They closed the last Blockbuster in Australia in March and a week later my husband died. The coroner said heart failure and I knew she was right – my husband loved that place. He went there every ... [+]
***Some days I envy Gregor Samsa. He woke up from a troubled sleep and found himself transformed into a giant insect; but at least Kafka let him keep his human memories. My metamorphosis was the other way round. Physically, I remained untouched; but my mind went from a full slate to a blank slate, in one ordinary night.
***Try to imagine it. You wake up. The morning light is streaming through the open windows. A touch of coolness lingers in the air. Your eyes move around, taking in the bedside table, the floral-patterned curtains, the book-laden ornament-festooned shelves, the pictures, the potted plants....
Nothing is familiar but nothing is unfamiliar either. To recognise unfamiliar you must know familiar.
Panic and terror would come later. Initially, there is nothingness.
***The hiatus between what one knows and what one does not know is inexplicable. In those first few minutes, I did not know who I was but I knew that I was female. I did not know what day, month, or year it was but I did know it was morning. I did not know whose bed I was lying in, but I did know it was a bed.
Later, a mirror told me how I looked; a tape and a weighing scale revealed my vital statistics. Official documents, those intrusive staples of modern life, filled in basic blanks. Other pieces came from other people's memories, photos, and home-movies.
The person thus constructed, shard by shard, did not feel like me.
***Is the woman who calls me daughter—who attends to my every need, her mascara-lined eyes dark with pain even when her plum red lips smile—really my mother?
Is the child who calls me mother—and darts speculative looks at me when he thinks I am not looking—really my child?
Do feelings also die with memories? Why can I not feel anything for them? I would have welcomed some feeling, any feeling, even dislike. But I feel nothing.
How come I remember that mud cake is my favourite dessert and I love ‘The Planet Suite' but do not remember either my mother or my child?
Was I always like this, an indifferent daughter, an uncaring mother?
***Doctors reiterate that all my memories are there, intact, inside me, I just need to recall them. Some have hinted that my inability to summon my memories is, at least in part, an act of volition; I cannot remember because I do not want to remember.
Some nights I bite my nails and wonder if the doctors are right. Am I suppressing some terrible, dark deed, something I did or was done to me? I look at the humans who currently people my existence and wonder which one I had wronged or had wronged me.
***I just need to pick up a book to know whether I have read it or not. It is the same with movies. I remember practical things, from how to clean my teeth to how to drive the car, which is supposedly mine. I remember roads and directions. But my laptop is a blank to me, as is my phone.
A few days ago the child who calls me mother brought me a drawing. It is of a female figure with a blank oval for the face; no features, no eyes, no nose, no lips, no ears. Just blankness. Above it he had written ‘My Mother' and below is his neither familiar nor unfamiliar name, written in spiky childish letters.
I should have been moved to tears but I was not.
But I can still cry over books and movies. Last week I rescued a tiny piglet from being someone's dinner. As I held her in my arms, I understood love.
***When claustrophobia becomes unbearable, I go for walks. I take a bus to an unknown part of the city and I walk about aimlessly. Sometimes I go to a park or a bar or a library. Once or twice, I went to a movie. One evening, I spent a few hours with a man in an anodyne motel room. I don't know his name and he doesn't know mine. I realised I know how to make love even though I have no idea who I had made love to in my unremembered past.
Sometimes I have flashes, inklings, memories of memories. But they have no connection to the life I lead now or to the life I am supposed to have always led. Is my mind playing another trick? Are they bits and pieces out of stories I read and heard?
Or are they signals from my ‘actual' past, just as microwaves are said to be signals from the Big Bang?
***The doctors talk of a revolutionary new treatment which might help me to regain my memory.
The woman who calls herself my mother is thrilled; so are the other humans who people my current existence, who call themselves relations, colleagues, and friends.
The child who calls me mother has not said anything.
***I remember reading about a beach, where each grain of sand is someone's memory. The memories of everyone who ever lived, ever lives, are there.
I want to go to that beach. I want to pick each grain of sand, experiencing their different memories, until I find mine.
Some nights I close my eyes thinking, tomorrow.
Perhaps tomorrow I will get my memories back.
Perhaps tomorrow I will go looking for that beach, to find among its uncountable grains of sand, the memories I want to be mine.