Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Memory That Fuels the Fire

How and where to start – that is always the question. Twenty years of life, remembered in pained echoes and splintered moments; jumbled images and juxtaposed emotions. You spend years trying to figure it out, piecing things together like a puzzle – trying to solve the mystery of your own life. Weren’t you there, living it? Weren’t you there, breathing it? How can you fail to remember?
Everything is tainted by some corrupted lens – or then again, is it? Perception is reality, and you’ve always been able to prove whatever argument you want someone else convinced of. Where are the lies and where is the truth? Does the truth even matter anymore?
Who are you, where are you, how did you get there and why can’t you remember?
The only commitment you hold sacred is the promise to torture yourself. You don’t feel the heat of the flames anymore – the pillars of fire in the place of bridges that cross an ever deepening divide. Every word, every thought, every person and every experience just deepens the abyss. You endure, you will always endure, because death is too sweet of a release for you. Suffer in silence and keep your emotions private – that is what a man is to do.
Every now and again, as the smoke clears, you see her figure at the other end of the divide. Why won’t she fade as all the others have? Why won’t she leave you alone? The lies you told yourself – that she had left you, she had grown disinterested in you – replaced with a terrible truth. It was you, all along, that had pushed her away. Why yearn for her still, then? Why would she be interested in you? The confusion and pain and torment provide fuel for the blaze – the memory that fuels the fire.
And the cycle continues. The flames rise and you see HER figure in the terrible heat and destruction. There since birth, SHE left you with no choices. Caged like an animal, you played by HER rules and learned HER tricks to survive. You yearned for the freedom and thought it would save you; thought it would make everything the way it should be. Nothing changed and now you wonder how much of the pain and conflict was internal, and how much of it will be eternal.
How and where to start – that is always the question. None of these thoughts are a beginning at all. They are the present story. What birthed the fissure, why is the man stranded and alone, is he a man at all? Somewhere, hidden away from the world, is a small boy crying silently to himself. Don’t show the world your pain. Don’t let them know you hurt. Don’t let your mother know you love her. Things will be easier this way.
SHE says it’s because of your sister – that’s why you aren’t close. The day your sister was brought home, things between you and HER were never the same. SHE tells you this, years and years later, drudging up the guilt and the hurt, and you pity HER. SHE takes that pity and she twists it, turning it into a dagger and piercing you right in the heart; twisting the blade so the wound will never close, the trauma hardening it until it feels no longer.
But we’re jumping around in time, aren’t we? Chronology, chronology. Cause and effect. That must be the key – what happened and when did it happen? Remembering your life as a series of disjointed episodes and fleeting impressions fails to answer fundamental questions. Isn’t there some way you can rebuild? The years of malnutrition and insomnia deadened the neural networks that house those elusive ‘truths’ – those memories. But what you remember must be right and must be true, mustn’t it?
You are hurt and lost, your protector wallowing in the irony that is failing to commit suicide – he is far, far away from you. Your shield has been stripped of you, exposed for the failure that he was, and SHE won’t tolerate his behavior anymore. You remind HER of them and more – you are everything that SHE hates in this world, and they aren’t there to block and divert her. You bear the full brunt of it, and it permeates. You think you are handling it well and that it has no effect, but you are so young and you know so little. The world isn’t fair, and you don’t yet know it, but you will learn. Holding back tears, once you have learned you will remember and all you will want is to reach out and hold you, embrace you – it’s all you ever needed.
SHE tells you what you are – defines you. You are unlovable. You are greedy. You are a fucking worthless son of a bitch – and the irony of this statement does not elude you. You are a fuck up and an embarrassment. You are an accident. You are an ungrateful whining sniveling little shit. This doesn’t bother you, but the contrast does: You are loved. You are the favored son. You are the source of pride. You are the pride and joy. You try to add it up in your head – you are the unlovable favored son? The fucking worthless son of a bitch that is the source of pride? You are an accident and loved? Nothing makes sense, nothing makes sense. Every single day, nothing makes sense. There are no patterns.
Why won’t anyone touch you?
No one – you knew it then and you know it now – will ever understand you. But out of nowhere, you catch her eye and she yours. She listens and she understands and she cares. Yet there are others, and you are young and you don’t know what love is. How were you to know? For you, love only immediately followed punishment. Love was the band-aid used to excuse the worst kind of psychological trauma and abuse – the festering illness that no one would ever acknowledge. It’s all in your head, it’s not a problem. It’s all in your head. Stop being such a whiner. Stop over exaggerating. Just think better – that’s all! You are such a fucking failure.
The days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years and suddenly she is no more. You are in a different place – a place you’d never been and a place you’ll never be able to return to. Only later will you uncover the records – the words that cannot lie – and discover what it was that you did. You told her that you did not trust her, that you did not care, that you did not want her in your life. You told her that you were done thinking about her and caring for her. Coincidences – she turns to drugs and falls deep into her own abyss. Responsibility – you bare it like a cross.
You can’t be sure but later you believe she is the first person you hurt. There will be many, many others. But as much as you hurt others, you hurt yourself. You can’t even be sure – beyond all doubt – that it was you that caused those things to happen to her, but you don’t believe in coincidence. And you certainly don’t deserve providence. Those things that SHE said are all adding up to be true.
Compartmentalize, compartmentalize – hide yourself away in writings you intentionally lose, journals you will later delete, and letters you will never send. Adopt a song as a form of release and allow the pain to be sung away. Soon, the song replaces the memory as personal history, and you can’t remember the origin, only the feeling. The more you cope, the less you remember and the more people want to know. What to do, what to do? Who are you, who are you?
Your name is John but few call you that – is that even how you know yourself?
You disappear and hide away. You disguise the reasons in intellectual pursuits, you forget the pain in exile. Everyone you know must no longer know you. You commit apostasy and you make radical changes. Nothing you do allows you to escape this, the essence of who you are. Nothing you do allows you to escape from the memory that fuels the fire.
These thoughts, these feelings, they only reflect a small kernel of truth. They are a small part of the real reason, a tiny piece of the puzzle that comprises the memory that fuels the fire. But it is all you can do – to come any closer to that memory renders you immobile and useless. It will consume you just as surely as it has consumed everything else, and the pain of reaching out for it is unbearable. What would happen if you were to actually touch it? Would you be undone?
Thoughts like these will never end. No full explanation can ever be provided. There is always more to say and more still that will remain unsaid.
All the other explanations you have offered, all of the intellectual posturing and rationalizations, are just disguises – distractions for the memory that fuels the fire.
It’s a silent murder

It’s a grave that sings your song
It’s a quiet failure
It’s the one that makes you strong

This, this is why I can’t love.

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