During his mindbending chemotherapy, Harvey Pekar once wondered (and here, out of laziness, I’m paraphrasing), “Am I the creator of a comic book called American Splendor, or am I just a character in that book? If I died, would the character live on, or would he die, too?”
The nice thing about having written documentation of one’s life is that it’s always there. I forget things—I spend most of my life trying to forget everything that happened in my life before. And yet, it’s all there. I can go back to old entries (which I’ve done a bit of late as new people read the blog, pointing and laughing at my life and sending me links to the relevant entries) and essentially relive the moments of my life that I’ve kept in meticulous, anal-retentive detail over the past few years.
But there’s something weird about it all. I wrote maybe four or five entries during my trip to Seattle, and added maybe two or three with old stories from my time there, but that was an entire summer of my life. An entire summer of new people, new places, new experiences, and bad-neighborhood-related comedy. And yet, without detailed journaling of this experience, it’s starting to slip. Sure, the big stories like Krazy Kelly will probably remain forever, but the smaller moments, the quiet reflections I’d have hiking up to the Third-Cherry bus stop after a long and painful shift—these are slipping, because I was either too lazy, too tired (and therefore lazy), or too apathetic to document them.
So what happens then? If I find myself unable to remember, and I don’t have it written down, does that mean they never happened?
Much as I try to forget things, I still want to be able to look back at a time, documented for the ages, and say, “I was there. That happened to me.” The summer of 2004, for the most part, is gone. The fall semester isn’t much more there. In all my goofy ranting and raving and trying to get women to go out with me and just trying to get people to be nice to me, I hardly blogged any of it, and now it’s going away. It’s not irrelevant, because it’s my life, but when I forget about it, that means—in my crack-addled brain—that it never happened. Or my memory becomes altered, and 60 years from now I’ll be in an old folks’ home for failures, arguing with somebody about an insignifcant event that happened in the winter of 2004, and neither of us will remember what actually happened because our minds have mutated the event so much.
What happens to the people who are, however briefly, significant in my life? I used to write about Gina on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Now, I haven’t seen her in nearly a year, I only have a fuzzy, possibly pedestal-induced memory of what she looks like, and a few vague memories of our time together. Yet, it’s all here, on the blog. From start to finish, our relationship is chronicled, including the gory aftermath and a few awkward postscripts to our friendship.
There are, or have been, other people like that in my life. Where the fuck are they? They’re there for a semester, maybe two, maybe three, and then they pass into the periphery for one reason or another. Some of them, like the Token Articulate African-American Fellow or the Super-Hot Pot-Head, have their stories on this blog. But the detail, the true, horrible depths of our friendships aren’t here. The details, the small stuff, the moments—they’re not all there. They’re just sketches. And now those people are gone, and so are the moments.
I’ve been working at this bookstore café now for over a month. I just gave my notice, and I’ve only written one story about it. Annoying, obnoxious things happen there every day. I’ve made friends, I’ve made acquaintances, I’ve made enemies—so where the fuck are they? Will they just disappear as soon as I stop working there?
I’m moving to California in a few weeks. Hopefully it’ll be temporary, but what if it’s not? The truly significant players, the ones who were never supposed to go away—what if they do? What if I never see them again? What if we talk on the phone or online, but gradually the conversations get less detailed, less interesting, less frequent, and then they just stop? And what if, since I’m a neurotic shut-in who hates most people, I can’t find new significant players in the great state of California?
I don’t have memories to fall back on. I just have this. This, for all its comical exaggeration and infrequent updating, is closer to the truth than what’s in my head, and it begs the question: Am I the creator of a blog chronicling my life, or am I just a character in that blog? If I died, would the character live on, or would he die, too?