The Burden of a Good Memory

Today, I received an email invite to a fancy party to sponsor a ballet school.  I received this invite because once, in college, when I thought for about 5 seconds that I might end up being a socialite, I went to a similar party for this ballet school, which is known for attracting chichi patronage.  I also went to the party in college because I was attracted to ballet and ballerinas because of the delicate, graceful aspect of the dance, which I thought maybe I would be able to develop by simple proximity.  (It didn’t work.)

Anyway, this invite, like all the others, listed at the side of the page the names of the people on the junior committee.  What this is, exactly, or what being on the junior committee of any philanthropic organization entails, I’ve never been able to figure out.  Still, though, I always scan the names to see if I recognize any.  Why I do this, I’m not entirely sure.  It could be that if I recognize one, it makes me feel somewhat closer to that fancy version of New York I once believed in –– the one in which lithe women lift up their gowns to hail cabs and the soundtrack is always fluttering laughter and the clinking of champagne glasses –– or it could be that I like to test exactly how entrenched I am in this city by seeing if I can pick out someone I know in any given situation.  It could be both.

On this invitation, I immediately recognized one of the names listed.  EC and I were in a group therapy together when I was in college and she was in high school.  This has to be almost nine or ten years ago.  I think we only overlapped by a few sessions, as my attendance at this group was sporadic over the five years or so I participated, so while I don’t have many memories of her, what I do have is crystalline.  She was Turkish, with a deep blond hair and a touch of olive in her skin.  Her disposition was sweet.  I remember the therapist mentioned that her father had recently died, and when I said I was sorry, her eyes welled up with tears.  I remember her saying that she drank Frappuccinos often because it was easier for her to get calories in that way.  I think she may have gone to a rehab program in Arizona, but I’m not 100% sure on that.

If I were to see this girl on the street, I would probably recognize her, but I doubt she would even give me a second glance, and why should she?  We met a handful of times almost a decade ago.  Since then, I learned from Googling her, she’s been to college and gotten her MFA.  She has a job at a big deal real estate firm.  She’s involved in high profile philanthropy projects.  There’s a picture of her on Patrick McMullan’s website.  In short, she’s had a life, a real one, so it seems, and probably, hopefully, any space that I took up in her brain has been taken over by someone or something more important, some relic of a better time.  If the situations were reversed and she saw my name on a list or an invite somewhere, would she spend 20 minutes writing about me in a kind of quasi-memorial?  Or would she just glance over my nomenclature and think, “Just another girl on a board somewhere?”

Normally an invite like this I’d just toss in my e-trash can, but I’ve left it so far in my inbox.  I considered using her real name here, in hopes that maybe she has a Google Alert out on herself and would find this and get in touch, but I figured that might not be nice as everyone deserves to keep their pasts private if they so choose.  Maybe she doesn’t want to think about the time she spent sitting on floor cushions in a therapist’s office crying to a group of girls about the horrors of consumption.  I even thought about paying the $85 –– throwing the money away, essentially –– and going alone to the party and watching everyone air-kiss.  I’d just stand by myself, scanning the crowd for her.  When I spotted her, I’d linger in her line of vision to see if she recognized me.  If she didn’t, maybe I’d rush up and ask, “Do you remember me?  Tell me: are you okay now?  Are you happy?  Because I’ve been worried.”

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