Every moment gets thrown out like so much garbage - which, in a sense, is what the past is. Memory is a toxin, and its overretention - the constant replaying of the past - is the hallmark of stress disorders and clinical depression. The elimination of memory is a bodily function, like the elimination of urine. Stop urinating and you have renal failure: stop forgetting and you go mad.So, what if I've been looking at it backwards? What if Bud's "splinter skills" - remembering volumes of video dialogue with appropriate inflection and dialect, remembering the lyrics to every song he's ever heard, remembering the track number of every song on every CD, entering a store he was in once before several years ago and knowing instantly what he played with there - what if all these things are not because of an extraordinary ability or even an obsessive compulsion to remember?
What if they are because of a diminished capacity to forget?
The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Perhaps Bud is overretaining some one-off interaction with a dog that happened so quickly I didn't even see it, but has rendered him pathologically fearful of dogs ever since. Perhaps it's the overretention of information that produces scripting echolalia; if he is unable to forget these lines, maybe obsessively reciting them is the only means he has of purging, of letting off some steam. Perhaps it's the overretention of memory that prevents him from cycling down with the rest of us at sunset, that keeps him sleepless, that wakes him early.
Doesn't it make sense that he'd be reluctant to interact with new people if he ran the risk of having to carry them all with him forever? Wouldn't it make him want to stick to the videos, the experiences, the foods, the everything he already knows he likes if he knew he wouldn't be able to sort out and discard the videos, experiences, foods, and everything that he didn't like? Wouldn't it make him want to put his hands over his ears in new situations to try to keep some of it from getting in?
Maybe this is where the computer metaphor for the autistic brain makes sense. Perhaps Bud's brain has enormous capacity for memory, but is unable to selectively delete the contents of his hard drive that he no longer needs. Maybe he needs help to defrag.
I think about the imperative messages I deliver to him all day in an effort to help him to focus, tune in, and attend to the world around him:
"Look at this."
Perhaps I'm overlooking the most important imperative of all:
"Forget about it."