He was a man with anterograde amnesia - he could encode no new episodic memories. He had some past memories to anchor him a little, give him a sense of identity. Otherwise he was adrift. He inhabited narrow parcels of time, probably no more than half a minute long (and often less), whatever his short term memory could hold. He did not remember people he had just met, or what he had just been saying or doing, or what others said and did to him. Every morning when he woke up he felt as if he was awakening after a long sleep, years-long. He would lean over to a diary at his bedside and write that he was finally awake. Then he would discover a previous entry documenting the same thing (that he had finally woken up!) and with a feeling of uneasy dismissal he would cross out that previous entry, thinking it impossible that he could have written such a thing. Most of his life felt like that - the recent seconds slipping, and then a sensation of waking up fresh to the world, not remembering why he was sitting on the couch (his couch?) or why there was a dinner plate in front of him.
Less than two weeks ago the field was caked from end to end in snow and ice, brilliant in the sunshine, with a couple of benches bobbing around like rowboats on an arctic sea. This week the snow has crept away, uncovering dry brown grass. Boys and girls in sweatshirts, tee-shirts, and shorts rush out to play frisbee. Nearby some guys play volleyball barefoot on a sandy court; their big golden dog dashes around their bare legs.
The words come with difficulty, over the phone or face-to-face, but once I find them and say them some relief comes to me; things haven't turned out badly or as awkwardly as I feared. I can even laugh.
Several times this week I watch myself from a somewhat detached vantage point within my mind, like a master observing the workings of an automaton that she ostensibly controls. There I am speaking to one group of people, then to another, and there I am walking, one foot before the other, and listening patiently, and being in turn observed by others. And in response to a lot of what I see I think, "why"?
Bad hand-writing makes for a sort of malleable identity. What's meant to be a 'G' looks like an 'S'; a lowercase i is more like a lowercase o. One person no longer exists on the roster, and several have wriggled out of order, out to explore new alphabetical territory.
Diagrams on a board; illustrations dotted out on yellow notepad paper. We map out another attempt at overcoming a difficult problem.
For the first time in months I sit outside on a bench and read. I don't get much reading done; the breeze tempts me to distraction.