The Fragments We Keep


I keep fragments of things in the Notes section of my phone. I like it because it’s easier than carting around a little notebook the way I used to in the era before an iPhone was permanently attached to my hand. They’re snapshots and snippets of conversations, little pings of my brain that wake me up the middle of the night with their so-called brilliance, ideas to be ruminated upon later on in the day. I know now that when something hits me, I need to get it written somewhere immediately before I forget. I always say I’ll remember, but somehow I never do.

“Forget” is a very ugly word.

I have years worth of snippets saved by now. When I can’t think of anything to write, I scroll through them in hopes of finding something worthwhile.

“He keeps pictures of me in his phone. That should be enough.” -1/20/13

It wasn’t.

There are so many things I keep because I think they’re worth spinning into a story. But the fact is some of them just aren’t. He wasn’t my prize; he might be hers. End of story. After staring at that sentence I realized it was no longer worth writing about. That story was done.

Sometimes the universe sends you brief reminders that you made the right choice, and sometimes they come in the form of writer’s block. The subject that had been so fruitful just a month or two ago dries up completely. You get so caught up in writing about the way you feel that you forget to actually feel, and when you do it’s surprising when nothing comes. No panic, no pleasure, no swell of love or hate. Just nothing. It’s like a flatline.

When you write for a living (or a semblance of a living, let’s be real), your eyes are always open, your hands always searching for a pen or a keyboard or even the white space of a text message. You notice everything and you keep it in your brain like a screenshot. Some people say you should never fall in love with a girl who writes, but I disagree; you should, because we’ll write you all sorts of love letters both sprawling and succinct, and when you break our hearts that makes you immortal. Doesn’t everyone want to be immortalized in print? You’re perfect, you’re untouchable, you’re the stupidest motherfucker in the world – or at least you are while we’re writing about you.

And it’s not just lovers we write about. It’s everything. You end up with things like “the man in the banana suit stole the toaster” written in your phone and who knows where that came from? You might have heard it on the street or passed it in a magazine. It becomes something worthwhile once it’s written down. In particularly morbid moments I think that if I were to die unexpectedly, my mom would be the one going through all these snippets. She’d be the one to puzzle over sentences like “We were antagonists. We existed only to hurt and annoy and antagonize the other. A Joe and a Marilyn. You had hit your peak and you were threatened by the steady upswing of me.” She would have no idea what that meant, to whom I was speaking. He wouldn’t either, because he’s been out of my life for the whole of a year. “Deleting your number: a love story” would mean nothing to her. I jolt out of sleep blanketed by anxiety and dreams and reach for my phone to write down every little concern and none of them mean anything to anyone but me.

But I’ll never get rid of these little digital scraps. They come to me and I give them life, or I try to.