“My Five Most Forgettable Experiences,” by Mike Fowler

Sep 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

According to my mother, my birth was a horrible shriek-inducing and blood-letting ordeal that lasted all night and into the next day, adding up to twelve hours of torture for her. But you couldn’t prove it by me. Maybe a bit of Mom’s epidural got to my infantile cortex, but I have no recollection of any part of the event. It just blew right past me. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say my birth most resembled a coma for its lack of noticeable features. Not that I’ve ever been in a coma (the closest I’ve come is breaking into a locked car with my forehead and then drinking a six-pack), but I’ve heard it’s a non-event if there is one, at least for the unconscious party. And if my mother were honest, I think she’d have to say my birth wasn’t all that memorable for her either, especially since she died last week.

I’ll add right here that my circumcision, which followed my birth by mere days, was not a big deal for me either. I know it took place, since I have the scar to prove it, but I don’t remember a single twinge of the scalpel or forceps. They say this procedure is very distressing to a male infant, which seems plausible given the invasion of privacy involved, but I suspect my reaction was one of calmness. For all the memory I have of it, I may have slept through it. In fact as I look back on my circumcision now, what stands out most for me is that it was just like having my wisdom teeth extracted when I was 16, except it occurred in my groin instead of my mouth. It was a dull nothingness that I somehow endured, maybe with the help of a powerful anesthetic. So believe me, I don’t have much to say about the loss of my foreskin, or if I do, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’m not very likely to have forgotten my first full-blown sexual experience, but I have, almost entirely. It didn’t occur at the onset of my life like my birth and circumcision, but nothing about this union was remarkable: just a girl and a guy taking the SAT in a crowded hall, the proctor walking out for five minutes, and nature taking its course. The funny thing was, the proctor would never have noticed a thing, except when he got back the girl was smoking a cigarette. Totally unromantic, I confess, and I don’t remember the girl’s name even though later on she became my prom date. My sole clear recollection was that I scored only a 450 on the verbal section, probably as a result of this “fooling around,” and my counselor told me my chances for early admission to Princeton were pretty much blown. Wisely I retook the test the next year, chastely, and boosted my verbal score to 475.

My high school career was another snoozer. My school was a fairly large one in the suburbs of a medium-sized city with lots of diversity in the student body. We were OK academically and our sports teams were no disgrace, but in my mind it’s grown all cloudy. That’s surprising, after all those years of not-so-hard study and lukewarm enthusiasm for our teams—go Bulldogs, I think it was, or maybe Badgers—but it’s all reduced to a fog. I made a number of friends too, but none of them are close to me today. I also didn’t marry my high school sweetheart since I didn’t have one, and none of my teachers was really a mentor or inspiration to me. Maybe the incident I remember best was the time my civics teacher, Mr. Klatt, put a piece of chalk in his mouth and chewed it, and then spat it out at Mark Matthews. But I don’t remember why he did that. I’ve also forgotten everything I ever knew about Mark Matthews, whose name might have been Ted Stevens. I do remember our school song: Onward something something to the highest, throughout our lives we’ll always remember thy name …I think that’s the gist of it, but it wasn’t a very catchy tune and I can’t think why we had to sing it.

College really didn’t take place for me, likely because I started smoking cheeba and playing hearts in my freshman year and didn’t stop until I got married ten years later. Of my approximately seven years of marriage I remember only a few snippets, such as that cheeba was strictly forbidden in the house, along with recreational sex, and my wife didn’t care for hearts. The names of our seven children mean no more to me than seven names picked at random from the phone directory, except that I “friended” the kids on Facebook, all but one who said she didn’t know who I was and threatened to call the police.

I’m positive I took my wife to a well-known Italian restaurant once. Maybe it was our anniversary, one when I was receiving a paycheck. It was the sort of place written up in magazines and had a multiple-star rating and you had to wear a tie to get in; wearing shoes wasn’t enough. But for me there was nothing special about the place, and the food didn’t even make a negative impression. All I can say for certain is that the sauce was red and the bread bore a crust. Besides that I only remember the ice water: it was good and cold and the tuxedoed waiter didn’t make a stink about bringing me several large pitchers. But that’s all I know. The rest has faded. Oh yeah, and some guy played violin at the table. It was beyond hilarious, since he looked just like Dean Martin. Except the more I think about it, he played the accordion and looked like Pope John Paul II.

I can’t give many particulars about my wedding; it was either small or poorly attended, I couldn’t tell which. Other than that I’d have to say the affair was not a standout experience for me. Our honeymoon must have been something though. I’m sure we went to one of those places where there is lots to do and see, and everything is open all night. Or maybe everything was closed the week I went there with What’s-her-name. I wish could gather it all up in my mind, but I don’t have a photographic memory, and being a poet or memoirist is not in my skill set. I do remember that while we were there we heard a really great concert. I have the feeling it was one of those super-bands with a lot of the original members still in it, including their vocalist who’s a household name if I could think of it, and their guitarist and drummer who are just incredibly famous, but I’m drawing a blank on their names. Maybe they weren’t that good. The light show is what I recollect best. It was like a box of crayons or something, if you can call that a recollection. I wish I could remember the name of the place. The most I can say is that there was a lot of water there and the name rhymed with Viagra Calls.

I haven’t died yet, but I already know that, for me at least, my death will be a non-starter conversationally. Others may talk about it if they want, but I’m unlikely to open up on that topic. I do vaguely recall reading a play in school, by Shakespeare I think, where a character keeps talking after he died. But he was particularly talkative, like vice president Biden, and I think the Bard meant it as a joke to show how difficult it is to shut some people up. Hard to tell, since I got a D in the course. But come to think of it that’s probably one of the greatest masterpieces I ever read with the help of Cliffs Notes, and it should be included in any list of things I’ve almost entirely forgotten. What I learned from Shakespeare is this: when I die, I’ll probably stop talking.

Is that five experiences yet? I’ve completely lost track.


Mike Fowler has been in Defenestration so many times he practically owns stock in the magazine. And by stock, of course, we mean delicious waffles. He’s all about self-promotion these days, so go buy his book.

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