I ran into someone I knew in high school not that long ago. I've actually run into this guy a few times in the last couple of years and it's always the same story from our high school days that pops into my head. We were in biology class and had left to go to lunch. When we came back to the room, there was a cinderblock on the teacher's desk and really only one possible culprit: Liam*. He was just one of those kids - the ones always playing a prank of some type. Plus, he and our biology teacher had the most antagonistic relationship I can imagine.
She accused him and he, of course, denied it, saying he had no idea how it got there. There was a moment of silence and finally Mrs. P asked, "Okay, I know you did it and I'm not going to do anything, but I just really need to know... How did you get it up here without me noticing?" Liam didn't miss a beat and answered, "I put it in my pants."
Of course, as an adult, this isn't even that funny. But, as a fifteen year old nervously watching what could have been a bloodbath (we were all a little afraid that Mrs. P was perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown), it was freakin' hilarious. And so every time I see him, I think, "I put it in my pants."
I'm not sure he would even remember if I actually said it out loud. Honestly, it wasn't one of his better pranks - he had some real doozies, and probably, if he remembers anything from that class, it's cutting the nose off of my fetal pig, but that's what always sticks in my head.
Which always makes me wonder why we remember the things we do. My overarching memory of one of my good friends from high school is him mocking me as an adult for liking Train. Not all the fun times we had, the prom we attended together, the top hat or the R.E.M. concert, but a one time conversation years later about Train. It's not like the conversation bothered me, I deserved to be made fun of. (I still do actually, I kinda love Train, despite the fact that they are unarguably terrible.)
Living in the same county in which I grew up means that this is a constant hazard. I run into people I knew in high school: teachers, students, parents of students. I chitchat because that's what you do and I'm pleasant. Sometimes, I can't believe they would even have the nerve to talk to me. Obviously, if their overriding memory of me was the same one I have of them, they would die of embarrassment or guilt and slink off. Sometimes, I just wonder if they remember what I remember. If I started the story, could they even finish it?
Memories are a tricky thing in general. They are never as clear or perfect as you remember them. I can still see Mrs. P's face turning red as the class burst out laughing, but I can't remember what happened to the cinderblock afterwards. Did she just leave it there? Make him take it back? And maybe even the things I remember aren't exactly right. That's okay, that's how it works, things fade and what was once reality becomes a story. A funny story, a horror story, an embarrassing story or even a story like the one about Liam that's not really even worth telling.
At the end of the day, that's all we have to remember - our stories. And I always wonder if I share those stories, or if I am the sole proprietor. Have the other players forgotten them and now I own them? Am I responsible for keeping them alive? And of course, the big question, What are their stories about me?
* Name changed to protect those who I couldn't possibly contact to ask permission.