Another leaf of memory fallen onto the rich compost of imagination. Hearing writers speak about their process is usually what their readers want. After attending a few such events, it really struck me how (for the really engaging ones) all life experience was really fodder for the cannon of their minds. Whether they wrote essays or pure fiction, each memory was transformed into story. Just because it is present in a story does not make it any less true, no no. It magnifies the trueness, it resonates the human experience and connects us together.
Memory seems to have been the theme of this summer's musings, and now that the autumn has come - like a rake through the grass, I felt I needed to take the gleanings of the year, and gather them up. Who can say any memory is the true one, seen through multiple lenses of our experience? Each of the cases I sat in on for jury duty this year involved one man's memory against another's. Who do we believe? Who is the reliable witness?
Is it the man, fundamentally good, knowingly duped by his own community of immigrants into the crime of carrying drugs? What was his lense of experience: fear of revenge against his family if he didn't agree, the need to return home to see his blind mother, denial that his countrymen would involve him in such activity. His own brain shorted and lightning struck by the epilepsy he has suffered from, increased by the stress of imprisonment. He is broken, murmuring in Spanish, defeated by the facts, appalled by where he has found himself after years of struggle and sacrifice. What of the undercover cop, with his scouser accent and careful notes, his 20 years of experience: receiving a kilo of cocaine in a posh Mayfair townhouse from the casual swagger of the men with the package. Handing over a sackful of money to complete the sting with a wire down his shirt. Will he ever see it again? The good lawyers look down their Oxford noses at him. The wife bursts into tears and sobs quietly as the judge, stern but fair, commutes his sentence and softens it - but it is still another 3 years out of the full 6 she was entitled to give. He will miss his daughter's wedding as an innocent man - will this wedding even happen? She is marrying a very surprised policeman, newly informed of his father-in-law's case.
Is it the blank faced boy in the dock, nondescript in a white shirt and jeans? Can his accuser really recognise him two years later while walking down the street, after suffering a violent knife attack from this man's hand? Is he the "tall one with bulging eyes"? It doesn't help that the man in the witness stand preaches to his audience and crows about the rightness of his position, that he is the victim, that this man belongs to a brotherhood of bad men, running through these English streets. He harangues the patient judge, with the twinkly eyes, for allowing men of such ilk to go free! One man's memory against another's. The boy says he has been recognised bringing his shopping home on the same bus, that he lives only streets away from his accuser, that he has never owned a knife. Mistaken identity? Someone has to be lying. The witness may be irritating and pedantic but he is sincere, he will never forget the face leering with aggression above him, the blade slashing down, the blood, the hours of questioning by the police. The boy's demeanour changes as the verdict is read, he straightens up from his meekness and eyeballs the jury like he might recognise us walking down the street two years later.