rewrite

i was something to say, made of my own language.

i just don’t know what it was. i cannot remember.

ever discover inconsistencies in your own story? key facts in a major event memory, cleverly falsified, for no reason whatsoever?

i won the schoolwide spelling bee when i was nine. it took place in the office, over the intercom. i remember, i remember so clearly, the ending. it was down to me and a seventh grader. they gave him complexion. he blew it. i spelled it. i had to spell one more word. it was easy. it was chicken.

as i tell you this, i see it, i hear it, i feel it. painfully shy child speaking into a microphone broadcasting live into every classroom in the entire school, you don’t forget that special kind of terror, like slipping gears into this unknown overdrive and the world turns into a blur around a single point of focus. this is my memory, an audio-visual recording of whole awareness at the time: the word, the microphone, my own voice. i remember being asked to spell chicken, and spelling chicken. i remember.

the word was poultry. i came across the newspaper article decades later, while sorting through one of my packratty boxes. i *remembered* spelling chicken. clearly. i told that story many times. from memory. from a vivid, multimedia production of a memory.

which my mind had edited. seamlessly, inserting a plausible but incorrect substitute, overwriting the original. and even now, even knowing that this editing took place, i cannot for the life of me play back the memory with the correct word.

i remember chicken.

if the article had been incorrect, i would have spotted that at the time, when the memory was fresh and unadulterated. trust me, *that* i would have remembered. there’s nothing a nerdy know-it-all kid loves better than correcting grownup’s mistakes.

i was something to say, made of my own mythology, and whatever it was, i should not call it forgotten.

it is all revisionist history. all of it.

3 thoughts on “rewrite

  1. memory’s a funny ol’ thing. i can relate to the experience – being so shy when i was a child. i only made it to 3rd place in my 3rd grade spelling bee, which is the only one i recall ever participating in. but i do remember my mother, staggering toward me a la joanne woodward in “the effect of gamma rays on man in the moon marigolds,” saying, “I”m so proud of you!” and i remember wishing she’d hold her pride til later on…

  2. i made it to the countywide, the youngest person in alameda county history. it was on a stage in a large auditorium. i was wearing a little blue polyester skirt & vest, & thick white sweater tights. the last four steps to the microphone would echo over the loudspeaker. i blew it in the fourth round, on a word i knew. i knew the right spelling. it was in my mind, but i heard the letters come out of my mouth wrong. just a complete short-circuit.

    i was actually kind of hopeful, going in, thought i might even win. that was before the whole stage / microphone thing, of course.

    it was okay though. i didn’t win, but i didn’t piss myself either, so all in all i’d have to say it was a successful outing.

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