I have the same life experiences as all the other ‘white’ people, and vice-versa for any other ‘color’.  Not all colors have the exact life experiences.  I probably had more in common with Marisol then I do with most people in Milwaukee County where I live now.)

I honestly don’t think I knew or cared about any of that back then.  I don’t feel like that was a thing for us in OP, especially in grade school and into junior high.  Maybe it was or maybe I was just naïve back then (probably) but even from the first time I stepped foot into a classroom in OP I just remember everyone being represented.  I remember Robert Mendoza’s father visiting the school now and again (wow I just pulled that name out of thin air) to talk about Native Americans (we probably said Indians) and his and his sons experiences of being Native Americans in OP and the like.  I remember thinking it was cool but not some big anomaly.  Don’t get me wrong about OP – it had it’s share of issues and problems and again I don’t really know how it is now.  I just don’t ever remember, especially when we were younger, that your ethnicity was that big a deal, or that difference necessarily was any kind of bad thing.  But like I said, memory is tricky and that was how I remember my early school experiences and I’m probably wrong and it was shitty for people of color.  Who knows.

I remember Marisol was pretty, with her creamy brown skin and bright brown eyes, her slightly pointed nose.  She had curly black hair, at least on top.  I know that even though I thought she was pretty I didn’t think much of her hairstyle.  It was short on the sides, and kind of tapered to the top, almost like a mushroom.  I think she had really white teeth but cannot be sure.  I remember her smiling a lot.  I don’t remember who she hung out with, but I feel like it was with the ‘popular’ kids, of which I was never one.  I have memory that the popular kids were always mean to me, but the adult me thinks that while that was certainly true some of the time, I now feel like a lot of that was my own insecurity and projection of that onto them.  Anyways, I didn’t hang out with Marisol or any of them but she was always nice to me.

If death and dying seem abstract now to me (and maybe to you), I don’t think I thought too much about it back then, or had much concept of it when I was a kid.  But then in the summer between 7th and 8th grade Marisol went ahead and died.  I remember hearing that she had asthma or something and had an attack during the night.  I remember hearing that she had an inhaler but either couldn’t find it or couldn’t reach it in time.

Since I didn’t hang out with many people other than the few core friends I had I don’t recall if I heard about her death that summer or when we got back to school.  I do remember this one guy talking about it (Gerald McCoy – wow just pulled that one out of nowhere – I guess I remember some people) and how all the girls being sad at her funeral and how unreal the whole thing was.

I know nowadays if a child dies they have all kinds of mechanisms in place for their classmates to talk about it.  They have counselors and the like.  And maybe we had some of that stuff but honestly I don’t remember Marisol’s death being discussed at all expect amongst us kids.  I don’t know if the school acknowledged it with parents and I’m not sure my parents even knew, and if they did I don’t remember talking about it.  That doesn’t mean we didn’t, but I don’t recall it.

So I wasn’t really friends with her.  And I only knew her for a tiny percentage of my life.  And I’ve certainly had people closer to me and who meant more to me pass away.

But I remember it meant something to me back then.  I know I imagined what it must have been like for her, the panic she must have felt, and how it must have been for her parents to find her in the morning.  I don’t know that my little kid naïve mind was fully prepared to deal with such thoughts, and as with most things I just internalized it.

From time to time as the years have gone on I’ll find myself thinking back to those days.  It’s not really a thing anymore.  People die all the time, and the older you get, the more they start to fall off.  It’s still awful and is never not, but the feelings you have have some context.  There was no context for them back then.  I find myself wondering about her parents and her family, and the girls who were friends with her back then.  I wonder if anyone else remembers or thinks of her.  I’m sure someone does.

She’ll always be a little girl as the rest of us are now in middle age.  She’s frozen in time.  She’s missed so much.  She never got to be anything.  She never even had a chance to experience the mundane stuff we have to do every day just to maintain our lives that we take for granted.  I wonder what she would have done, or what she would have become.  I don’t think of her a lot and it’s never very conscious.  But memory and the brain and how it works is a mystery, and things that spark a thought and a chain of memories that will very once in awhile lead me back to that time and place and feeling are mysterious at best.  Miraculous, even.

I thought about her a few months back and thought that someday I’d write about it.  As with most of these that I write down, it’s not a very good story or even a story at all.  And I don’t know why, but it feels good to type her name down.  Marisol Santana.  It’s an acknowledgement to me that she did exist, that she was someone, and if everyone else has forgotten her, I haven’t.

What all of these now 3600+ words mean today I don’t know.  It’s 7:25am now and I’m really tired but I don’t feel like going back to bed at the moment.  I’ll go about my day much like you will.  I have some laundry to do and some groceries to buy.  I know a lot of you will watch the football today and that’s fine.

And maybe you already do things that you like to do, or things that you want to do, that make you feel more like the person you are and not just the person you’ve become, with all the mundane stuff we all do day-to-day.  I don’t do that a lot.  Writing this is part of me doing that, though.  And if you don’t, if you have a hard time getting out of your head too, do something.  Now, or later, today or next week.  Something that makes you feel human and feel humanity, or just takes your mind off of stuff.  I think it’s important.

Every time I write one of these I’m able to breath a little bit better afterwards.  I feel a little better about life and myself.  I feel like just for a little while, until it all builds up again and I’ll have to do it all over again, that I’ve outpaced the hole a bit and gotten that much closer to the top.

Yo, if you made it to the end thanks for reading it.  I hope but can’t promise that the next one won’t be quite as rambling.  Have a good day all you humans.

Update:  It’s 9:34am and I’ve decided to hit ‘publish.’ I wasn’t going to, but I will anyway.

 

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6 thoughts on “#33 – Marisol, or on memory and other stuff”

  1. Oh and wanted to add that I’m fascinated about the whole concept of memory as you discussed it too. Maybe we should read a book about this at the same time and then share thoughts.

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  2. Really feel like I got the best insight into “you” reading this one – not specifically relating to the content of the story of Marisol- but your whole internal process and thinking – again, thanks for sharing but I understand it’s not really about the sharing for you – it’s you needing to write it! And maybe be “heard” but maybe not. Interesting journey. I did smile, sigh, and tear up about the Marisol story, however, and it was a lovely tribute to her in a “quiet” (not the word that really expresses what I mean but I can’t find that word right now) way. I’ve experienced that, as I’m getting older, the idea of death has really changed for me as I guess it is with most people. I agree it’s still a weird thing, tho.

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  3. Smiles, tears, and thought-provoking all in one stream of thought. Many of your musings (thoughts) touched me. Bravo. It was worth reading to the end and even though I did not know her, Marisol will forever be in my memory.

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  4. Yes, Marisol Santana was definitely her name. I think about her all the time. I’ve probably told a dozen or more people the story of the fact that she was one of the first people I ever knew (the first our age) who died….

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