I was in a four year relationship at the end of my teens. He was many of my firsts including my first serious relationship. We shared the typical memories couples share at that age. That funny time when… That time he was so sweet when… The time that we almost… Then there was that one time… The ups, the downs. The closeness. Every new experience shared. And the drama after the break-up. And then one day I woke up and decided I was done with every one of these memories and that part of my past. I hid away every drop of it. Everything and anything that had even the slightest resemblance to him I put in a box at the bottom of my closet. I convinced myself that we had never shared these days together. I trained myself to believe that I had never met him. At first it was difficult. Of course I knew we’d met, but after some practice I’d somehow convinced my brain that it had never happened. I’d force new thoughts into my mind whenever it would stray towards him. Eventually some sort of default setting took over where my conscious mind no longer experienced thoughts about him because every incoming thought would be immediately replaced with another. I had truly conditioned myself to believe he’d never been a part of my life. Over time it became easier and more natural. I’d really wiped my mind clean of every bit, right down to nearly every digit of his phone number. Think Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. I’d erased him. I couldn’t remember a single moment we’d ever spent together.
Some years later, when I was over him, all I was left with was this vague idea of once dating him with a complete blur of every detail. I opened the box. For the first time in probably about 5 years, I opened the box at the bottom of my closet with every love letter, photograph, ticket stub, shirt, charm, and trinket that related to him. Something eerie happened. I still had no recollection of any of the relationship. Here there was proof that I could hold in my hands, but it might as well have been someone else’s past. Paragraphs that he’d written, that I knew I had read each night years ago and had once felt a strong connection to each word, now held no relevance. Pictures of us at places I couldn’t remember being at. A Valentines’ Day card I just stared at, blankly. I knew I’d felt immensely strong feelings at one point which tied to all of these things. I knew I had once deeply cared about this person. I knew I had tears shed for him and I knew I hadn’t just invented the whole ordeal. Yet, I didn’t feel a single thing. I picked up his shirt and held it to my face. They say scent is a strong trigger for memory. Nothing. I looked at pictures of myself next to him, smiling, happy, I felt nothing. I read his words “You’re my first love and you always will be” scribbled across the paper and I felt nothing. All I could think about was how strange it was something that had once had such a tremendous hold over me could now not exist at all. Something that had clearly once meant the world to him, which he’d expressed through countless little notes, was nothing more than bits of ink on paper now. I sat there between crumbling dried roses, a broken drumstick, a bracelet, photo albums, CDs, greeting cards, handwritten letters, and wondered what happens to love after it’s gone. Such a powerful emotion must hold so much energy. Energy doesn’t just disappear. Where had it gone? How was it that something which was once present so vividly, with such strength, could no longer exist at all? Why was I able to acknowledge a feeling once existed so easily, yet not be able to feel it in the least. After years of work to forget every detail, for the first time I missed my memories.
A few days later, I wanted to confirm it. After years of cutting off all contact, hiding my eyes from all photographs, even preventing his name from passing through my lips and ears, I dialed his number from an old address book I’d kept. “Hi, this is um…[MY NAME CENSORED] -We dated about five years ago?”…“Of course I remember who you are!” We met for a drink. And still, nothing. I felt no difference towards him than I might’ve any other acquaintance I’d met long ago. There was no anger. No spark. I was not hurt. I did not care for him any more than any other fellow human being. We in fact hardly had anything in common at all. Except an entire four years together, that had now somehow ceased to exist, even within the past. The love that had once lived and clearly been expressed between us had vanished entirely. And I still wondered what had happened to it and where it had gone. In a silly and corny kind of way, I sometimes look at the stars and wonder if any energy related to any of the things I’d ever felt had somehow floated up, out, and away, and was now nestled some place in-between the vast emptiness, planets, and stars. Yes, maybe that’s where the love we’d created had gone. Maybe that’s where my memories were preserved. Meshed in with every other bit of energy that had ever escaped every other creature.