Past perfect

I went to a bar, ordered a shot of vodka and sat staring at it. It was a test. How much could I want something, and not lose my resolve?

I watched it, smelling it, tasting the fumes, seeing how the light from the bulb above my head winked and flashed in the clear liquid. I could feel the rush of it in my head and in my body. I could anticipate the shudder, the velvet ice slipping down my throat. I wanted it so badly I could felt like crying and if my hands hadn’t have been pressed flat to the table they would have been trembling. I didn’t just want it. I needed it. I needed it like I needed my next breath; to feel and to be alive. It wasn’t just a drink, it was a part of me. It was what made me me. Without it, I didn’t know who I was.

That’s the language of addiction. No one should listen to that.

How much of a person is made up of memory? How much of yourself is bound up in a remembered past? Would you be the same without it? Would you be yourself?

I felt that I was half a person. Unreal as a dream.

Two years almost. Two years since I’d found myself without a memory. Generalities I hadn’t forgotten. It was the personal details I had lost. I knew about families, for instance, but didn’t recall my own. I knew geography, place names and rivers and mountains. I knew history; lines of Kings, wars and conflicts, politics and laws. But which place was home I couldn’t have told you. What small, private events had shaped my own life I couldn’t say.

All I had, back then, were cards, all with different names. Driving licenses, credit cards, ID cards, gym membership cards, store loyalty cards; no name appeared more than once. I thought I might have stolen them at first. But they were mine.

When I first began hunting, I was looking for myself. I scoured the missing lists in papers and on the internet, looking for my face. I searched back-issues in libraries, in registry offices, in records of graduates and school-leavers. I was convinced I had a criminal record so I searched there too, in parole documents and prison inmate lists, in court files and case-files. I looked at marriage records, births and deaths. I hunted in journals and magazines, in letters, statistics and census files.

There were reasons why I never approached the authorities: My belief in something other, in something hidden and different, things that couldn’t be explained in ordinary terms. Like the touch of the girl in the antique shop. How she could see me. And I couldn’t stand her having that knowledge. Knowing things about me I didn’t know myself.

In my searches I found lots of people like myself. Right height, right age as far as I knew, right weight and coloring. So many like me, but none exactly right. No single one I could look at with certainty, no recognition. I could have stepped into the life of any of them, but by then wasn’t so sure I wanted to. The search became my object and my reason, not the finding. Putting together a jigsaw, that’s the tough part, the interesting part. What use is it, once it’s done?

But someone knowing everything about me? No, that wasn’t good. I would have to do something about that. Not now though. Not today.

I left the glass untouched on the table. I went and hired a car and sat in Eleanor Gordon’s street, watching her door.

The End

82 comments about this story Feed