It was late, but driving at night always appealed to her. She was a night owl, working grave shifts; even on her days off rarely surfaced before the sun was on its downhill slide. She tossed her duffle carelessly in the backseat of her old Nissan wagon. It landed on the heap of soda bottles, paper bags full of clothing and other miscellaneous things a young woman kept handy when she was always trying to escape home.
This was going to be a different kind of trip. It was a difficult household – just the two of them, and sometimes the older woman’s depression and needs took their toll. She was twenty-five years old, but Grandma treated her like she was still a toddler, despite the dependence on her granddaughter.
The depression ran much deeper than that. Taking it on for both had taken its toll on her, and it was just the icy tip of her mountain. Twenty-five years of falling down that mountain, rolling and tumbling, bruised by every hit she took. Grandma hadn’t been able to save her from that, though it felt as if nobody had ever tried quite hard enough. The result being that everyone now bore the brunt of her solid edge. Nobody had taken away the abuse, the hate she’d suffered at her stepmother’s hand.
Then came the affair. For the last few years she’d been embroiled in a hot-blooded, emotional entanglement with someone she couldn’t be with, couldn’t be without. He’d never promised to leave his wife for her – she knew the rules before rolling the dice across her heart. The snake eyes that came up were none but her own.
The inferno was dying, there was no strength left in her to bring it back to life. She could stand the hurt if he would only love her, but alone, empty of him, her mind melted. Others took her body, one without her permission, but nobody could rescue her heart.
This was going to be a different kind of trip.
Fumes? Pills, or chemicals? She didn’t have a gun. There wasn’t a determined plan, more just a knowing. She didn’t want to come back, and she had nowhere left to go. As the car rolled forward, there was no looking back at the house she’d known her entire life, before nobody wanted her and it became her prison.
The car seemed to drive its way across town with a mind of its own. She looked at the unlit homes, the neon signs over the darkened buildings for what would be the last time. This town owned her, had cast its curse mercilessly. She felt no pride at this place of her birth, her life.
Without warning, a tow truck barreled up alongside her, moving into her lane and with no one else to witness it, shoved her car into the curb. The wheel snapped violently against her hands as the truck’s red lights cruised away from her. There was a sharp pain as she let go. The car lifted itself onto the sidewalk before coming back to the gutter with a hard fall and her head landed against the cold window.
Everything was quiet.
It was , and the street was vacant. After a moment, she pushed on the door and it creaked open slowly. Falling out of the car, she stumbled to the sidewalk, noting the black tire marks that squiggled across the moonlit gray. One busted tire rested on the curb with its rim dented heavily, and another was shredded.
She sank to the ground, and she cried.
“I may have already said this…” It’s a reflexive statement that begins most of my conversations, or is dropped in at some point. In the last fifteen years, it’s become a way of a life with memory loss.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone who was commenting on my hair. “Oh, that is such a great story…” and started to tell one of my favorite tales of how I became a redhead.
“You already told me.” He interrupted. I did? The thought iced across me. But... so I had. He even gave me the details. I had absolutely no recollection of this conversation, and I’ve only known him for a month.
Many of my friends in their seventies and eighties have sharper minds than I do, and I’m only half that. They laugh and tell me I’m not old enough to have those problems yet. Surely I’m exaggerating.
I forget things. Big things, little things. Lots of things. My husband loves it, I suspect, because he can use it to his advantage in an argument, and does so often. “But you said…!”
There’s a name for such things – PTSD, DID, MPD. But… I don’t care for labels. It’s all hints and allegations.
Most of my childhood is gone. Something can be jarred and will fall out of the attic, but for the most part it’s all been boxed up and sealed. A good part of my twenties has been taken away. I’ll read the scant journals that have thankfully survived. If it weren’t my name attached to them, I’d wonder who that person was, because it’s not anyone I know. I read archives of conversations I had online or in email, and feel sad for her before realizing.. that’s me.
My obsession of begging my family for photos that I try to preserve grows more every day. Everything my husband and I do, I take hundreds of pictures, not wanting to forget our life, but even the images don’t always help. They can tell me what I was wearing, that he still had streaks of color in his hair, but they don’t tell me how I felt. That he tells me every day “I love you” shows me the life we have built, when the rest fades away all too quickly.
That tow truck was an eraser, swiping away much of what was scribbled in my head. It didn’t just take away the bad things, it stole away the good as well. My instincts have had to sharpen themselves on the stone of what is forgotten. .
I’ve also become fixated on writing down as much as I can now, because I’ve trained myself. My words have to paint as much detail as possible. They are what preserve the emotion.
Entertaining myself has become easier – I can watch an old movie or reread a book because I won’t recall the ending. I am thankful for the social media of today that allows me to express myself, and save it for later. The technology to rebuild my memory for a later time.
There’s no recollection or proof that I hit my head that night. Amnesia isn’t always brought on by physical injury. Something broke inside, something was happening that apparently I couldn’t handle anymore. This is what therapy has taught me. The weight of it all simply collapsed upon itself. The weight of being me.
I’m constantly looking in the windows of my own life, trying to find the door to get in.
Like a child, I need steady reminders to accomplish the simplest of tasks. I break promises without meaning to – a constant source of disappointment in myself. Many think I’m not interested enough in their lives to remember a conversation, an event or a favor. It becomes tiresome to repeat themselves, and I get that. But try it from my end sometime. I don’t even get to enjoy being the narcissist I appear to be.
It’s been years now of trying to unlock secrets. I don’t know what frightens me more – the burden of what’s stayed with me, or the horror of what was left behind.
“I’ve been all up and down the roads that lead to my old memories but I can’t find the one with all my hopes and dreams. And I’ve been looking in my eyes for something I still recognize. Some stranger’s stare is all I see – I miss me, I’m not the same. Just someone else usin’ my name…”
© Kymberlie Ingalls,
March 11, 2012
Quote: The Last Unicorn / Peter S. Beagle
Lyrics: I Miss Me / Brad Cotter
“Drown out my dreams!Keep me from remembering whatever wants me to remember it!”
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