Suppose — suppose just for the sake of supposing things — that one of the ancient goddesses descended from the mountain with the alarming news that you were to pick one dozen — and no more than one dozen — memories from life to take with you into the underworld. If that were the case, then what dozen memories would you choose?
Specifically, would any of those memories be of movies, concerts, sporting events, books, and such like things? Would you choose to remember in the underworld the events and things that entertained you in life? Or would you be more inclined to reserve your one dozen slots for memories of, say, your friends and family?
Would you reserve any of those twelve slots for political events? For kings and battles? For things that happened on the job? For moments when you made a discovery? For moments when something became clear to you? Would you record births, marriages, and deaths? What would you pick to recall later among the shades?
I got to wondering along those lines tonight. Earlier, I was thinking about an almost entirely insignificant event that took place over a dozen years ago. It suddenly occurred to me that silly little event might actually mean more to me than all the movies, concerts, sporting events, and books I’d seen or read in my life. But I have no idea why that is the case.
I was living at the time in Manitou, which is a small Colorado town that sometimes seems unable to decide whether it is perched among foothills or among mountains, whether it is a tourist trap or an artist’s colony, whether it is a town full of Christians or a town full of Pagans, whether it is a resort or a refuge. In short, it could be all those things.
I was woken up one night by voices calling my name. I think some part of me must have assumed only storm troopers would come for me in the middle of the night, so, before I was actually awake, I bolted up in bed and shouted out while three-quarters still asleep, “Are you from the IRS?”
As it turned out, it was past two in the morning, and the voices belonged to Brett, Steve, and the Spanish Woman. The Spanish Woman has a birth name that is all but absolutely unique in this world — and that sounds a little bit like a struck match flaring to life.
However, if I wrote her name here, anyone on earth would be able to identify her through Google in less than an instant. So, to honor and preserve her privacy, since she is the only woman in the world named, Fitzlestein, I will call her on this blog simply, “The Spanish Woman”.
“It’s us”, I heard, “Open the door, for we have with us a jug of whiskey.” So, I got in a hurry from my bed to open the door, and — behold! — it was true: They had brought with them a plastic milk carton full of whiskey. “Bring the jug in!”, I said, “And yourselves with it!”
Something about being woken up at that hour by those three people amused me. I was perhaps 45 that year. Brett, Steve, and the Spanish Woman were in their late teens or early twenties, and it seemed to me timeless and eternal that they should — at their ages — simply get it into their heads I might want to go drinking at past two in the morning.
Now, not a thing that happened that night is very important or significant, yet, I would still choose to take the memory of it with me into the underworld.
At some point, one of us — I don’t recall who — pointed out the moon was full. Someone else then said, “The moon is full? Let’s go fuck it then!” And Brett responded, “Aye, that moon, that saucy moon deserves to get laid tonight.”
The Spanish Woman then suggested, “Let’s go to the creek, and fuck the moon from there.” So, we went to the foot bridge over the creek in Manitou at about three in the morning, and lay down on the bridge with our jug of whiskey in order to that much better fuck the moon.
The rest of the night was as equally unimportant as the part of it that I’ve described here. I have no real idea why I would carry the memory of that night into Hades with me. I just know the night seems more to me than all the kings and battles I’ve ever heard of, than all the concerts, sporting events, and movies I’ve attended, than all the books I’ve read and songs I’ve heard.
If you yourself were faced with the same choice of which dozen memories to take with you into the underworld, which memories would you decide to take, and how would you decide between the ones you carried with you and all the others?