Monday, October 24, 2011

My Brain Has A Mind Of Its Own

I was in the supermarket the other day, procuring my twice-weekly stash of Brussels sprouts, when I saw one of my tennis friends at the other end of the produce aisle. We drove our carts up to each other and hugged (because we really like each other, not because it’s expected) and immediately started talking about menopause. Why? I don’t really know. But it seemed as easy and natural as inquiring about what the other was making for dinner.

She told me about a movie she had seen recently on HBO – it was called “Enlightenment” or something like that – and she said the protagonist was a black-or-white kind of character who went off to Hawaii (maybe) and changed a whole lot of things about her life in a radical, all-encompassing way. The reason I’m not entirely clear on what the story was about is because at one point my tennis friend mentioned that the main character was played by “that woman in Jurassic Park. What was her name, again?”

I knew exactly who she was talking about, but couldn’t access the actress’s name either. “I know, I know,” I said. “She’s blond and she’s sort of….”

I couldn’t think of the right adjective to describe this actress physically, but I did remember there was always something about her nose and lips and chin that made her beautiful, but in a way that was…

“Hard,” said my tennis friend, who was also struggling with the actress’s name.

“Yes! Hard! There’s something about her that’s hard,” I said. And then I half-listened to the plot of the movie while I employed a good deal of my brain to try and remember her name.

My friend said she could only watch bits and pieces of the movie because she really saw herself in the character and it was troubling. She wept when she watched it. She turned away.

I shared with her my own weepiness. How I had to yell at myself on the way to the dentist: “Pull yourself together. You cannot be in this fragile state while someone is scaling the plaque from your teeth.”

We both nodded solemnly, a symbol of our lachrymose sisterhood. Then, I left with my Brussels sprouts and went about my day.

I slept well that night, as I usually do, and in the morning, I woke up with two words on my lips: Laura Dern.

(There is a hardness about her, right?)

I was so excited to remember the actress’s name; I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and send an email containing only those two words.

But to whom?

I had no idea who I had that conversation with. I couldn’t remember the name of the movie, or where I was when I was told about it. Obviously, I had no idea who had been doing the telling.

The name Laura Dern danced around in my head like a scene from Black Orpheus, all jubilant, whirling streamers. The context, however, was a total blank.

I lay still and rehashed every interaction I’d had the day before. Was it someone I saw at the football game? Was it someone I saw on my block? Where had I been yesterday? Who had I seen? What had I done?

Finally, my brain spat forth the image of my tennis friend, her blue eyes matching her blue sweatshirt. The name of the movie emerged. The network it was on. A few other details.

More and more my brain feels like it has a mind of its own, and not a particularly cooperative one. If I want to access information, a memory, I need to go about it passively—let it waft in when it’s ready.

People tell me secrets. “You can’t tell anyone this,” they say.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “In five minutes, I won’t even remember it.”