The Long-Standing Joke

The Butcher and I have this long-standing joke between us about how, even though he’s the one that participates in memory-fading activities, I’m the one who can never remember stuff. If the Butcher tells me it happened, I just have to take his word for it, because lord knows I don’t know.

[We also have this new funniness between us whenever one or the other of us is about to do something that is potentially stupid. For instance, if it is obvious that, if I climb on the stove to get the Dutch Oven down from above the cabinets, that I’m going to fall down and hurt myself because I have no balance, he is allowed to laugh at me before I get up on the stove, so that he’ll be able to help me once I’ve broken myself all over the floor.]

Anyway, I don’t normally think about not being able to remember things. Except for the fact that I can’t remember people’s names to save my life, which is annoying, I’ve never really had that good a memory, so I don’t notice it. Except when compared to the Butcher, who can recall, word for word, conversations that happened years ago. Then I feel slightly inadequate.

But sometimes, I’m suddenly made very aware that it’s not that I don’t have memories, it’s just that they lay securely tucked away in my head in ways that they don’t for the Butcher, who seems to have them draped all over his interior landscape, always available.

Sometimes, for some reason, a memory will knock loose and come back at me so hard it about knocks me down. The other day, for no reason, I remembered sitting in Shug’s parents’ back bedroom watching “The Swamp Thing” on the television back there and it was like I was there again, the sound of her mom and dad yelling back and forth, something cooking in the kitchen, waiting for the back screen door to open to see if either of her cousins was going to stop by.

I can especially remember the way my grandparents’ pool table felt under my fingers, that line where the felt met the wood and I always expected the wood to be sharp there, but it wasn’t, just unyielding in a way the felt wasn’t.

I can remember when the Butcher was born, because my babysitter came to get me from school and she said, “You have to come and stay with me because your dad has taken your mom to the hospital so that you can have a brother.” And I thought for sure that my dad had traded my mom in for a new baby boy. I was really furious at him.