Yesterday I went down to Shellharbour to visit some dear friends I haven’t seen for quite a while, Stacie, Ben, and deliciously cute little Eli. I’d been looking forward to this catchup for some time and it was a really lovely day, sitting in the winter sun, eating yummy food, chatting about big things and small, listening to some of Ben’s new (exciting) music, laughing with Eli (“Hey Eli, what’s your favourite colour?” “Black!” yep, true child of rock, even at 2 years old).
I had also been looking forward to the drive. I love driving, especially when you can drive fast (though 110km/h doesn’t feel that fast, but you work with what you’ve got). But yesterday for some reason I started to feel quite anxious, especially as I passed Wollongong and headed towards Lake Illawarra and Shellharbour. Then it dawned on me why; the only two times I had been down to that specific area were following a break up when I was trying to salvage the friendship and work out what had gone wrong. It astounded me that all these years later, just driving through that same place could have such an effect on me subconsciously, and make me feel kind of worried and insecure, doubting myself and the people who love me.
Memory can be such a dangerous thing if you don’t deal with it. It can blur and shift and warp things to take on more or less significance than they actually had. There are definitely areas that remind me of particular people, and place is such a strong thing. After one of my first break ups, it took me a long time to be able to go back to Bondi, and even now I don’t feel that comfortable there, because I had spent so much time there with this particular guy (for a long time I was just worried about running into him there, which is a more practical concern).
I tried to write about this once, and even draw it, but I never did it justice. Maybe it’ll be one of those things that I chew on for years and it will eventually appear in a book of mine – you read it here first! Okay, so say you have a mental map of the world around you, and it’s flat, like the page of a street directory. When you have an experience in a particular place, that experience pushes that location in your mental map up a bit, so now the map isn’t flat anymore but has some kind of accumulated memory deposited on that spot. So eventually your mental map will have lots of bumps and things sticking out in it, like a page of Braille, reminding you of places and people and events. The more emotion that’s attached to the event will make the location stick out more. Or maybe rather than peaks, the event will have created a trough or a gap that takes you by surprise, a dip that you had forgotten about and inadvertently fall into.
I feel like in my driving yesterday, I skirted around the edge of the Grand Canyon. But visiting it and peering in and realising that it isn’t so deep or wide after all was a good thing. I’m much changed from the girl of that time. And I’m glad.
* curse maps is kind of inspired by the idea of curse songs, from Phonogram 2.2