Memories are an interesting thing. Everyone has them. People refer to them on a regular basis. Some people go farther back than others when pulling out an old story. Hubs finds it crazy I would ever think about something that happened more than five minutes ago. Luckily, he has me to remind him of what he did five, ten, fifteen, heck even twenty years ago! But, what all memories have in common is they are how we remember a certain situation. It’s the teller’s interpretation of what happened in that moment and what was taken away from it.
Regularly, I replay concerts I’ve attended in my head. This shouldn’t be a surprise with how much music affects my thoughts as noted before. Lately, it’s been the Vampire Weekend concert from last September. The weird part is what I remember from it. Of course, there was the enjoyment of having a kid-free date night with Hubs. There was also the excitement of running into Ezra the lead singer at the hotel and missing my photo opportunity because I was trying to respect his privacy. (Won’t fall for that again.) Or I could even relive the great show which left me in a honeymoon phase for the past 6 months. But what I remember most is when I missed a step walking out of the ladies’ bathroom and fell face first. I mean, this was an epic fall. Maybe it was the gin and tonics or the suddenness of the small step, but I didn’t even attempt to brace myself before my cheek mashed against the very thin carpet on the cement floor. I’m sure some psychologist reading is seeing some sort of deep insecurity being replayed, but I just laugh at the ridiculousness of it. I popped right back up like nothing happened and walked out without a second thought. (Until I ate it twenty minutes later when I missed another step. Seriously…what’s wrong with me?)
Another memory I regularly think about is someone else’s. A girlfriend had a crummy boyfriend years ago. He wasn’t a total dick, but he was a jerk. They dated, he was him, and they broke up. That’s how life goes, right? Well, after some time had passed, he found her again and apologized for being “so horrible.” He went on to explain how he carried this guilt around and was compelled to reach out to apologize. Seems like a nice gesture, but that wasn’t how she remembered it. “I didn’t think it was that bad,” she said. She started to second guess her whole memory of the situation based on his remembrance.
The point to all this is when our characters are telling their story in the past tense, they are remembering their version. They are telling how they saw it then, even if it’s jaded with who they are now. I have to remind myself that past tense isn’t only putting “ed” on the end of every verb, it’s a way of thinking. It’s getting into the mind of who the character is now and imagining what they remember when the story happened. It doesn’t mean it has to be the truth; it’s only an interpretation of what they remember.