What happens when you don't remember your life. Or only remember parts
I’m sorry, have we met? You know, sometimes when it’s quiet I can remember what my life was like before moving to Cedar Springs. This is a nice place. People are very good to me and I can spend my time writing. What am I writing? My stories, or my life, I’m not sure. I write down what comes to my mind. Of course, I can’t tell if the stories are from my life or something that is made up. Memory is funny that way. It doesn’t matter if it is real or not, it is still just the arrangement of synapses. And mine tend to arrange like something out of a shot gun. I know I wasn’t shot with a shot gun. At least I think I wasn’t. No, I’m sure. It was a rifle. Or maybe a handgun. I don’t remember. That is one memory that has not returned. Maybe it’s good. I don’t think I’d like remembering being shot.
Am I rambling? I’m sorry, you do that when you can’t remember the beginning of the conversation. I’m better. I used to start sentences and forget where they were headed. So, sometimes I remember life before Cedar Springs. It wasn’t spectacular. I was a teacher, or maybe a soldier, maybe both. Both memories seem very real so I think they are real. I served in the desert. That is always the same, so that part is probably true, although the desert changes from sand to rocks, so maybe it was two deserts. I walked a lot, so I was probably a soldier. The natives were okay, mostly friendly. I played soccer with the kids. The guy next to me got shot and I pissed in my pants, so I guess we got shot at. But, I don’t think that was where I was shot because I remember having to help carry his body out to the medics and the medics sent me away. I don’t think they would have done that if I had been shot.
Cedar Springs is nice and quiet, which helps me remember things. That is my biggest memory as a soldier, the noise. Most people think it is explosions and weapons. Those are loud but not constant. The constant noise is everything else. Generators that run all the time. Vehicles moving around. Radios droning on and constant static. And the conversations all around you that never seem to stop. You never really get a chance to think. That is why I think those memories are real. The noise. It never seems to stop. Here at Cedar Springs, it’s quiet. I can remember things.
I remember being in front of a classroom. It’s quiet, not as quiet as Cedar Springs, but quiet. I’m talking about war, but not the war that I was in. It’s the Romans. I’m discussing how when they conquered Carthage, they slaughtered the men, burned the city and sowed the fields with salt. “They were pissed.” Students laugh at that line. I guess I was teaching college. The students are older and there are a lot of them. After the lecture, a few of them come up to talk to me. One of them is a pretty brunette, “I like your class. You tell a good story.” “Thank you, I try.”
There was a brunette in the war with me. So, maybe I wasn’t a combat soldier. Maybe she wasn’t in my unit. That part I don’t remember. She looks like the girl in the class, but different. Did I tell you I get my memories confused, that’s why it’s hard to remember my life before I came here. Anyway, the brunette in my war liked my stories.
“You’re a funny guy.”
“Thanks, I try.”
“Where did you learn all that?”
I don’t read anymore. It’s too hard. I start a book and forget what I’ve read by the end of a chapter. It would be nice to be able to read again. I remember I did a lot of reading. Even in the desert, I did a lot of reading. People around me called me ‘The Professor.’ I think that was a nickname. When I remember the classroom, they call me professor also. I think by then I was one.
It’s quiet here. Do you like it? I do. It lets me remember what it was like before I came to Cedar Springs. Of the two memories, I like the college one best. Not for what you think. My memories of being a soldier are mostly of hanging out. I don’t remember the war stuff very much. These are the shortest, but most vivid memories. The guy next to me being shot. Walking down a street on patrol. The brunette that thought I was funny. Her I remember in detail. She always smelled of soap. Which was hard to do in the desert. She had glasses, so her tan line made her look like an owl. I told her that once and she punched me. Not hard, one of the taps you get from a friend, or a lover. We might have been. When I remember her, I think of how strawberries taste. Did she use strawberry lip balm? I don’t remember. I think so. Her hands were soft and she would run them across my chest when we were together. Yes, we were lovers. She was very soft. It was nice. We would make love in the bunkers. She would bring candles. It was as romantic as you could get in a war zone. After we would talk about what would happen stateside. I found out she was married. We must have stopped because I don’t remember her much after that. Maybe she rotated back. I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure I loved her and was angry when I found out she was married. There must have been a fight, because I don’t remember it. I don’t seem to remember bad things.
