Evidently I went bowling about ten years ago and had a great time, though my form in the lanes wasn’t much to brag about. I know this because a few Saturdays ago a friend organised another bowling night to relive the fun of that first event. This troubles me. I have no memory, at all, of that raucous, beer-filled, good-time-had-by-all night a decade ago.
I don’t drink much and I don’t take drugs. And I remember a lot of other things about that time: I had a baby when most of my friends were single and dancing till sun-up; I moved from a small apartment in a seaside part of town where people danced till sun-up to the burbs where I knew no one; I drove a beat-up car that stalled at red lights and had seatbelts so old they left powdery black marks on my clothes; I was married but lonely; I painted one wall of our hallway a greeny-blue that I thought beautiful but which visibly alarmed guests; I spent hours outside in the first garden I could call my own pulling juicy lemons, plums and apricots from old trees. A workmate had her house exorcised of a ghost. The publishing company I worked for was swallowed by another. My small son developed an obsession with transport. I don’t remember going bowling.
So, were someone to ever tell the story of my life (not that anybody would have a reason to do so, I’m just mulling this over), they might include an event – or many events – that I don’t recall living. Which makes me wonder if their version of my life, or mine (both full of holes, but different holes) is the more credible or true. I know the things I’d include as significant or characteristic, the highs and lows, but they may not be the things others would use to describe my life. A girlfriend told me recently that she thinks of me every time she makes a particular cake from a book I bought for her. I’m glad this has some meaning for her, but it has none for me. When I look at that book I remember the time my ex threw it full force at my face. I suspect neither one of these recollections makes for good reading.
Anyway, the bowling night set me to wondering about all this. How I’d describe my life. What I’d put in or leave out. Who I’d ask to nudge my memory. Why my memory is so obviously untrustworthy and selective, and if I’m alone in that regard. And whether I’d write my world differently if I thought the reader was my boss or my child. Maybe everything people write about themselves is fiction, whether they want it to be or not.