My wife said we should go to Hotel Mac for dinner. Now, I've heard of Hotel Mac, but I couldn't tell you what the place looks like, even though I've been there and eaten there.
"Have we really eaten there before?" I asked.
"Yes. You said you liked it."
She sighed and said, "Not again."
Here’s the problem—I have holes in my memory. Not selective ones that all spouses develop over the length of a marriage, but real holes in my memory where past experiences have been torn out.
I actually have a good memory. Usually, I remember everything in the finest detail, including dates, places, the meals I ate and the clothes I wore, but I have these holes. They stem from a single incident. A car struck me when I was riding my bicycle a few years back. I had my helmet on (which I hate), but I still hit my head hard enough to get a concussion. The concussion left me with the usual results, like the inability to modulate the volume of my voice and forgetting I was wearing a bike helmet long after I should have taken it off. The most amusing side effect was that the concussion knocked me back to 1997. My brain was in English mode. I got into the wrong sides of cars to drive and had the urge to drive on the left. Julie took my keys away after that. The most troubling side effect was severe short-term memory loss to the extent that I couldn't remember a conversation I'd just finished. The most frustrating incident involved Julie waiting for me outside with Royston to go on a walk while I sat indoors with the leash in my hand watching TV wondering why I had a leash in my hand. But things sorted themselves out after a couple of weeks.
Then a few months later, I noticed new problems. I remember the hospital and I remember laughing and joking with the nurses who took me for a CT scan, but I don't remember the scan itself. As hard as I try, I can't visualize the scan. I lost other memories to the extent I could admit no knowledge and pass a polygraph. The things I have no memory of are close to the time of the accident, but occasionally new memories fall into holes. People I've met, for example. Author, Douglas Clegg had to remind me that we'd met when I told him it was a pleasure meeting him for the first time. I have no idea where we originally met. I get to visit places again that I don't remember visiting in the past. Even when I revisit, it doesn’t spark some recognition.
Once a hole, always a hole, I guess.
I wish I could say I find this funny, but at times, I don't. It pisses me off. I hate to think I have experiences, thoughts, and ideas that slip through voids that I can never recover and like wet soap, no matter much I try to hold onto them, they slither out of my grasp.
I've noticed a little OCD creeping in, because I can't remember if I've just locked doors or where I put my wallet. I've instituted a series of safe places where I make a conscious effort to store things. Now, I'm not sure if that’s absent-mindedness because I'm always so busy or the enlarging of my memory hole. Only time will tell.
Julie decided to test me. The Hotel Mac is one of my holes, so Julie took me to see if I would remember it.
I didn't—but I did.
Confused? You should be. I know I was.
I didn't remember the building at all. I thought I would and when I did, everything would come flooding back, especially as it’s a historic and distinctive building, but I didn't. Julie pointed it out, but dislocated memories failed to snap back into place.
We parked up and went inside. The interior, the décor, the menu, none of it stirred up any recollection. But the host’s podium did. It stuck with me because it was so weird. The bar is downstairs with the restaurant above. You have to climb the stairs and at the top of the stairs is a little nook where the host sits. I remembered that, but still drew a blank about everything else about the hotel.
Julie walked me through our previous visit. She told me where we sat and what we ate. It was all news to me.
Nothing else came to light until we left and walked up the sloping sidewalk back to the car. I remembered the same trek from our previous visit.
As much as I should find this escapade scary (with the memory void and all) I didn't. I was compelled to put my damaged memory to the test, even though it failed.
This issue is now the core idea for a novel I'm writing. Now while memory loss is interesting as a plotline, it's not the most fascinating aspect for me. The issue of inserted memory is. As we've tried to rebuilt my memory by flexing tired mental muscles the notion of whether I truly remember people and places has become an issue for me. Do I remember a person because I've jogged my memory or because people have told me it's so. What if I remember nothing and everything I do remember is imprinted over the top. Suddenly trust becomes a life preserver floating in an ocean of doubt.
It's an interesting notion for a story and I need to get it down on paper before I lose it down one of those damn holes.