Julie 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.
I’m sure there’s a story in this. I just need to come up with it before I lose it in one of those damn holes.
Actually, Simon, some of your more recent experiences sound normal. Remember, I thought you were John Connolly in Chicago after talking to both of you earlier in the day. And I hadn’t had anything to drink at that point. (You’d think I’d have noticed the lack of a Dublin accent.) The only thing that would concern me is you noticed this happening after your accident.
On the other hand, my brother had a severe concussion when he was 10 when he went over the handlebars of his bike. For years afterward, he never remembered anything from that evening. Over the years, the only thing he doesn’t remember is the actual accident, and he’s not in a hurry to get that five minutes back. So concussion damage can wear off slowly.
You’ve got the right idea Simon.
Take this experience and put it to work for you in your writing. Horror story, thriller–the possibilities are endless.
It does have GREAT story potential, Siman, and you’re just the man to do it.
So…do you remember me crying when I said goodbye? No? Ha! Seriously, that would make a great premise for a story.Donna
I should mention this concussion represents the 5th or 6th one I’ve had. I forget the real number. 🙁
Donna: You didn’t cry. I remember that much.
Simon, this has to be one of the scariest posts I’ve read in a long while. The notion that we can’t trust our own brain is a frightening one.
But it’s also interesting insight. I imagine your reaction is very much the way my mother felt when the first toeholds of Alzheimers appeared.
Please include this in a story somehow. It would make fascinating (albeit scary) reading.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. The Germans wore gray. Simon wore blue. Donna didn’t cry, but Simon sure as hell did.
Great to see you last week.
I’m cursed with a shitty memory. I’ve had a few concussions in my time, but nothing as spectacular as yours.
Mine is so bad that I can actually reread books and be surprised by the ending. As far as things I need to do, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. I spend my days telling friends — Remind me…
It’s a creepy feeling. If anyone can give it legs, Simon, it’s you.
I sure hope you remember the $5000 I lent you this past weekend in Seattle at LCC. It would be a shame to have to take your car away from you but that’s what the IOU says.
Memory holes? Aha – all is clear now.
This sounds dreadful and potentially terrifying, Simon.
Given that this was your fifth or sixth (!) concussion, I’m thinking that maybe you need to wear a helmet all the time. It could be a fashion-statement kind of thing. Plus, you could advertise your books on it!
Rick: I never forget a dollar bill. Nice try.
Laura: The helmet thing sounds good, but I think it will portray a certain image I’m not sure I want.
Hey Simon! Do you mean Hotel Mac in Pt. Richmond? We live about a mile from there and LOVE that place. Now if you tell me you forgot about the reuben sandwich at Little Louie’s, then I’m really gonna be scared:)
Mel, I do mean the Hotel Mac in Pt. Richmond. Do you remember going there?
MAN, am I confused…as I thought Hotel Mac was where they put people up who are so addicted to the food at McDonald’s that they can’t get them out the door, so they began giving them rooms and linen…kinda like Monopoly Mac…they put up hotels with showers so the “Big Eaters” could stay on the premises like they do in casinos. I’ve really been out of the loop too long.
Rob – in much better spirits
I do remember going there, Simon. It’s the leaving there after several bottles of wine that gets hazy…