The Slant is Inherent
I listened to a podcast about a woman who could not remember whether a sexual assault event, that may or may not have occurred when she was a very young child, happened. She had access to a couple of possible memories, but she had no way to discern if they were real. One parent accused another. The accuser died. The surviving parent denied culpability. And in the meantime, the science of repressed memories grew into something much more vulnerable to interpretation than first assumed.
I have grown to accept the vulnerability in the lie of moments remembered, but this situation adds a new twist. If the assault happened, this is the first rupture. If it didn’t happen - still a rupture in the question. The second rupture is the rip created when the now teenage girl remembers a few moments as images that may or may not mean one thing or another: a memory of a bath and mother’s fingers, a memory of burned feet, but like in The Secret Room (Alain Robbe-Grillet), we have no idea what we are witnessing and neither does she (although for a few years she is certain her mother sexually abused her). The third and most traumatic rupture comes when the science of Psychology changes its perspective on repressed memories and tells her the mother might be innocent. This trauma is knowing she will never know the truth, unless she picks one. Now a psychologist in her own right, she decides to accept the paradox and not put so much importance on the veracity of her own history (story).
As I listened, I couldn’t help but think that this is almost a perfect definition of my writing process.
To my mind, this is no different than what a reader experiences every time they are introduced to a new piece. Whether literal or abstracted, there is no certainty in any story unless the reader chooses to believe a lie. All words, if we are lucky, approximate the thing. An image is an aftermath. An aftermath as an archetype that is universally recognized whether the event is spelled out or not. Given enough space and trusting in the unknowable, we instinctively read a bridge into almost existing between what leaves off and what begins.
Painting by my dear friend Eleanor Traubado.