memory warrior, with strings

When I was a teenager looking for something to write about, on more than several occasions my mother suggested I write about a family dealing with Alzheimer’s. “But I don’t have it yet. I don’t know what it’s like,” I said, because I wanted to draw out this suggestion of hers; I wanted to hear her say she wanted me to articulate something for her. But she meant something else. “Do it from the perspective of a granddaughter, then.”

I didn’t. Not then, or ever, even when I gained the closer perspective.

When I was a teenager, too, and even I suppose before that, when dreaming up fantasy stories I was always the smart one, the one who could recite in several languages, or conjure up familiars with an incantation and a complicated twist of my hands. The one who went to some arcane institution for close on a decade before graduating with full honors. The one who gets loyal meat to protect her, because she’s too thoughtful and fragile to kick ass on her own.

I have since tweaked that particular preference.

I tire of the cleverly fragile, and even of the sneaky. I would be the loyal meat. A great Warder, if we’re talking Wheel of Time. A guardian, if we’re talking FFX (and I rather doubt anyone is, let’s be honest).

Recently I received Remember Me as a gift, and I am careful to play it only when reliably alone, so as not to be interrupted. Because it presses, with its gnarled, tattooed French hand, all my buttons: sexist sons-of-bitches who must be punished for their violence against women, whirling strings-heavy orchestral pieces at the most climactic points of the plot, and disintegration of memory as, not just a theme present throughout the story, but as a cause. Something against which to raise up arms.

And you do, as Nilin, a British-accented, believably-proportioned ex-terrorist who, robbed of her own memories, is stalking their return, albeit led by the nose by someone with clearly ulterior motives. I wanted to wait until I’d finished the game to mention it, and I have not finished it. I am only halfway through, I think. But I have reached a point where something must be shared. This song:

Or rather, the first minute of this song. It plays–to be vague, in the interests of protecting from spoilers–during a scene of immense motion, in a cerebral location. It’s also a fight scene. During which you are fighting for the keeping-together of memories, against those who would shatter them.

When people used to express befuddlement at my fondness for voiceless, clearly-soundtrack music, and I didn’t have an erudite, musically-educated explanation for them, I used to remind myself not to mention it again. To kick it sheepishly under the rug when meeting someone for the first or second or tenth time. People expect and want to you to invest in the lyrics and in the voices of singers. But this little snippet of voiceless music slammed into a game where I am placed fighting against forces I very much would, if they existed in a form in which I could fight them, makes an explanation clear: I don’t trust the voices and the words of these people I don’t know to tell a story I can claim a part in. And why should I? They are very much divorced from my experience. Instrumental arrangements, though, can be invested with as much meaning as you can summon for them. And while I’m jamming buttons and hissing expletives at the screen during the fight against a set character with a set past, it’s not really that fiction I’m fighting against, as the strings soar around me. It’s a reality I’m much more familiar with. And if I follow the story the music tells me, I win. For once.

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