The Impermanence of Memory

I look around the circle of faces, but no one in the group was remotely familiar to me. The doctors tried to shove it all under the rug of amnesia after my accident, but somehow, I know better. This is more than just a bump on my head. A lot more.

And they won’t listen. Such gloriously educated and highly respected medical professionals, and they just won’t listen to me. Because I’m nobody.

I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too?

Every now and then a whisper rings true, a faint tickle on my temporal lobe. It’s like the prophetic dark clouds hovering over me, eagerly awaiting the right moment to release their rain droplets. And then it’s gone, like nothing ever happened. Like the only things I’ve ever known are the things that I can remember now.

These precious few.

img_0619Sometimes when I close my eyes there’s a shack in the woods. I don’t know if I lived there or not, if I built it or not, if it’s real or not. Sometimes when I close my eyes it’s all darkness, and I have to open them again and turn on all the lights or else I’ll scream and scream and scream.

Silence. I forgot that I was in group therapy right now. They must be waiting for me to talk. I hate it when it’s my turn. I don’t have anything to say. I don’t remember if we’re still doing introductions. Did I already say my name today? Not that it matters anyway, not in a group for a bunch of people with brain damage.

I stand up.

“Kristy Patterson, 26, car accident.”

I sit down.

They’re still looking at me. We must be past the introductions and on to some topic or other.

“I don’t remember what we’re talking about.”

This is the only place I can say that and nobody makes me think about why I don’t remember. Nobody wants to know what I was doing with the few brain cells that still work instead of paying attention to whatever it is I’m supposed to be paying attention to. It’s the little things that comfort me. The few secrets I have left.

I guard them with my life.

Somebody’s talking, trying to catch me up on the conversation, but I’ve already tuned them out again, closed my eyes to explore the cabin. It’s there this time, not the darkness. I open the door and enter.

It’s like I’ve stepped onto a movie set. Bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Ancient plaid couch covered in handmade quilts. The smell of hot cocoa creeps softly into my nostrils, and I inhale deeply. I’m home.

Someone’s shaking me. I open my eyes to a stranger’s hand on my shoulder. I brush it off forcefully, and he stumbles back a bit, not expecting me to react as I have. What kind of a person just touches somebody else and shakes them when they’re obviously busy?

I stand up and make a fist. He starts to say something to me, so I punch him in the face. Serves him right, touching my shoulder without considering how I might react. I could be missing the part of my brain that’s in charge of impulse control.

It was a good hit, if I do say so myself. He staggers back a step and reaches up to wipe the blood from his mouth where I’ve split his lip on his row of straight white teeth. I don’t need teeth like that telling me what to do.

I sit down and close my eyes again. Just for a second, just to finish exploring the living room of that little house on the prairie. In the woods. But the door’s locked this time, so I open my eyes again.

I should know better by now. I really should. Every time, it’s the same damn thing. I do remember things since I woke up here just like everyone else does, you know. And here they are, just like every other time I hit somebody.

Two techs, a man and a woman, rush in the group room, the man holding a syringe. It feels like only seconds have passed since I punched that jerk in the mouth, but his shirt is a bloody Rorschach now. I could have sworn that he wasn’t bleeding badly enough for that. Maybe this time someone will press charges and I’ll finally have my ticket out of the hospital and into the world, even if it is jail.

But no dice. I pull my shirtsleeve up for the syringe and follow the woman to the same room I always go to. The man follows me, but they should know by now that I’m not going anywhere I’m not supposed to go.

I just wish people wouldn’t touch me. If he hadn’t touched me, his shirt would still be just fine and dandy. Swear.

I curl up on my side in my bed and pull the blanket up as the world begins to slow down and the colors begin to swirl together.

When I close my eyes, it’s the screaming darkness, but I’m too drugged to escape it.

The scream echoes in my head forever, and I can’t wake myself up.

 

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