Is this really my life? I think. Is this all I am? I take the pen and add another note to the board. Pack bag for tonight? It says. Not much of a reminder, but my own.
I hear a noise. A tune, coming from my bag. I open it and empty its contents onto the sofa. My purse, some tissues, pens, a lipstick. A powder compact, a receipt for two coffees. A diary, just a couple of inches square and with a floral design on the front and a pencil in its spine.
I find something that I guess must be the phone that Ben described--it is small, plastic, with a keypad that makes it look like a toy. It is ringing, the screen flashing. I press what I hope is the right button.
"Hello?" I say. The voice that replies is not Ben's.
"Hi," it says. "Christine? Is that Christine Lucas?"
I do not want to answer. My last name seems as strange as my first name had. I feel as though any solid ground I had attained has vanished again, replaced by quicksand.
"Christine? Are you there?"
Who can it be? Who knows I am, who I am? I realize it could be anyone. I feel panic rise in me. My finger hovers over the bottom that will end the call.
"Christine? It's me. Dr. Nash. Please answer."
The name means nothing to me, but still I say, "Who is this?"
The voice takes on a new tone. Relief? "It's Dr. Nash," he says. "Your doctor?"
Another flash of panic. "My doctor?" I say. I'm not ill, I want to add, but I do not know even this. I feel my mind begin to spin.
"Yes," he says. "But don't worry. We've just been doing some work on your memory. Nothing's wrong."
I notice the tense he has used. Have been. So this is someone else I have no memory of.
"What kind of work?" I say.
"I've been trying to help you to improve things," he says. "Trying to work out exactly what's caused your memory problems, and whether there's anything we can do about them."
It makes sense, though another thought comes to me. Why had Ben not mentioned this doctor before he left this morning?
"How?" I say. "What have we been doing?"
"We've been meeting over the last few weeks. A couple of times a week, give or take."
It does not seem possible. Another person I see regularly who has left no impression on me whatsoever.
But I've never met you before, I want to say. You could be anyone.
I say nothing. The same could be said of the man I woke up with this morning, and he turned out to be my husband.
"I don't remember," I say instead.
His voice softens. "Don't worry. I know." If what he says is true then he must understand that as well as anyone. He explains that our next appointment is today.
"Today?" I say. I think back to what Ben told me this morning, to the list of jobs written on the board in the kitchen. "But my husband hasn't mentioned anything to me." I realize it is the first time I have referred in this way to the man I woke up with.
There is a pause, and then Dr. Nash says, "I'm not sure Ben knows you're meeting em."
I notice that he knows my husband's name, but say, "That's ridiculous! How can he not? He would have told me!"
There is a sigh. "You'll have to trust me." He says. "I can explain everything, when we meet. W're really making progress."
When we meet. How can we do that? The thought of going out, without Ben, without him even knowing where I am or who I am with, terrifies me.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I can't."
"Christine," he says. "It's important. If you look in your diary you'll see what I'm saying is true. Do you have it? It should be in your bag."
I pick up the floral book from where it had fallen onto the sofa and register the shock of seeing the year printed on the front in gold lettering. 2007. Twenty years later that it should be.
"Look at today's date," he says. "November thirtieth. You should see our appointment?"
I don't understand how it can be November--December tomorrow--but still I skim through the leaves, thin as tissue, to today's date. There, tucked between the pages, is a piece of paper, and on it, printed in handwriting I don't recognize, are the words November 30th--seeing Dr. Nash. Beneath them, are the words Don't tell Ben.
About the book:
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 only be telling you half the story.
Excerpt from The Master and Margarita
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Excerpt from Invisible Monsters
- Chuck Palahniuk