Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mneumonic


The phone is a large block of putty gray. The sun slants rays like ladders through the windows. I have internalized the tender bruises on my face now. These marks are reminders of the things I have lost. I cannot remember what I have lost.

It has been six months and even the most basic things must be proven every hour of every day. I can stay awake most of the day now but still have no memory. My doctor tells me I am damaged and that I cannot retain a memory for longer than an hour or so. I am writing as fast as I can in hopes that I will remember. Hoping that I will be forced to remember.

My body is a smooth white hard cast with two tubes as my legs. My left arm is held up by a metal frame wedged down my back, over my shoulder into the cast. There is a metal cage around my head, to keep it still. I am able to write though it isn’t a simple thing.

I am a woman beneath all of this though to look at me you could not tell a woman’s shape from that of a loaf of bread. I am an ocean of white. I am sexless.

On my rolling table is the phone, some paper, a bible someone left, a pitcher of water, a newspaper opened to the personal ads, a bed pan. I was beaten and left for dead – so they tell me. You see, I don’t remember. It has been six months. I wonder how I am able to remember these words? How to write?

I can’t recall a name. Or even a song. I can’t even recall a scent that I might have liked.

I am going home today. It has been six months. I am going home with a man who says he is my husband. But I can’t even recall his face now, though they tell me he was here this morning.

I am writing as fast as I can, so I can remember; so I will be forced to remember.

I have a dozen breaks in my legs, thighs. Kneecaps broken, every bone in my left hand is broken. Temples are scored with suture lines. The man who said he was a police detective said there were five of them. Don’t know the motive – not robbery – possibly gang related, what colors was I wearing? The bat they found tossed away at the scene was covered with my skin and smeared blood and hair. This is what the man who said he was a police detective said. I can’t recall.

I’m damaged, the doctors told me – affecting my short-term memory. I can’t even remember a song. The harder I try the fainter the memory becomes.

There is an article the man who said he was my husband brought me, about when I graduated from City College. The article was about my plans to join the Peace Corps. The picture resembles me – but it is not me. When I hold up a mirror I still gasp. The raccoon eyes. The elephantine head. The man who said he was my husband said I looked like a Picasso painting with my grotesque cheeks.

I am ugly.

There are pictures of children. They tell me I have two. I cannot remember ages or sexes. I cannot remember the labor, the delivery. Where are my maternal instincts? How can that be gone? I cannot remember walking them to their first day of class. I cannot remember first their Christmas.

Memory is such a fragile coat rack for the garments of one’s life.

I am writing to recall. I am writing as fast as I can so I don’t forget. I am writing so I will be forced to remember.

The phone is nearby. I play with the buttons. Numbers. Isolated digits. I am going home today. It has been six months. I am to call the number on the pad for the man who says he is my husband to get me. I don’t want to go. They won’t let me stay. The newspaper ads are open: someone needs a roommate.

The man who says he is a police detective made me look at pictures. I may as well be reading a foreign language.

Pain is constant. I cannot remember a time when I was not in pain. When I sleep it is a blank colorless putty grey sleep – at least I believe it is. I cannot remember anything. I am writing to remember. I am writing as fast as I can. I am hoping this will force me to remember.

I don’t know if it is working. I don’t know if it will ever work. The orderly is here to bring lunch. I think he might be familiar. His blank face shows no recognition. Maybe he was here when they brought me in. Maybe not. It has been six months. I can see better now that the swelling has gone down some over both my eyes. I am almost off the morphine altogether they tell me.

Broken ribs, torn shoulder and knee cartilage, severe exposure, cuts on the face, cigarette burns in various parts of my body.

What was I doing there alone? It might have been gang related. What colors was I wearing?

The man who said he was a police detective left with lots of questions. He is a ruddy, barrel of a man, always preoccupied.

I am writing to remember. I am writing as fast as I can. I am forcing myself to remember. I am writing to feel again.

When I rub my hand over my head I feel the stubble where hair once was. I feel the grotesqueness through my fingers. It is a hard feeling. It feels like someone else’s head. I have lost nerve endings there. It will never be my head again.

The telephone sits – the newspaper lays open almost begging. The number on the pad sits hidden beneath the pitcher of water.

What are my children’s names? I turn pictures over. The man who says he is my husband thinks it will help me remember. I cannot. These are beautiful children. But they are not mine.

Broken arms and wrists, fractured sternum, puncture wounds inflicted with an ice pick, perforated left eardrum, broken jaw and broken teeth, broken disks.

I cannot recall what it is like to be free of pain.

I am a woman. I must keep telling myself this. I am in this gray hospital room. This is all I know. Soon, a man who says he is my husband will come – when I call him. I have tried to sing. Have I heard those notes before? I begin to recognize the unfamiliarity of things.

The newspaper is open. The phone is large, shiny and plastic. I am to call the number on the pad.

I dial a number I have never dialed before.

I am starting over.

MB 2003



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