There are plenty of stories out there about amnesia, so much so it has become a trope. A man or woman is found wandering. This has, perhaps, been the case for days. Or this person appears out of what feels like thin air—snap, and there they are. When approached, the wanderer/apparition is usually asked two questions: Who are you? Where do you come from? And the wanderer/apparition answers, sometimes truthfully and sometimes not, “I do not know.” But we all come from somewhere. We all have origins. And so in these particular narratives, the details must, inevitably, be shaded in. Sometimes they are details the questioner doesn’t want to know. Often, they are details the questioned has tried to forget.
One of the things I most prize about being alive, at this time, is my ability to glean the narrative details of others’ lives. My favorite instances of this are when these origin stories come straight from the source itself—when I’m able to sit down with someone who entrusts me with pieces of their past. Since childhood, I’ve found the art of telling stories about ourselves fascinating, perhaps because I’ve always had a finicky memory and I’m perpetually in awe of one’s capacity to conjure up moments that did, in fact, occur. There’s a theory that gets batted around that all memoir is in actuality fiction, since once a moment happens it can never be replicated, verbally, written, or otherwise, in exactly the same way. But I’m less concerned with exactness as I am with attempts at approximation. That many people can even approximate what happened to them, sometimes over long stretches of time and with reams of dialogue, is a miracle to me. And I feel lucky to be in the presence of those who try, even when they deem their origins less than exciting (often untrue), or even when their stories are a little rougher around the edges than most.
We almost never draw upon a theme when putting together our issues, but somehow the pieces in Issue Eleven all seem to be in chorus with one another. (It’s kind of funny and magical and strange how often that’s been the case all these months.) These stories and personal essays reflect the push and pull of memory, of a desire to stray from it and a need to return. There’s also a strong sense of how we live in the present when the past is often shrouded by personal, emotional, and cultural disruption. The people we meet in these pieces are often in flight, in modes of escape, or else are suspended in time, unable—sometimes literally—to move at all. There is crisis and there is calm, chaos and stillness, ugliness and sheer beauty. We all come from somewhere. Issue Eleven makes those roots visible.