19 March 2011

the vault

I was a very impressionable child. I would pick up mannerisms from television and movies that I watched. In fact, I learned my first expletive (fuck, of course) from Jerry Maguire when I was about 3. While my sister was giving me a shower, I asked her to, “Give me the shampoo, you fucking sister.” Clearly my comprehension of the word was not up to par, but I think I grasped the meaning of the word, as well as how to string words together to form sentences, as time went on.

As I grew up, I thought of my head as a vault. Everything that I had ever seen would be stored in this vault, and consequently would influence any future thought I would have. It seems like this concept was highly philosophical for a child, but my logic was not always correct. Perhaps because I had not lived long enough, or perhaps because I didn’t understand how much sensory information I would gather in a lifetime, I thought every memory would be permanently stored, and it would be amazing.

I didn’t think that keeping memories forever would be such a bad thing. At least, not at first. But then, one fateful day in second grade, recess was canceled because it was raining outside. Instead of allowing us to play independently in the classroom, the teacher decided that our time would be better spent if we all watched a movie as a class.

I was already bitter because I wanted to play on the monkey bars, and the situation was further exacerbated when I was told that I could not draw by myself in the corner. As I sulked in my chair, waiting for the movie to begin, I remember thinking that this movie better be worth it.

The movie was part of R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series. The father turns into a carnivorous plant in the basement and tries to eat his whole family. Needless to say, it was terrifying (little did I know my mom would show me Carrie about a year later because she thought it would be funny). I watched with wide eyes, my body frozen in horrified fascination. When I went home that day, I was even more paranoid than normal. My senses were heightened to a frightening degree to the point where I would assume a fighting position at the slightest rustle.

When I showered that night, I was so petrified that I kept my back to the wall so that nothing could sneak up on me. All of a sudden, I burst into tears. I convinced myself that I would never be normal again because I would always carry this fear with me. The terror was now an indelible mark in my subconscious that no amount of Disney could erase. With that knowledge, I became extremely depressed.

A couple days later, I returned to being happy. When I processed that I was happy, I remembered that I had been unhappy. And then I remembered why. At that point, I was certain that I would live in fear for the rest of my life. It didn’t matter that my house didn’t have a basement. It didn’t matter that no one in my family cared about botany. All I knew was that a giant plant could eat me at any moment.

But what scared me the most was that I could never escape the memory of the movie. I would have to live like this forever. I would be a paranoid freak for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember when I stopped living in constant fear of plant people. I suppose I found something else upon which I could fixate, and therefore could not dedicate all my time to that paranoia. But, even in the years following, whenever I would remember the movie, the familiar terror would come over me again. It wouldn’t last long, but these bouts reminded me that I would never be able to forget anything.

Luckily, I have grown up since then. I am fully capable of forgetting things now at my ripe old age. But one thing that I will never forget is the sheer terror I experienced when I thought that I would never be normal again. Turns out, that fear was justified.


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