Memory is a curious thing; specifically what we remember, what we forget, and what we simply mange to repress deep in our subconscious. It makes it difficult to suss out fact from fiction, truth from imagination, and to know what did or didn't happen in the past.
That's why I didn't quite know what to make of the following reminiscence, related to me by a childhood friend with whom I'd worked as a summer camp counselor at a sleep-away camp in New Hampshire. Here's what happened, in her words:
"It was my camper who was blossoming early and cried every night and peed her bed. She had diarrea'd (sic.) in her pants and your face was right up in it as we crawled thru 1/2 mile of underground rock somewhere."
She was telling me (via text) about a trip we'd taken with our campers through a cave system in the late 1990's. Apparently, one of the campers had shat her pants, and since we were all in a single-file line in a cave system, my face was in her ass for half a mile in the bowels of the earth with no way out.
I vaguely recalled the caves, and taking campers there. I also recalled crawling through the caves in a line. But the rest was a blank. How could I possibly have forgotten having my face in a "blossoming" girl's diarrhea pants for half a mile of underground spelunking? Especially since I have so many (SO many) memories related to shit, both mine and other people's? How is it that my mind repressed this particular graphic memory? Maybe it was my friend who was mis-remembering, but the sheer specificity made me doubt it.
It must be some neurological version of swipe/delete. You only have so many gigabytes of storage in your brain. As the years go by, your mind must have a process by which it decides what to remember and what to forget by swiping and deleting old memories and making room for new ones.
In this case, my face buried in a pre-pubescent, crying girl's diarrhea pants didn't make the cut. But why did some of the other things from that summer make the cut, then? Like eating two plastic bowls full of soggy, gross Life cereal every morning and seething for seven weeks as the guy I loved decided to shack up with my co-counselor? I can remember vividly the sheepish look on both their faces as I stormed past, glaring at them on the porch of our bunkhouse, but I can't remember having my head halfway up an ass full of diarrhea? None of it matters anymore, so why don't I just forget it all? God knows I could use the bandwidth.
I kind of feel like Hollywood should make another version of Total Recall about this phenomenon, called Swipe/Delete. Somewhat ironically, the only thing I remember about Total Recall is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is in it and there's a little alien named Kuato who was stuck to his stomach and looked EXACTLY like Paige as a baby.
Now. Why won't my brain swipe and delete that?