Hooverphonic's video of Eden features its then lead singer Geike Arnaert. Her face is eminently watchable. I am paralyzed into inaction when I begin to see the video, and have to watch it all the way through, even though I've seen it dozens of times.
The video is haunting too. A woman's image is trapped in a television set. As men grab it and lash it to the top of their car and drive into a dark night, she sings about the isolation two lovers feel when their relation disintegrates.
I never tried to feel
I never tried to feel
I never tried to reach
I never tried to reach
The woman places her hands on the screen, as if to get out. The look on her face says it all: She is trapped and alone, plagued by memories of her old love.
Geike Arnaert's facial expressions are nuanced. The blue eye makeup and red lipstick draw attention to her eyes, pale blue and clear. I want to protect her from her pain.
The music resonates with the strings of loneliness inside my own soul. The sound of the oboe midway through the song tugs at my gut and takes me close to weeping. But there is a second reason, one that may make sense only to me: I recognize her face. To be specific, I recognize elements of her face. She looks like someone I have known, but I cannot remember who.
It is frustrating to look at those eyes and the straight dark eyebrows above them, and to attempt in vain for the fiftieth time to place a name to them, to associate her face with the face of a friend I knew years ago.
Her mannerisms - the way she holds her hands up, the way she glances down and to the side - feel familiar to me. But I remain frustrated that the associative pathways of my memory do not connect to any friend's name. The high school girl from the wealthy family who befriended my brother? She had similar eyes. The aloof girl who attended a neighboring high school? The one who shocked me when she told me her model family was a mere front, behind which lay anger and hatred? She had the same dimples and the same beautiful hair. The same haunted look that said, I hurt more than I will ever let you see.
No. It is someone else. I tell myself stubbornly that I recognize that face. I recognize her movements. I know that look in her eyes. She used to knit her eyebrows together the same way as in the video. She placed the same wall between herself and me. I just can't remember the context - school? church? work? - and I can't remember her name.
Is it a blessing to know that your memory is decaying? Perhaps your mind knows what is important to your psyche, and removes memories of people about whom you shouldn't obsess. Memory loss seen this way is a good thing. If you were haunted by her for these many years, perhaps it would be too much weight to bear.
I remember a little girl, four years old, a leukemia patient, who would come visit me when I was in the hospital in high school. She would drag her vertical pole-on-wheels into my room every day for two weeks and sit and talk with me.
Her pole held an ugly bag of yellowish liquid. A clear plastic tube ran down and into a needle that was stuck into the back of her hand. I can't imagine how that must have felt to a little girl. She seemed resigned to it.
She was a cute little blondie, as sweet a little girl as you can imagine, innocent as the day is long. Her voice had a lilt. She had sad eyes. She was always more concerned with my welfare than she was her own. The naivete of youth. Two complete strangers - a four year old girl, and a sixteen year old teen - thrown into a hospital ward together by the complete randomness of nature.
I returned to the hospital two weeks after I was discharged and brought flowers for the nurses and doctors, and a separate little floral bouquet for my little girlfriend.
She wasn't in her room. I asked at the nursing station - did she get moved? No, they said. They could hardly look at me. She died. Just a few days ago.
I remember her voice. I remember something of her face. The blue clip-on bow she wore to hold her hair back. I can't remember her name.
She came back to me in my dreams for years. It was always the same. I was on the bed, in starched white linen sheets. Don't worry, she'd say in her serious voice. You'll get better. She walked out of my room, dragging her medicine bag across the light brown linoleum tiles. Then she'd turn at the door and would say she'd be back tomorrow. Then I'd hear the nurse say she died. Then I'd try to remember her name. Then I'd wake up with tears in the corners of my eyes.
After a few years she slipped out of my dreams, as if she had never existed.
I can't remember her name. I am so angry. Her name was her existence. To have forgotten her name was to see that name written on a sandy beach and watching the waves erase it. It means she was never here. It means that her life had no consequence. But it did. She was the little angel who selflessly visited a young man in the hospital when he was immobile and who brought joy and sweetness and hope at a time when he most needed it. Her grave doesn't deserve a small marble headstone. It deserves a giant monument. It should say "Here Lies an Angel. She should have been your queen. You should bend your knee and honor her."
The woman in the video had the same eyes. Pale blue. Resigned to her fate. Haunted. I know her, or rather, someone just like her. My emotions say that the connection was important, back when I knew her. My emotions tell me to keep trying to reconstruct that memory.
There is no guarantee that the memory will be a good one. But you must keep trying.