I was born in Oklahoma. I have no memory of the town, its people, or a time when it was real to the touch. It is a fact in my life rarely announced. The absence of a conscious recollection has made it near mythical. I imagine that the land just north of the Red River is dry and flat, that the sky is a bright and blinding blue, and that the highways gray with black tar veins burn hundreds of miles under a summer sun.
Come to think of it, Oklahoma kind of looks like I-40 in New Mexico near the Texas border. But this isn’t real either, because by looks I mean of course, in my imagination. Sometimes, when the idea of Oklahoma pops in my mind I add tumbleweed, maybe a cactus or two, but only the short kind. I’ve never really seen tall ones in Texas or New Mexico or Arizona so I’m not sure they’d be in Oklahoma.
There are distinct books I associate with Oklahoma, children’s books written by Bill Wallace. He was my favorite author in the 4th – 5th grade. A Dog Called Kitty, Snot Stew, Beauty – pretty much anything I could get my hands on at our public library down in Texas. A combination of guesswork and children’s literature has given the state a nice rose-colored sheen.
It’s funny how memory works, how it patches things up and tightens all the seams. Or not. Oklahoma is a vignette –a story before me, of my parents stepping into a whole new dry white-hot southern, god-fearin’ world.
My tenuous impressions of the newly mottoe-d “in god we trust” state reminds me of how opposite I am from Luria’s patient in Mind of Mnemonist. The book is a study of patient S. who has effectively total recall with a synesthete’s twist full of crumbling yellow voices and brightly pitched red tones. He is a wonder; he is a literalist. He cannot comprehend a metaphor.
I’d like to think that my little white memories are quality guesses that target the “heart” rather than the factual brain; that true is not measured but felt. That occasionally, facts are only so-called for lack of a better word and that in these moments, they are (in fact) the lesser noun.