Do you remember?
The vagaries of memory.
You've said it before.
The better half wants you to go to brunch with their 197-year-old aunt who smells of cat food; it's a three-hour drive up the coast; you have to leave at 6am on a Saturday but you just happen to get on the drink until 3am.
"What the hell were you thinking?" says the better half as you stumble into the passenger seat. "I told you we were going to see Auntie Stringbag."
"I forgot," you say.
And maybe you really did.
It's only human to block out events, conversations and promises that cause us distress or unease: it's why dentists call to confirm root-canal appointments, insurance firms tape-record phone conversations … and how politicians manage to sleep at night.
Our leaders, however, have usually got someone following them with a camera or tape recorder, so they fudge; more often than not saying things like "I don't recall", "I mis-spoke", "I wasn't aware" or "that was a non-core promise".
But what of our loved ones and intimates?
Is there a more frustrating experience than having to defend yourself against words you never uttered or convince a friend's blank face they really did borrow $200 on Saturday night?
Worse still is when someone accuses you straight out of words you never mouthed or they misrepresent your tone, mood or intentions.
As humans, we have many tools at our disposal, but one of the most potent has to be a good memory. The rest of us just have to make do with what we've got and sometimes it's pretty blurry and foggy.
How many times have you barked at someone "you said you would" when, in fact, they said they "could", so their promise gets downgraded to them having said they "might" and you're undone by your first poor memory?
I guess the thing to remind yourself of, or at least try to practise, is that there've probably been plenty of times when you've said one thing, meant another, and a person has thought you were lying or at least being evasive, when you were just having a vague moment.
Still, that's little comfort when someone you're close to continuously seems to conveniently forget promises they've made.
That's why it's always good to have open lines of communication with people you love, so you can call them on obvious distortions before they set into memory's concrete.
Have you ever let an obvious fib go with a friend or loved one, then called them on it months or years later and they said: "Well, why didn't you say something back then if you thought I was lying?"
Your generosity is then repositioned as tacit acknowledgement they were telling the truth.
Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting" and, if you take two minutes to work out what the bloke's going on about, it's something like this.
When it comes to the people who exercise power over our daily lives, by all means forgive but never forget because we'll never keep the mongrels honest if we can't even remember the lies they've told.
However, when it comes to personal relationships, things are never this black and white.
I know I've been absolutely certain someone said "A", they insist they said "B" and when we speak to an independent witness, they'll recall it being "C".
I try to remind myself about these moments when arguing the toss over recollections; you're often both wrong.
There's a saying that when "one finger points forwards, three point back" - meaning we're all guilty of the stuff we like to blame others for.
I must remember that.
Jeez, don't I have some fans in Melbourne? Every single-speed bike-riding university lit student with a tumblr blog down there seems to think I'm an arsewipe, so it'll come as wonderful news to them all I'll be speaking at the iconic Sun bookshop in Yarraville on September 14. It's a free event, but bookings are essential so call 03 9689 0661 or email email@example.com.