Confessions of a Mnemonist
In the morning it's Mad Love with the dregs of last night's vodka. In
the afternoon, a couple of lines of Crazy Ivan with a port chaser and
maybe a tab of Sky Saw to turn on the flood lights in my skull and
drown out the world with white electric jitters. This ain't no party.
This ain't no disco. This is medicine, son. I'll take Crazy Ivan
migraines over drooling Haldol fuzzouts any day (Haldol turns you to
warm pudding, but doesn't numb the memory centers and what's the use of
annihilation when old Dragnet episodes keep streaming at you through
the fog?). I need to turn off the past. To escape the third grade.
Summer barbecues. The snows of Stalingrad. The day God drowned the
Fun facts to know and tell: I've never lost a key, a glove or a sock.
Forget. Forget. Forget. Be a mouse. So small. So quick to live and die.
Live in the now. Be like the Buddha. Hum mane padme hum.
I am the past on two legs. I am history's broken-back coolie. They
showed me MRI glossies of my brain (January twenty-first, nineteen
ninety-nine, two forty-four p.m.), bright and colored like an infant's
first crayon scrawl. Those swollen overheated temporal lobes and
medulla oblongata. The poison fish swimming in my cerebral fluid.
I am a mnemonist. I donít forget. I can't. Junkies have heroin. I have
every pitiful moment and sensory experience of my life. Fuck your
diaries and your datebooks. I have the facts, cold and hard and burning
like dry ice crammed behind my eyes. I'm drowning. Sinking in black
seas of fishstick school lunches, first kisses, old songs, a brown
shoestring I broke on March fourth, nineteen seventy-eight.
Drugs ease my pain, but they're not enough. Sometimes the desire for
obliteration is like slow seduction. Suicide smells like fresh-cut
daisies and tastes like candy. What kind? You name it. I know them
all, remember every gummy treat, fruity goo and chocolate you-name-it I
I remember every pill and electroshock session in the King's County
Hospital (the taste of the rubber bit in the my mouth so I wouldn't
bite my tongue, the nurse's blue eyes which were like the blue of
icebergs which were like the blue on Dutch ceramics which were
imperfect like the Indian bones we saw at the Museum of Natural
History, June thirtieth, nineteen fifty-seven, which was the year they
arrested Ed Gein and he had a lot of bones in his house
). You see what
I mean? Imagine eating Proust's madeleine a hundred times a day.
While "curing" me, the doctors magically figured out how to make my
condition worse. Hypnotherapy sessions with Dr. Janice Elizabeth Cruz,
left-handed, black-haired, a mole on her left ear. She buried me in my
past, looking for childhood traumas, sexual abuse, gruesome head
injuries. Dr. Cruz jimmied and kicked in the doors of my consciousness,
looking for a reason or an excuse for what I was.
She broke something in the attic of my brain. Opened a door I can't
close. Other people pay a fortune for this and call it "past life
regression." Who were you in former lifetimes? I know who I was. Those
babbling strangers exploded into my head like a volcanic eruption.
Boiling memories of a hundred lives poured into my skull, a bright and
burning magma of recollection. Armies. Whale hunting on ice floes.
Desert sands, like oceans of gold. Sea voyages with hard tac for food.
Leprous sores, fevers and aneurysms. Wives, husbands, children and
friends gone to dust, history's fodder. Horses, trains, airships,
burning longboats. I knew the story of every scar on my body. Now I
know the scars of a hundred. I remember God's great flood. Ice Ages
flowing and receding. Dying in snow, fire and water in countries that
haven't existed for a thousand years.
I need to forget. Undo time. Rewind consciousness. Help me. Smother me.
Distract me with your bright lies, your sweet sex, your chemical dreams
(the first dream of my first life, still in the crib: darkness, milk,
the dusty scent of my mother's breasts; my dream last night: burning
water, needles in my eyes, the puttering of the little engine that's my
heart beating; it's beaten 7200 times as I've written this and I
remember each and every beat). Kiss me or kill me. As long as this
moment lasts, the others won't come. Is that too much to ask? I want a
single moment that is itself and nothing else. Don't let me drift away
and get lost in sunny pre-school playgrounds, Moroccan souks, mud trenches behind German lines, blacksmith shops, the
claustrophobic stink in the belly of slave ships, the black death,
herds of mammoths.
I am less than the sum of my shattered parts. I am everything that has
ever happened to this body (these bodies). I am nothing.
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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.