The Cafe Beano was a coffee shop on the corner of a busy avenue not far from the apartment building, a place I was convinced I had been before, though no memory would come to me. Yet I knew where it was and could picture its cluttered interior, with tables and chairs strewn about seemingly at random, could smell the bitter coffee and hear the chatter of the menagerie of people gathered within its walls. It was the specificity of these memories that seemed the strangest of all to me. Why could I recall with exacting detail everything about the Beano, but not remember having been there or anywhere else in this city, wherever it was? It was if someone had planted the memory whole within me, but left aside all the context, all the things that made a memory personal. This recollection could have been anyone’s, just as I could be anyone, and that was what bothered me most of all.
Meredith might be able to help there, I reasoned, as I walked back through the park to the coffee shop. All those things which had seemed so significant earlier—the couple talking, the movement of the light through the tree branches, the damp smell of the earth—I noted now in a glancing way, giving them no real thought, my mind on how to proceed with Meredith. Did I reveal to her that I had no memory of who I was? Could I trust her with that information? Best to wait until I better understood what she wanted and go from there, I decided.
I had a sudden moment of panic as I stepped into the Cafe Beano, glancing about at the faces of those sitting at the tables or standing in line for coffee, and realized I had no idea what Meredith looked like. If she was already here I would have no way of finding her—how had this not occurred to me before, I wondered, feeling my face go red—and there would be no hiding my memory loss from her. Realizing there was nothing else for it now that I was here, I went and stood in line, fidgeting and glancing about to see if anyone in the place was trying to meet my eyes.
As I waited a slim woman, with hair that wavered between blond and brown, depending on the light, pulled tight into a dancer’s bun that peaked atop her head, came alongside me and said in a quiet voice, so unlike the one she had used on the phone, “I’ll get a table at the back. Get me a latte.” Continue reading