Moodswing - Never forget

We owe it to ourselves to remember

Lary is leaving again, to spend another month on a yacht in the Bahamas, and he hopes he can hook up with that curly-haired casino dealer once more, the one he met on the beach that time. “Fuck me until my ears bleed,” she had said, and Lary was instantly endeared.

So he’s off to get himself some more of that, I guess. The trip is courtesy of a wealthy couple who keep him around on their vacations for entertainment purposes. I’m not too nauseated with envy over it, mainly because I get invited, too. Occasionally Lary will call me from the Caribbean or wherever they all are that week. “Loser, get your ass over here,” he’ll shout over the Jacuzzi jets churning in the background, “and bring batteries.”

The last time that happened, I had my bag half packed before I started to get this uneasy feeling that I was forgetting something. It was a tickly sensation at the back of my brain until, while I was searching the graveyard of ancient ointments under my sink for something tropical, that vague uneasiness finally burst forth into full-frontal awareness. “You useless piece of panty waste,” I told Lary when I called him back, “I can’t go. I have a kid.”

At this point, Lary tried to talk me into leaving my 2-year-old at home like a hamster. So I explained to him that, no, I can’t just leave an open bag of food on the floor. I actually have to be here with her. This is when he got around to the real point of the phone call. “That reminds me,” he said, “can you look in on Mona while I’m away?”

Mona is Lary’s personal cat, as opposed to the stray cats that live on his carport, which he considers somewhat disposable. Mona, by contrast, is Lord of the House of Lary, a house that Lary keeps off-limits to all except a super-select few. I don’t know why he’s so secretive, since I’ve searched every molecule of his place for evidence to support my theory that he is a serial killer and have yet to find any. I was also looking for evidence that he is gay, like nude glossies of him arching his back over an armrest, useful for posting in Internet personal ads. But nothing. No body parts, no porn, just a suspicious preponderance of Aveda products in his bathroom and a modest stash of acid tabs wrapped in cellophane in the back of his freezer. And Mona. I can’t forget Mona.

Though actually I have. I forgot her for a whole week one time while Lary was gone. Thank God his place is sufficiently infested with rodents, otherwise I don’t see how she would have survived. I was immensely glad to see she wasn’t dead when I opened his door. I mean, the maggot factor alone would have been formidable, considering the dead rat in the kitchen was a fraction of her size and looked to be teeming already. Of course I left it there for Lary to clean up. “There’s a maggot-ridden rat corpse in your kitchen,” I said into his voicemail, “to welcome you home in case you remember how to get there.”

But I shouldn’t give Lary too hard a time for being gone so much. At least he’s had the same address since I met him 11 years ago. In that time, I myself have moved seven times, often with nobody to help me but Lary and a hand truck. If anyone should forget where they live, it’s me — and I do. Sometimes I still get that dread feeling driving home from work, steeling myself for the inevitable cruise past the crack dealers on the corner before pulling into my driveway. Then I’ll remember I don’t live there anymore. Oh, yeah, I moved. I now live in a different neighborhood, with lots of drunks and homeless people but no whores or overt drug dealers that I can discern. Seriously, I can’t believe what I can forget sometimes.

That’s why, when I was watching the ceremony signifying the finished clean-up of the World Trade Center, I realized that, you know, it’s possible; we could possibly forget the absolute awfulness of that day. It would be so easy, mostly because the memory itself is so painful. But Ground Zero is cleaned up so neatly now, it looks like a site cleared for a construction project, not the scene of a concentrated holocaust played out before our horrified, helpless eyes. Who wants to relive what they felt that day? Who wants to remember witnessing thousands of people die? Who can keep that image fresh in their memory without diminishing their day-to-day lives?

But I think we have to, not just to honor the people who were murdered, but the people who loved them as well — which includes us. We loved them because it was all we could do. And I think that says a lot about us, that we loved these strangers we were so helpless to save, that love itself is what pulled us through the complete cesspool of powerlessness in which we all wallowed that day. We need to always know that, otherwise, how else will we be able to bear the memory? So I’ll never forget that part, because it seems to me that, in order to honor ourselves, the memory must be borne.

Hollis Gillespie’s commentaries can be heard on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” To hear the latest, go to