Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love--all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may ...(more)
I am an adult, but a damaged one. It would be easy for this man to take me somewhere, though I don't know what he would want to do. I am as vulnerable as a child.
We reach the main road that separates the end of the street from the park opposite, and wait to cross. The silence between us feels oppressive. I had intended to wait until we were sitting down before asking him, but find myself speaking. "What sort of doctor are you?" I am saying. "What do you do? How did you find me?"
He looks over at me. "I'm a neuropsychologist," he say.s He is smiling. I wonder if I ask him the same question every time we meet. "I specialize in patients with brain disorders, with an interest in some of the newer functional neuroimaging techniques. For a long time I've been particularly interested in researching memory process and function. I heard about you through the literature on the subject, and tracked you down. It wasn't too difficult."
A car rounds the bend farther up the road and heads toward us. "The literature?"
"Yes. There have been a couple of case studies written about you. I got in touch with the place where you were being treated before you can to live at home."
"Why? Why did you want to find me?"
He smiles. "Because I thought I could help you. I've been working with patients with these sorts of problems for a little while. I believe they can be helped; however, they require more intensive input than the usual one hour per week. I had a few ideas about how real improvements could be effected and wanted to try some of them out." He pauses. "Plus I've been writing a paper on your case. The definitive work, you might say." He begins to laugh, but cuts it short when I do not join in. He clears his throat. "Your case is unsual. I believe we can discover a lot more about the way memory works than we already know."
The car passes and we cross the road. I feel myself get anxious, uptight. Brain disorders. Researching. Tracked you down. I try to breathe, to relax, but find I cannot. There are two of me, now, in the same body; one is a forty-seven-year-old woman, calm, polite, aware of what kind of behavior is appropriate and what is not, and the other is in her twenties, and screaming. I cannot decide which is me, but the only noise I hear is that of distant traffic and the shouts of children from the park, and so I guess it must be first.
On the other side, I stop and say, "Look, what's going on? I woke up this morning in a place I've never seen but that's apparently my home, lying next to a man I've never met who tells me I've been married to him for years. And you seem to know more about me than I know about myself."
He nods slowly. "You have amnesia," he says, putting his hand on my arm. "You've had amnesia for a long time. You can't retain new memories, so you've forgotten much of what's happened to you for your entire adult life. Every day you wake up as if you are a young woman. Some days you wake as if you are a child."