Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Silence of Memory

Perhaps one morning it happens. You sit down with a cup of coffee, a notepad, a pencil. You catch yourself gazing at the monitor screen and then that’s the last thing you ever recall. A heavy fog has just rolled in.

You hear questions. Date? Month? Who’s you working for? Who’s our president? You tell them. You don’t remember what you’ve just told them. You ask the same question again. No, today is not Wednesday. No, not the month of October. No, you don’t work for that company anymore. No, the president is not Bush but Obama.

They wheel you into a room. Where am I going? CAT scan. Just to make sure you’re not having a stroke. Bright lights. The whirring of machines. Masked faces. Then they wheel you out. Your brain is fine. No bleeding. They ask more questions. You answer instantly. Then you ask the same questions just asked. Words evaporate. Frowns. Let’s give him an MRI. White lights. A long cylinder that makes constant noises. Then out and down a corridor and faces fly by and a room with a wall clock. Drink a glass of orange juice. Outside it’s getting dark. What happened? It can’t be afternoon. The morning freshness lingers in your mind. The strong aroma of coffee. But the clock on the wall says 6:05. You’re not in your jeans and flannel shirt. You’re sitting on a hospital bed in a gown. Why am I here? A nurse came in. Your MRI results are fine, she says and then, You know what day it is today? Wednesday. Your home address? You tell her. Your home phone number? You tell her that, too. Who do you work for and where’s their main office? You answer and she nods with a big smile. What do you remember last? she asks. A cup of strong, black coffee at eight in the morning. Did that affect my brain? She laughs and has to hit herself in the chest to stop. Then what’s wrong with me? Well, she says, you had what’s called transient global amnesia. Short-term memory loss. What causes it? We don’t know. Really. You could be jogging along on a bike trail, trip and fall. No head injury. Next thing is you go into a fog. Like you did today. Fortunately, you still recognize people you know – and you know who you are. Strange? Well, look at the bright side. Everyone who suffers it comes out of it in no time. Sounds like you’ve just wandered back from another dimension with no imprints on your memory.

You lie down after she left. You look out the window. The velvety black of evening is blinking with lights. You feel estranged from yourself, yet knowing it will all come back, so that your memory will be full again with its age-old weight.

You look at the wall clock. From morning to dusk in one instant, with no burden of memory. What if one morning you sit down to write and the story just vanishes? Like time machine traveling perhaps. Yet with a withering white memory.
[Inspired by the Six Hours Missing article in the Washington Post, September 1, 2009]

1 comment:

  1. hey, nice mood piece.
    I'm on my way to Tucson. Will read more later.