Selective memory


The weather was miserable all weekend: freakishly unrelenting heat, with not a hint of impending rain in the air. I was extremely irritable as I hauled myself to the gym yesterday, as I would much rather have stayed home in my air-conditioned room, but the thought of losing momentum in my gym-going and eventually relapsing into laziness was terrifying, plus I had a Brazilian scheduled an hour before my gym session, which would have been a bother to reschedule.

After parking in the extremely welcome shade of Bangsar Village II, I made my way through the building towards the exit to the Telawi area. As I passed Delicious, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face — and then another one. It took me no more than two seconds to realize that the faces belonged to two girls with whom I had attended high school; in fact, they had been my classmates. They were standing right outside Delicious, and I immediately averted my glance and quickened my step before they had a chance to look my way and possibly recognize me, because not only was I sporting mad hair and no makeup, I could have been in danger of having to stop and speak to them.

I’ve always been one of those people who rarely keeps in touch with anyone from school — not only because I’m biologically quite bad at keeping in touch, but because I make the conscious decision to blot out a good number of people from my memory. The way I see it, if we were never really friends in school, we have no actual need to speak to each other now just because we were in the same class for a year. It saves a lot of the hi/bye pretenses and empty pledges to ‘catch up’, not to mention memory room in our phone contacts. For this very reason, Facebook has made itself useful in maintaining acquaintances without actually obligating any real contact with any of them.

Since I’ve been back in this country, I’ve spotted quite a few people with whom I went to school, from as far back as my primary school days in Sri Kuala Lumpur, in clubs, restaurants, caf├ęs, and most recently, the gym. Fortunately, most of the time I managed to go by undetected, and the only two times I was actually recognized and called by name, phone numbers were customarily exchanged and deleted immediately afterward because they didn’t like me in high school and the catch-ups were never going to happen anyway.

Most people call it being bitchy. I call it being honest. And saving time.

When we have had unhappy phases in our lives, is it normal to want to forget all that we possibly can about it, consciously shutting everything and everyone — old classmates, old boyfriends, old colleagues — that had anything to do with that phase out? Or is this mental block the telltale sign of a heart that is unable to forgive or forget the past, a heart that is still trying to punish itself — and inadvertently everyone else around it — for the bad choices it made so many years ago?

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