Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
When I was young, I used to keep a journal. In spurts, at least. I wasn’t necessarily doing anything that needed memorializing, but it just felt somehow important to write down some of my thoughts and activities. For my future biographers, if nothing else.
One of my journals was “live” during the summer of 1974. I wrote in red Flair pen on orange ruled paper, kept in a lime-green three-ring binder. I hid this record of my teen life under my bed (which was in the basement at the time, in a “room” sectioned off with cheap Indian tapestries hung from the joists. I loved the isolation down there, away from my brothers and sister, who would have pored over the journal and mocked it if they ever laid their hands on it. The only one who ever came down was my mother, to do the laundry, but she was kind enough to give me my privacy, always knocking on the basement door before coming in with her basket. If I happened to be writing in my journal when she did, I slapped it shut and popped it under the bed — under the rug under the bed.
Aside from bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a girlfriend, I was following, that summer, the Watergate situation. On August 9, I wrote about Richard Nixon’s resignation and declared that he’d been given a raw deal. From my vantage point (about as far away from Washington politics as one could be), he was simply unfortunate enough to have been caught at something they all do. At least that’s how I saw it. I probably said something like, “Mark my words. Someday they’ll look back and say he wasn’t the diabolical charlatan he’s accused of being.”
I had a real pretentious voice in my journals. I was also wrong about a lot of things.
Eventually I destroyed that document, though I can still see the orange paper and green notebook in my mind. The inside covers of the folder were plastered with the hype stickers that came on LP cellophane back then. “Contains ‘Stairway To Heaven’!” “Featuring the hit ‘Pinball Wizard’!” I kind of wish I still had the binder, but not its contents.
In college I moved to those bound journals with the word “Record” or “Minutes” embossed on the front in gold. I still have a lot of these, and I never look at them because I’d immediately die of mortification if I did. I thought I was Missouri’s Chuck Dickens, documenting my life for posterity. Always bemoaning that I didn’t have a girlfriend, I also described what I was reading, where I was traveling, and what I was doing to try and get a girlfriend, including the slipping of notes into their backpacks, which they wouldn’t find till long after I had left their town or country. All of this is documented. I wrote, in these years, either with a brown Flair pen or with pretentious fountain pens in every ink color from teal to tangerine. Why? I’m afraid I don’t know. I never wrote down why. Only one of the girls I’d slipped a note to, by the way, ever wrote back to me. She said, “A shame you just didn’t ask me out. I thought you were cool.”
The most recent journal I’ve kept dates back to the late ‘80s, when I was going through a tough time in my first marriage. I worked out book ideas in it and complained about my wife. I think she must have read it once when I was out of town because she was even worse to live with after that trip than before.
So I’m leery of committing my thoughts to paper (or .doc file) now, afraid to learn, years down the line, that my present self is no wiser nor less pretentious than my sixteen-year-old self, and that would leave me feeling pretty bad in the dusk of my life.
Best to rely on memory alone, which, I understand, isn’t all that accurate (scientists say).
All the better.