Much of my behavior over the past eight years has been driven by the belief that if I just accumulate enough good memories, somehow it will even things out with death. That is, assuming I make it to the dim age of broken hips, home alerts, dentures and diapers, to the age of nursing homes and catheter tubes, the one conso-lation Ill have, sitting there in my bed with my shit smeared on my sheets, is that Ill still remember the time when I was thirty-three years old, living in Moscow, and I laid about three dozen teenagers and snorted about six grams of smack in the span of a single summer heat wave. That, I assumed, would at least help mitigate some of the pain and humiliation of death. What brought me to that conclusion eight years ago was that Id accumulated so few good memories, and so many painful bad memories in the first 25 years of my life, that I was terrifiedliterally terrifiedthat the day would come when I would approach death with nothing but a mindful of regret, pain, humil -iation and more regret, and that I would go down screaming. I was already scream-ing, and I wasnt even thirty. Watching my stepfather die of a brain tumor, and living in a care home with my ex-Czech girlfriend, added urgency to my theory.
Now Im not so sure that the struggle with death has got much to do with good sensual memories. In theory, over the past eight years, I should have accumulated enough good memories to feed sub-Saharan Africa for the next fifty years. But what Im beginning to realize is that the best thing good memories do is take up space where there might be bad or painful memories; in other words, their use is purely negative, a negation of pain, rather than something positive, as in some kind of happy little rush every time you recall a good memory. You dont get that, folks. You come only once; but you relive that pained wince every time you think about how you couldnt get a hard-on with so-and-so even though it happened fourteen years ago. A painful memory is like light from stars it shines its mocking light on you long after the incident took place, follows you wherever you go, and usually attacks late at night.
I can still remember all the horrible things that have happened to me in my life. The really horrible things, no matter how long ago they happened, are as fresh, or rather as raw, as they were ten, twenty, or twenty-five years ago. I can remember the slights, the stupid moments where I said the wrong thing or got shafted by a girl, the mistakes, the humiliations, the injustices (there were so many!), the missed opportunities and failures all too well. I remember Felicia Johnson laughing at me because Tiffany Lawrence dumped me because I was a bad kisser. I remember Felicia standing with Reena Payne and Stephanie Escobar and Julia Agliolo we were at the bus stop laughing and telling me what a great kisser I was, in that ironic tone they learn in the California suburbs. I was 13 years old. I was in love with Tiffany. Shed dumped me and I didnt know why. I understood then, at the bus stop.
I pretty much stayed away from girls for about a year after that. There are hundreds of minor-painful memories like that, and there are much much worse ones, the kind I dont want to share.
The good memories for example, Ive deflowered at least a half dozen teenagers just in the past few years are all lost somewhere. They dont stay raw like bad memories they simply flatten out over time, become facts you can rattle off but not feel. But at least I dont feel pain thinking about the past eight years. For that I have to be grateful to all the good memories. What good memories? Ill be honest. I dont have any. I just said that Ive deflowered half a dozen teenagers. I also said I spent one summer boning dozens and snorting smack. But did I really? On paper, I think so, Ive been told so, but I dont FEEL those memories at all.
I know Im entering dangerously deep literary waters here didnt Proust do something on this theme so I should probably pull back and offer one very unpro-found, obvious reason as to why I cant remember a goddamn good thing thats hap-pened to me. Marijuana. I smoked so much of it as a miserable little punk that today, I cant remember my own phone number. That filthy hippie drug was everywhere in California when I grew up it was as impossible to avoid in the suburbs as beer in a frat house. Or vodka in Russia.