This post is part of a series on memory, repression, and freedom; as a follow-up to my ongoing therapy series. After a long break, I’m about to present two memories that ‘do not compute’- as I promised to do earlier this year. And here I note that this post will be even more rambling than usual, as I fear stopping to edit it in any way will lead to me just deleting it.
First is a memory of an event I believe I witnessed, although the evidence does not support that. The setting doesn’t match the recollection of my brother, nor the physical evidence. My memories around the space are generally of solitude; but one event stands out for the number of participants and high drama. Perhaps something I read was conflated with actual memories- or it may well be that they’re all ‘imaginary’. The second is a story my brain insists must have been something I read somewhere; about someone else. My brain can not accept it happened to me.
It is a rather much darker tale than was common fare in Children’s or Young Adult literature 50+ years ago. Fairy tales have lost most of their original deep horror over the past centuries. Arguably children’s books have always touched on horrible subjects and themes. But before the works of Neil Gaiman and R.L. Stine, there was generally a gloss of excitement as sugarcoating. Having these as stories (perhaps fictional) that struck a cord and stuck in my head as a possible explanation allows me to keep them at a bit of a distance.
I have clear memories of the train tracks near our house in West Ferris ON (since amalgamated into the city of North Bay). My brother (6 years older than I) recalls them as a busy mainline. The map here clearly shows them not to be the dead end small sorting yard of my memory. At the top left is the start of a very large sorting yard between this subdivision and the heart of the city.
I recall riding my bike to the “dead end small sorting yard” across the subdivision either alone or with friends to play- perhaps looking for discarded treasure. The area was near the subdivision, but with some trees or overgrowth hiding us from the rest of the world. There was rarely more than a single empty box car, and no expectation of any rail traffic at all. I can clearly picture one of the tall signals; steel gray with a small ladder leading to the back and three lights in front. A quiet space to enjoy just being a kid.
One day, as my memory tells me, one of my friends felt an urgent need to defecate. Rather than wander off into the trees nearby they decided to to crouch and aim for the steel track. As they did so, an adult appeared out of nowhere (dreams of course are known for such dramatic entrances) and used a piece of wood to attempt to return the deposited item to its source. Yelling, screaming and… scene.
A rational observation would suggest it must be a dream, perhaps merely an internalized tale overheard over the years. At the same time, as I discussed with my therapist (during the year of sessions insurance covered), I have very, very few memories of my own (as opposed to oft-repeated family tales) from the 5-1/2 years we lived there.
Typing this out; declaring this for the first time outside of my own head- I have the same non-emotional reaction that I’ve posted about in the past. The memory defies the facts. But the memory persists. And it might be just an oddity by itself, if not for…
The memory/dream starts with a large, unkempt transient (we used the term ‘hobo‘ in my youth) laying on top of me, with a very sharp, shiny, blade in his mouth. I can sense someone(s) else nearby, and I know there’s a fire in an old oil drum very close by. It’s some sort of encampment near railroad tracks, and I can smell his breath and feel it hit my face. He is talking, but I can not understand the words/sounds. I have no sense of what age I am, or our location beyond the campsite. He is using his hands to do something in his (mine, our?) crotch. I have no feelings in the memory- not fear, not excitement. I am merely an observer. This is happening.
It can’t possibly be really happening to me- for decades this has been a memory of a story I read, a dream I had, perhaps a comic book? Tonight, as I prepare to publish this post, my heart is pounding and I feel nauseous. About publishing it- the memory/dream is still someone else’s story.
So there it is- there they are. Memories or dreams? Story stuck in my subconscious for decades? I tried for so long to discount them, but they will not be ignored. If you recognize either from somewhere, and can provide me any information that would be incredible. They could be figments of my imagination, or genuine memories. That’s what I am trying to sort out.