Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Monday morning was rainy in Cape Town. I woke up and went outside to indulge in a cigarette just as gale-force winds were reaching their peak. Clinging to the cigarette so it wouldn't fly away. I went back in, gasping, reheated the coffee that had cooled outside, and decided to sit down and write. Of course, I would've written, but I've got the concentration capacity of an entire remedial class. As I sat down and opened the laptop, a software program asked me to update it. I usually neglect my software - sort of like the way I treat my lungs - I ignore their requests. I don't like being told what to do. But this time, I granted it. In return, it froze my computer. I restarted it, and within a few seconds, realised that my laptop was destroyed.
Wait, wait, before you buy a consolation card, it's fine, and I'm fine. Everybody's Fine. Computers don't catch COVID, but they catch other things. I sent it for repair, and it was fully formatted. Of course, all my stuff is backed up, but it made me wonder. And when I start to wonder... I write.
When you format a computer, it comes back new. Lost all its memory, like another machine. You don't recognise it. It looks at you from its empty curious screen, asks questions it previously didn't ask, like whether to keep this or what the password is for that... things you haven't had to fill in for years. You realise she doesn't remember you. To her, you are a complete stranger. But for you, she's a small, metallic creature that has accompanied you for many years. Especially now, in days of Corona, it's Man's most dependable companion. You are insulted, a little confused, trying to refresh her memory. Here, this is my email, remember? Wait, as soon as I sign up for Google, you'll see all of my bookmarks. Here, I'll open iCloud, and you'll see everything I've written. Here are some photos, a quick browse, and you'll know who I am. What do you mean password? It's me, why password? I don't remember it, you always did. And how is it that you're suddenly so quick? It used to take you a lot longer to load a page. What a beauty, your hard-drive is really light. Yes, of course I want to reinstall this software, I've been using it for years. What questions are these you ask. Remember all the long nights I'd sit in front of Word and write and write… wait, what? My account was invalid, and now you're demanding payment? All the years I stroked your keyboard, are they worth nothing now? You used to be forgiving, almost as if you had feelings. You knew me. No, I'm not looking to tease, calm down. We started on the wrong foot, let's start again slower.
It all seemed so nice. I envied her, as much as you can envy a machine. What if I could format myself? I would love to try. Lose my memory in its entirety, look at myself in the mirror with empty curious eyes. Not knowing myself. Don't you remember what your name is? Wait, look at your ID and remember. These are your parents, here, you can open a photo album. Nice to meet you, this is your life. Now you can start over and this time, do it right.
That night, when you got drunk and got on stage at the Babuji Pub in Eilat, picking up a guitar and yelling, "Milky, this song is dedicated to you!" And Milky waved at you, blew a kiss, and then all you remember is murmuring something to the mic and moving your fingers randomly over the strings. Milky got up on stage and tried to remove you, eventually lifted you onto his shoulder, clearing you out by force. Everyone applauding. This whole night would go away like it never happened.
The day you returned to Haifa after spending a week in the Negev. Your previous landlord was refusing to give you back the money he owed you upon your return. He'd already given it to your flatmate. She claimed she needed that money and never gave it back to you. No matter how much you called and threatened to sue them both, but never followed through. This whole humiliation would be forgotten from your mind.
The day you peed on a stick, stood in the clinic's bathroom without taking your eyes off it. Then you were informed by one small line that life could go back to normal. The whole situation will reset, and you can stop remembering it in shame whenever you are slightly late.
How pleasant, formatted brain. Eat fruit as if for the first time, when you don't know how it should taste. Hmm… so that's a grape? To be scared of the ocean and how enormous it is, like the first time you saw it. Don't you remember this book? You must've loved it, look at all the dog ears. You can read it like it's the first time. How pleasant, your head is really light. Yes, I certainly want to install an immune system. Mine has always been especially strong, the most advanced version. Oh, I haven't dipped into that memory for a long time. No, no need for it. It makes me sorrowful. I feel stronger, sharp, quick-thinking. Sure, I'd love a cigarette. Why am I coughing? Oh, my lungs are clean and thoroughly formatted. Yes, of course, I'd love another glass. For years I've been ruining this liver, and now it's like I've never touched a drink. Who are all these people in my life? I don't know any of them. I don't owe money to people, and they don't owe me anything. I don't hate anyone, not in love with anyone, not feeling like I saw that guy somewhere before or... having Deja Vu.
What do you mean you don't remember - you have a whole novel in mind. A plot, characters, you are now in the editing stage.
What do you mean not interested?
To be a politician? Me? Only in the seventh circle of hell.
You want to be religious? Who are you?
Wait a minute, wait... what are you doing? Turn that off. I've never enjoyed reality TV.
Maybe formatting is not the best idea. For a machine, yes. But not for a brain. I prefer to remember that night I made a fool of myself on stage, and how I was robbed of my money and even the day I peed on a stick. Life educated me, improved me, strengthened me, made me who I am. I don't want clean sheets. I don't want to be anyone else. I think I'm pretty awesome, if I may say so.