I’ve got this theory, I tell people.
I say, “the reason I can’t remember things is because I’ve had a bad life.” I say, “I’ve had an unpleasant life. Not worth remembering. So, I don’t. At least, that’s what I think.” Kinda.
Classmates will ask me, “John, what did you get on that essay?” or, “John, how’d the test go?” And the answer isn’t so simple. In about a second, you have to decide whether you tell the truth or you divert the question, because people don’t like braggarts. More accurately, people don’t like the truth. No matter how humble you try to sound, you tell somebody that you aced that test, and they’re going to hate your guts. You tell somebody that you just wrote the best essay of your life, and they’re not liable to talk to you again.
So after rapid deliberation, I’m most liable to respond, “you expect me to remember how I did on the test, when I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast two days ago? When I can’t even remember what I did this weekend?” It’s not quite the truth, and it’s not quite a lie, and it works way better than either.
Because the truth is, I don’t eat breakfast. But if you tell someone that, even when they ask you, “how are you doing?” or, “how are you feeling?” and you’re pretty much guaranteed never to hear from them again.
Because the truth is, I spent my whole weekend playing video games, or talking to my virtual-friends on the internet, or trying (and failing) to advance a relationship with a faux-friend, or sleeping. Why don’t you try telling a classmate that you just spent your whole weekend playing CounterStrike: Source or Unreal Tournament 2004 with your gaming team, the “Furious bros.” to prepare for a “Cyber-Athlete Amateur League” match on Monday. Why don’t you try telling a classmate that you did a speed run on Super Metroid and beat the game in under three hours, and see if you hear much from them ever again.
Did I mention that when I write “classmate,” I really mean to say “girl?” Despite being a “minority,” girls outnumber guys in every single one of my classes at least 3 to 1 this year. Despite the social misconception that girls are a minority in public education, girls outnumber guys 9 to 1 in one of my classes this year. I am the only guy in my French class; the other one dropped out half way through the year. I don’t blame him.
But it doesn’t matter if you’re telling a teenage girl that you wasted your Saturday on “e-sports” and “cyberspace,” because teenage boys will judge you just as fast and quite similarly. Try telling a jock, “yeah, I went twenty-one and five on a de_train scrim, with three defuses.” Try telling a prep, “yeah, I had 44% with the sniper and twenty-five net.” These guys, they’ll be about as interested in that as you are in their stories about how many shots of rum they had, or how many girls they slept with at that awesome party down the block, or how fast they were driving on I-5 at two in the morning.
So I tell people, “I don’t remember what I did, honestly, because I don’t like my life.” And I’m not lying, because I really don’t like my life. But I’m not telling the truth, because ninety-nine percent of the time, I remember exactly what I did this weekend, or how my test went, or what my essay grade was.
In the debate world, we might call this impact calculus. What’s the magnitude of the impact if I tell this girl that I played video games for twelve straight hours? What’s the probability that I’ll never talk to her again after telling her the truth? What’s the time frame on this nullification of relations? All the answers are very predictable – the appropriate course of action, obvious.
In the business world, maybe people call this risk-benefit ratio analysis. The risk is, I shrink the circle of acquaintances in my life yet smaller and smaller. The benefit is, well, there really isn’t much benefit. Risk-benefit ratio analysis, impact calculus, all roads lead to the same destination: my theory.
My life sucks so I can’t remember it.
And to a certain extent, this is true.
I mean, everyone has lies they tell themselves to get through the day. My lie is that, nobody wants to hear about my life anyway.
So this book, this book here isn’t so much about your enjoyment as it is about my recovery. I’m writing this because I want to be able to forget. I want to chronicle my abundant failures and occasional triumphs so I don’t have to think about them anymore – archive them on paper to clear space in my head.
I hear that for your first book, you get (on average) a thousand dollars cash and no royalties. This has something to do with risk-benefit ratio analysis (new authors are risky ventures). That’s enough, at least, to table my problems for many moons to come. Drown yourself in a sea of video games, bury yourself under mounds of movies, lose yourself in a forest of books – inexpensive self-medication. Ineffective filler for the gaping holes in your life, like trying to force a square peg into a circular hole.
This, this is all based on a true story, on my life, but it isn’t precisely true. Why not? Memories aren’t facts, they’re fabrications – interpretations of reality, imperfect impressions of intangible events and moments. Everyone is the hero of their own personal drama, the star of their own personal movie. The stage is your life, the actors are your friends and family and colleagues. The villain is your boss, or your ex, or your mom, could be your dad, possibly it’s the system or alternatively it’s God or maybe, just maybe, it’s your best friend.
It’s not like that for me. In my movie, I’m my own villain – and the hero of the story? He’s an alcoholic. Nobody gets the girl at the end, and there probably isn’t even a moral. Maybe you walk away worse off for knowing it. It doesn’t sell well and isn’t critically acclaimed, but damn it, it’s my movie, and I can make it terrible if I want to. I mean, Uwe Boll is still in business, right?