The Forgetoir

This is an earlier draft of an essay that appears in my collection of essays which you should, of course, own right? Why? Well, let me tell you why you should buy the Raised by Turtles book.

As we edge toward the third decade of the 21st century, I have decided that it is time to forge ahead with a new literary genre — the forgetoir.

Unlike a memoir, which records the great events we remember from our lives, the forgetoir records the things we have forgotten. Or pretend we have forgotten.

Picture of abandoned railway station in the desertI remember, for example, that Duane Carrier was bullied by some piece of shit named John, who was probably abused at home. I forget his last name. I want to say it was Carlin, but I think John Carlin was the lead guitarist in the Joneses, which is the band my friend Jim was in and which competed with Phish, but never became famous. But they could both have been named John Carlin. And now that I think of it, it’s quite possible neither were. But for the purpose of this story, we’ll call him John Carlin. And this is the exact sort of problem that has prevented the forgetoir from becoming as popular as the memoir.

The important part of the Duane Carrier story that I forget, though, is why nobody else (and by “nobody else” I principally mean me) stood up for Duane. Part of the reason is no doubt that I was afraid of John Carlin. I forget why I was afraid of him except that, since he pushed Duane down and then stepped on him, I guess he was the kind of person to fear, especially as a smaller than average eighth grader. The other part of the story, which is even less flattering, insofar as there is anything less flattering than cowardice, is that I didn’t particularly like Duane. I was not alone in this. Duane was not well-liked. In fact, Duane was disliked, for obscure reasons that I’m sure nobody who was in that school at that time could explain and, if they could have explained themselves then, they have all forgotten.

And this the genius of the forgetoir genre. This is where the forgetoir finds truth where the memoir finds excuse. How can it be that every one of the 68 boys in Lyman C. Hunt Junior High in the Bicentennial year of our republic, some of whom actively bullied Duane Carrier and none of whom lifted a finger to stop the bullying, has forgotten why it is they singled out Duane for suffering? The one thing I do remember, is that this was through no fault of Duane’s. If Duane ever said an unkind word, I have forgotten it. I have for many years harbored the hope that, despite nobody standing up for Duane (again, for reasons everyone has forgotten), that he rose above his circumstances and finally realized his inner greatness.

That hope is somewhat dimished after a bit of research. The only Duane Carrier I have found who was 1) mentioned in my hometown newspaper and 2) my age (20 in 1983), made the paper not because he overcame the legacy of bullying to write a best-selling forgetoir, but because he was sentenced to two to five years “after being found guilty of seven charges including accessory to assault and robbery, possession of stolen property and simple assault. According to a police affadavit, Carrier and three others held a man, hit him in the head several times and took his wallet on Church street May 4. Carrier also snatched a purse containing $1,040” (Burlington Free Press, September 2, 1983, p. 18). He was identified as being from Milton, not Burlington, and I forget whether Duane might have moved out of Burlington or not. The silver lining there is that he apparently, by age 20, had three friends to pal around and assault with. I had hoped for better though.

There is one thing I do remember though, which is part of the reason I always hoped for better for Duane. If this were a memoir, I would recount it in detail. But for the purposes of this first fragment of forgetoir, I will be brief. When Tom Ryan’s father died of a heart attack, none of us knew what to say. Duane said “Tom, I’m really sorry to hear about your dad,” revealing the bullied kid to be the one person in the school who actually knew what to say (and speaking of forgetting, I forget why on earth none of the rest of us could think to say this one simple and appropriate thing). And for that reason alone, I hope that the assailant Duane Carrier is different from the bullied Duane Carrier. And, in fact, I always thought that the Duane Carrier I knew was Dwayne, not Duane. But once again, I forget how he spelled his name. I hope it was Dwayne.

The Dwayne Carrier story shows both the value and the challenge of the forgetoir — the only parts of the story that really matter to me 41 years later are the parts that I’ve forgotten. A memoir, recounting the parts I remember, would lie dead on the page, revealing nothing about me.

So I am convinced that the time is ripe for the forgetoir, but only in the hands of a true master. As I have discovered in gathering notes, piecing together all the important things I’ve forgotten into one cohesive narrative is not as easy as it sounds. For starters, there’s the fact that I’ve forgotten them.

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