If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.–J. Reuben Clark
Yesterday, I consulted with a forensic hypnotherapist.
I want to remember my brothers, I told him. I have so few memories of them, so few photographs. When I think of the one time I met Jimmy, I remember him wearing denim overalls, but that detail seems wrong. Am I confusing him with my father? My father always wore overalls to work as an electrician. Jimmy worked at a Hy-Vee grocery store, a detail I only gleaned searching the city directories for my hometown. When I think of my oldest brother, Greg, I remember him smoking Marlboro reds and provoking me into wrestling matches. I remember his coarse, red hair, always so exotic to me because nobody else in our family shared that trait. My memories of him always play back as if I am watching them on a television with the volume muted.
I want to remember my oldest brother’s voice, I said to the hypnotherapist when he asked about goals. Not necessarily all the bad stuff that happened. (I remember the bad stuff all too well.) Just his voice.
For years, I have talked myself out of hypnotherapy. From a forensic perspective, hypnotherapy is risky. I could overwrite legitimate memories with false ones. I could integrate suggestions from the session and plug in gaps with phony images and voices. I could accuse someone of a false crime.
But what, exactly, does legitimate memory even mean? When I think about my creative nonfiction, how I weave together my story with the cultural and physical landscape, I recognize the creative process poses an equal if not graver risk to memory. I integrate “suggestions” from everything around me–the city grid, crimes in the news, the pollution in SLC’s air. I overwrite images with metaphors. I restructure narratives. And yet, I am still telling the truth. I am still dealing in legitimate memories. Or does writing transmute memories into elaborate forgeries?
What if, in this case, the truth can be harmed–even obliterated–by investigation? What if a forgery becomes my truth? What if a forgery already is?