36. what if you’ve forgotten your own?

I have taken to my bed, and I’m not quite sure why; is it fatigue, or a kind of incubation? Each night I resolve to wake up early the next morning and to remain awake, to begin work, to turn this nocturnal life around into something that more closely resembles the lives of those around me. And each morning I rise with the alarm, make breakfast, and then slip back beneath the covers after my son leaves for school. Only another hour, I tell myself, but I know that I’m lying, know I won’t make that ten-o’clock-appointment, and even still I willingly believe the only-another-hour story and pull the covers closer to my body. Only an hour, only another hour, I chant, and then I drift off into blessed sleep.

Is it the medication? I have another month to presumably sleep through before I speak to the doctor about reducing the dosage. I could sleep, sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep, there are no limits to the hours I could spend in bed right now with a cat at my side and another at my feet. I’ve found my new world: crouched under the covers, the window open wide, I can have my comfort and fresh air at the same time—what more do I need? To think that only a year ago I jogged five kilometers each day is not only startling; it seems like a blatant lie.

We talk nearly every night now, we never run out of things to tell each other, but sometimes we lie there with our eyes closed and remain silent, each of us in our own bed, nearly a thousand kilometers apart. I am pupating, resting on the threshold between one phase of my life and another. When will I wake up, and what will I be?

I hadn’t been outside in over five days; on the way to a reading on Tuesday I stopped at the bank to make a cash withdrawal. I typed in my PIN, but it was wrong; I typed it in again, wondering how I’d made a mistake, wrong again, and stupidly, instead of pausing to think—but why is the number wrong?—I typed it in a third time. By this time, the sequence of four numerals had begun to feel strange, as unfamiliar as a word one turns over in the mouth again and again until it’s sucked clean of meaning; I had begun to doubt myself, my own memory, only five days and already my PIN, as familiar to me as my own birth date, was dissolving in my mind like a mirage. Wrong for the third time: the automat informs me that I can no longer use my card.

That was three days ago. For three days I have been planning to get to the bank to correct this problem. In the meantime, it came to me like a flash, the correct number materialized in my mind, and it didn’t seem strange in the least—I’d transposed the first two digits, that was all—and once again I felt reassured that the world I live in is indeed familiar, hasn’t mutated in my absence. Although it occurs to me that I couldn’t remember my neighbor’s name recently, a name I’ve said hundreds of times. I was about to insert it into a sentence—and it was gone. My mind groped around the cubbyhole reserved for this particular neighbor, felt the sides, the bottom and top. I knew her name began with the letter S, but the cubbyhole was empty and remained empty for what felt like a long time.

I am not old enough for this to begin happening. I meant to tell you this, but forgot. Is it a side effect of the medication? Is this what it feels like to have your life crumble away from you? One name, and then another, and then the dates start to go, telephone numbers, numbers you haven’t had to write down in decades, numbers you have to search for but cannot find because they aren’t written anywhere, they’re too obvious to write down, as obvious as the names of friends too close to require a surname in your mind—but what if you’ve forgotten the name, what do you do then? And what if you’ve forgotten your own? Like the class photos from grade school: I still remember thinking that I would remember my classmates forever, thinking how stupid adults must be who look back on their youth and can no longer remember the name of the boy in the third row, second to left, or the girl next to him. How can you forget your own life, I used to wonder in disdain.

I was recently contacted by a woman on Facebook; she claimed we’d graduated high school together. She had a clear memory of me: who I was at the time, the things people thought about me, said about me, the places they’d imagined I’d go one day. Nearly twice my entire lifetime at that time has passed since. She attached a photograph of herself: tweezed eyebrows and eyeliner, blow-dried hair, an Italian-American name like thousands of others on Staten Island—but I could not, for the life of me, remember her. And how many of them have forgotten me?

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