Memory is funny. Important things are forgotten. Small things are remembered. I can remember a flea crawling on my skin, but not the name of the guy next to me that got shot. I wonder why it does that. Maybe one of the doctors can explain it to me. Cedar Springs has some good doctors. That is why I am here. They are trying to get my memory straight. I’m not sure they can or that I want them to. I like only remembering the good times.
The memories of the brunette from the class room are better. She wasn’t a student in the class. I think she was a graduate student. She was older. I remember her in my office. And the two of us getting coffee. She had stacks of papers to grade. Definitely a graduate student. She had soft hands also. But didn’t smell of soap. That is how I know they are not the same woman. She smelled of vanilla. I found out she used it as perfume. “Men are driven by their animal passions and they love cake more than flowers.” She said that one time. She was sitting up in bed, so we must have been lovers also. Her back was beautiful and I liked to run my hand down her spine. She was thin, but athletic thin. Her spine reminded me of a stone fence separating the field of muscles on her back. I can remember the feel of her spine against my chest. She curled up next to me after making love and I would wrap my arm around her. Like I was protecting her or pulling her in to me. I remember she had a beauty spot on the back of her ear, but cannot remember her eye color. Did I tell you memory was funny?
We talked when we were curled up. We planned a future. That is how I know she is not the same woman as when I was a soldier. She told me about growing up in a small town. Of how she didn’t really want to leave, but wanted to go to college. She wanted to live in a small town when we got married. Were we engaged? Did we get married? I wish I remembered that. That should be a happy memory. I should remember that. Maybe we only talked about it. Maybe something happened. Maybe I got shot before we got married.
I can’t tell if Cedar Springs is in a small town. The only thing I can see is the garden and the mountain so I think it might be. The girl from school would like it, I think. We used to hike together. She had to convince me to go. “Not all hiking is a forced march or patrol.” We would go to watch the birds. She would take pictures. I would tell her about when I was a soldier and other wars. She was quiet when I talked and after. I felt better after talking to her.
Oh, I remember. She got pregnant. Yes, I remember her telling me. We WERE married. We had a small house. We were in the backyard. She said it needed a swing set. I think I was happy. I must have been because I remember her telling me and I only seem to remember the happy. I don’t remember a child. Never. That is why I think we lost the baby or it died. I don’t remember her very much after that. Did she leave me? Did she die? I don’t remember. That part must not be a happy memory. I asked the doctors and they won’t talk to me. Maybe I will remember when I am ready. It must have been something very bad. Did I cause it? Was I there? I wish I remembered more. But I like that my only memories are of the good and the happy.
I remember how we got the nursery ready. She wanted it bright yellow, but couldn’t get up the ladder. So she had me paint while she sat there. I kidded her about her being in supervisory position one. She told me that what I got for knocking her up. She was like that. Very classy looking, but would talk trashy to make me laugh. She helped me forget things from the war. Ironic that now I have trouble remembering things. I wish I had more happy memories of her. I remember her sitting on me in bed. She would sit there and draw shapes in my chest hair while we talked. I remember her smile. My biggest memory is that I loved her very much. At night, when it is very quiet, I can almost remember what color her eyes were.
Sometimes, when it's quiet, I can remember what my life was like before moving to Cedar Springs.
“How is our patient?”
“Not sure. Vitals look okay and there is a lot of brain activity, but not responsive.”
“So, what’s his story?”
“Shot in an suicide-attempted murder by an old girlfriend.”
“Yeah. Her PTSD got to her and she lost it.”
“Still no visitors?”
“No, apparently he was a loner.”