WHAT I WAS GOING to do, you see, was write something about Michelle Marvin and her suit against her former lover and alleged contractee, Lee Marvin, because you have to admit, it's an interesting issue -- what a man owes a woman and for what. So I went out and talked to people and did the reading, and that might lead you to think that what follows is about Marvin vs. Marvin, as the case is called. Ain't so. It's about losing your memory.
It turns out I had already written about the Marvin case. I did not know that at first, did not know it, even though I care terribly about what I write. But slowly I got the feeling that I had come this way before. Things started to sound familiar, and so I asked R., a researcher here, to find out if I had written about Marvin vs. Marvin, and if I had, what, exactly, was my position? R., I have to tell you, gives wonderful looks.
I was not always like this. Once I had a wonderful memory, a truly prodigious memory, a wonderful that could be turned, for instance, on any history teacher who even insinuated that I had not done my reading. I could remember anything, not memorize it, which is work, but just remember it. It's something you're born with, like rhythm, and I had it, memory, that is, and still do to an extent. Monroe Doctrine: 1823. I still remember that. From the eighth grade. It's last week that gives me a problem.
The older I get, the worse it gets. For a while, only my wife knew. She was the one I would turn to in the morning and say that I was thinking of writing about such and such, and by the way, had I already written about it? Like R., she makes wonderful faces.
I am forever asking her the name of people we are about to visit, and I am always forgetting if I have already written and mailed things like thank- you notes. I don't know whether to write another note, which would make me look crazy, or not to write another note, which might make me seem inconsiderate.
I can't wait for those household computers to come along. Then I can send the sort of notes the credit car companies send: "If you have already received a letter from me..." All lapses of memory could be called computer errors.
I am resigned to my condition. I sit and listen in awe as my wife tells stories of things that have happened to us and I can't wait to find out the ending. I say nothing, never disagreeing, never contradicting, never quibbling -- never, in fact, lapsing into what I call my aunt-and-uncle number. With them, every time she mentioned something that happened in Italy in 1949, he said France, 1950. As far as anyone could tell, they had never been anywhere together.
The thing of it is, that I am too young for this to be happening. In fact, I thought it would never happen and I know that there are people reading this who even now think it will never happen to them. I had some advice for them, but I forgot it, but I remember enough to say that it hits first with names. You always forget them first and what you do when you meet someone whose name you don't know you turn green, do a dance and say you have to go to the bathroom. With any luck, you can somehow find your wife who will remember the name you have forgotten.
Now, where was I? Oh yes. Sometimes, I start to make a phone call and forget who I'm calling. Occasionally I hang up, but more often than not I stay on and wait to see who answers. I love surprises. I can never remember anything about any wine I've had and the same applies to all French and Italian dishes. When handed the menu, I ask my wife what I like. This is inexcusable and puts quite a burden on my wife, but what really bothers me is that I cannot remember which is an avocado and which is an artichoke, and which of them is really fattening. One of them, I assure you, is really fattening.
I can never remember what the stock market term "selling short" means. The minute I hear it, I forget it. The same applies to SALT II, and for the life of me I can't remember what happened to SALT I. I can't remember phone numbers and often I'll start to read a book only to realize maybe half way through that I've already read it. I meet people and like tham and want to see them again, only I forget about them. I carry a little book to write things down, but often I forget to take my book and sometimes I leave it in the pocket of some jacket I forget I have.
Still, I don't feel sorry for myself. I have a friend who gets mad at his wife when she removes the pads he keeps by the phone, only he can't ever remember to remind her not to move the pads. He is the same person, incidentally, who parked a rented car in a parking garage and forgot it for a month. At least he comes by it honestly. His father used to dry the dishes and put them in the refrigerator.
All in all I see this memory loss as compensation for how life begins to get routine after a while. Now, every day is a surprise package of dates I've forgotten I've made and people I forgot I knew and columns like the Marvin vs. Marvin one I forgot I had written.
I wrote that if Michelle Marvin wanted security and money and that sort of thing, she should have gotten married. Her mother probably told her the same thing, but since Michelle is about my age I think I know what happened.