Who is the god of memory, and why does he hate me so?
Turns out it’s a goddess, not a god, and her name is Mnemosyne. I should have known – the Greeks had one for everything. Or, perhaps I did know, and she made me forget. (Fun fact: while the river Styx is the most well known in Hell, it is by no means the only. Mnemosyne kept watch over a river – or pool, depending on your source – that was said to restore all memories, and grant the drinker omniscience. On the other hand, a drink from its counterpart, the river Lethe, erased all memories. The dead were said to drink from it to ensure their reincarnated selves wouldn’t remember past lives.)
Back to the story.
I have what I consider to be a rather long commute nowadays – though, at 45 minutes long, and with very little traffic, thankfully, I know I am far luckier than most. While my job is a creative one – finally, at long last! – I can see now it will be an exercise in mental stamina, to always be on, to be creative on demand, while maintaining my own reserves of inspiration, not just for this trifle of a blog, but for the project that commands every beat of my heart.
One late afternoon as I was driving “home” – and that word will be in quotes for quite sometime yet…if not always – I attempted to cobble together a list of possible blog topics. Too often I type up a post bemoaning how it’s been far too long since I’ve posted, how it is a habit I must kick to the proverbial curb, and so on and so forth ad nauseum. The AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference in Tampa is days away, and my blog is woefully sparse, a poor excuse for an author’s echo chamber, let alone a respectable portfolio.
As is my wont, I let my music guide my thoughts. Oftentimes I’ll see scenes from stories I’ve written. If I’m lucky, I’ll see scenes I’ve not written yet. I get particularly pronounced goosebumps when I hear “Heart of Courage” by Two Steps From Hell, or “A Brother’s Death” by Hamilton Cleverdon; I am convinced that in an alternate universe, I have sat in a screening room, watching the trailer for a movie I’ve written, and it’s set to one of those two tracks.
Songs are roadmaps to some of my most treasured memories, as well as some of my most painful. My iTunes library is modest, compared to some (and in need of refreshing/supplementing) but almost every song is tied to a memory. And with over 3,000, that equates to a lot of writing material.
Let this be the first of what I imagine will be many posts – or should I say tracks? – belonging to Mnemosyne’s Playlist.
Track 1: “Hide in Your Shell” by Supertramp
Hide, in your shell, ’cause the world is out to bleed you for a ride
What will you gain, making your life a little longer?
There are certain songs that I know I will never be able to listen to – let alone enjoy – ever again. I even have an entire album that, while I haven’t the heart to delete it from my computer/iPhone/iPod/iPad, I, without fail, always hit “Skip” when its tracks come up during Shuffle.
But one song will always top the list.
I’ve always had a dog. I grew up with a mutt named Yukon, a lovable, squirrelly Husky-German Shepherd mix, who made it to the incredible age of 16 and a half. As he grew older, his muzzle faded to grey, earning him the nickname Old Greybeard.
I was heartbroken when he had to be put down. It was foreign to me, to not have a four-legged, tail-wagging companion, so not too long after, we adopted a purebred German Shepherd. We called him Draco, a name I very much approved of, given my status as a diehard Harry Potter fan.
Draco was a typical puppy. We trained him to retrieve the paper for us from the end of the driveway – though, most times, he would grab the wrong end, so all he retrieved was the plastic it was delivered in, leaving a wake of newsprint behind him – along with all the traditional tricks taught to puppies. He was feisty, intelligent and determined, and I loved him fiercely.
He was just shy of his first birthday when he developed canine lupus. The disease was ravenous, and his condition deteriorated faster than what we could cope with. His right ear broke, giving him a perpetually lopsided look. The fur on his muzzle fell out, his skin peeled and flaked away, leaving his raw flesh exposed underneath. Prescriptions were astronomical, and would only make the disease bearable. They wouldn’t cure it.
The memory of Yukon’s last ride was still so fresh, that I flatly refused to go along to the vet this time. When I opened the back of my Dodge Caravan, Draco hopped up eagerly, then turned and sat to face me, his broken ear flopping merrily. He looked happy to be going for a ride. To this day, the betrayal of his trust haunts me.
I watched from my bedroom upstairs as my parents pulled away that afternoon, the sun bruising the sky as evening drew close. I tried to distract myself – I was in high school, I had homework to do, surely? – so I put on one of my mix CDs. Whether or not “Hide in Your Shell” was the first track, I can’t recall, but it was the one that made me break down in tears as I waited for my parents to bring back the body of Draco.
He now rests, a forever guardian, at the end of the path that leads to the field where we used to run and play soccer in. Opposite him is Yukon, my first playmate.
It was around 9 p.m., and the darkness absolute, when we began to pull away from our house for the last time. I threw my car in park and left it running, bolting across the yard until I was out of reach of the dusk-til-dawn light. My feet will always know that path. There in the dark, I said goodbye to my boys, my furry brothers, and asked that they keep watch, long after we had gone.
Heaven or Hell? Was the journey cold, that gave you eyes of steel? Shelter behind, painting your mind and playing joker.
You’ve got demons in your closet, and you’re screaming out to stop it…
Don’t let the tears linger on inside now
‘Cause it’s sure time you gained control
If I can help you, if I can help you, just let me know…