47.2 - Spring 2018

Page 106

how we retrieve memories, re-order information into stories to justify how we feel.” He continues: “What we remember, and how we order and interpret what we believe to be true, are what shapes who we are.” Memory—and the process of recording it—may hide the cuts that formed ours scars, but history is always present, at once shaping, and limiting, new experience. STORY I wrote Paul a letter my first year in Albany. More than a decade had passed since I’d sat in his creative writing class, a freshman in college, listening to him quoting Didion [we tell ourselves] as he’d recount to us admonishing stories from his days of addiction. Paul assigned us Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From, sermonizing on the grace the baker showed the grieving mother in the story “A Small, Good Thing.” Paul taught us Chekhov. In my letter, after telling Paul what I’d been reading lately, I told him about my son, about Vicodin, about how I think of Paul when things get dark, about how all I learned in life was how to play the fool, about how Albany was full of drunks—and, finally, about how I was planning to visit my son for the first time [it would also be the last, though I didn’t know it at the time] that summer. Paul wrote back. He said he wished me luck with Lithium, that it had served him well for a decade or so, but recently he’d fallen off the wagon, for a couple years, and got hooked on Benzos [he wrote a memoir about it]. He said: “glad you’re still at it—the reading and writing. I always thought you’d do interesting things, and sounds like you have. you have a great deal to write about too. iowa, booze & vikes, americorps, zazen, veering wildly up and down.” [Eight years earlier, after college, I’d written Paul a different letter: to tell him I was headed to graduate school 98

PHOEBE


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