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
I crawled from the bathroom, choking back sobs, my whole body shaking with fear and revulsion. I wanted to peel off this skin, cut off my nose and lips, all of my face. Perhaps beneath it all was the person I was, not this simulacrum. But who was that exactly? I had no sense, no idea of where to even begin. My mind was blank, my thoughts as unfamiliar as the face that stared back at me, though they tantalized at moments, almost seeming to be my own. My instincts had returned me to this place, it was all there somewhere within me. For now I remained a foreign country to myself.
When I had recovered from my shock enough to get to my feet, I went to the kitchen to see if there was anything to drink. I fumbled through the cupboards haphazardly, my search of the apartment only moments before already forgotten, and came across a bottle of rye and some packets of chai tea. I opted for the tea, not trusting my stomach with the alcohol, though the thought of oblivion was tempting. I found the kettle and filled it with water and plugged it in, spending a few anxious moments waiting for it to come to a boil.
A phone began to ring as I waited for the tea to finish steeping. I located it in the bedroom atop a dresser amidst a scattering of detritus: loose change, receipts, and sunglasses, all stray pieces of a lost life. Looking at the display I saw a name and a number and, while I tried to call forth from my memory any details about the Meredith whose name appeared there, the call went to voicemail. The name did not seem familiar to me, but the number was a local one. How I knew that I could not say, but a quick search of the cell for its number showed the same area code and I thought it likely that my instincts were correct again. Continue reading
I remembered nothing until that moment, as I was walking through the park, when awareness seized my being. There was only darkness before—not even darkness, something without substance at all. I emerged, whole but flailing, my feet carrying me forward before any thought or awareness had taken form. It was as though all that had been left behind, scraped away, in my journey from the void to this place.
The park was the sort one could find in any city, with grass and trees, footpaths winding their way through the greenery, and benches set at intervals upon which people sat. The surrounding neighborhood was equally unremarkable, a mixture of houses and apartment buildings with not a landmark among them. There was what looked like a school at the park’s far end, with a yard fenced off from the rest of the park and turned into soccer and baseball fields.
I had no memories. How had I come to be here? Clearly I had been walking from somewhere, with some destination in mind. These facts eluded me.
My perception seemed heightened, my senses keen to the slightest shifts in shadow and light, a breeze the cause of astonishment. It was as though I had been denied these basic sensations for so long that a miniscule change appeared momentous. A cacophony of sound reached my ears: the symphony of leaves rustling, the hum of cars on pavement, and indecipherable murmurs of people around me. As they passed by I was entranced by their expressions, fleeting emotions passing across their face which it seemed only I was aware of.
Ahead of me a dog barked, quick and sharp, cutting through the clatter of sound and drawing my focus. It was led by a couple, perhaps in their early fifties. I followed them as they went along the path, listening to their conversation, though it was in a language I did not recognize. He appeared to be Japanese, though I could not have said why I felt that was so, and I was certain that he was not speaking in that language. That seemed significant to me and I listened to each intonation the couple made, certain somehow that if I could unravel this code I could understand what was happening. Continue reading