Witnesses questioned over a traffic accident will tell such vastly different versions of events you could be forgiven for thinking they were recalling separate crashes. In a way they were: the crash they experienced - as participant or observer - is unique to their interior lives. External elements can be verified with tape measures, speed cameras and the like, but the subjective events are entirely personal. Legally, financially, physically - that can all be seen objectively, but those aspects have no true meaning or memory removed from the subjective, do they?
I think back to the past and I find it hard to keep straight what actually happened and what only happened in my imagination, perhaps I am very fortunate because the memories are almost indistinguishable. A person could be unsure of what did happen (and what does that matter or mean anyway?) and what might have happened or only happened in the head.
It is quite hazy. The memories of both real and imagined are equally strong. No, that encounter in the hotel (which hotel? which continent?) did not occur. There is no solid grief to attach to it. Is there a difference between grief associated with an imagined rendezvous and grief from a ‘real’ meeting?
Can the neurons tell the difference? Is there any material physical difference in the brain? All the past is only real in the brain, so both strands should have equal value if they were equally observed, felt and explored. For me, most things only become real through the imaginary power of writing them down; in effect the real and imagined could be identical. Is there any more power attached to an imaginary and inaccessible past than to a real, inaccessible past? The past is a foreign country to either kind of traveller. Except, in the imagination, all things are accessible if you work hard enough.