Portions of her memory slipped through a dark hole. She knew who I was, but just random facts about our history together. She knew we were married, but she did not know for how long, or anything about Elvis in the white leather pants who sang Jail House Rock afterwards when we laughed till we cried.
She didn’t know about Hercules, our dog of four years, whose head had also been compromised by a teenager driving by, texting instead of hitting the brakes when Hercules ambled, blinking, into the street.
Of everything she’s forgotten, the lost memory of our lost Hercules is the hardest for me.
She retained all the information about her data tech job at Amazon, but nothing of our experiments with swingers and how we both looked at each other that one night and pulled the plug on our sexual wanderings.
She did not retain the names of our two cats, but she knew they belonged to us, and how Jeff occasionally sprays our pillows, so before we leave we wrap our pillows in garbage bags and leave them in the closet.
She knew she liked strawberries, but forgot about her allergy to wheat grass and insisted on drinking the stuff just to feel what it would be like to have her throat close up. She knew the neighbors’ names, but she retained nearly nothing about the lives of their children with whom she’d played cards during their adolescence.
She found strange solace in the neighbors’ honey suckle bush and palm tree fronds and, since the accident, has wandered over every week to the neighbors’ house to visit the plants.
She talked to herself afterward and anger gurgled up with bizarre sentences like: “He sucked on lemons for the millennial and now the liver is puckered like lips, so what do you think of that?”
She mumbled, “God dog, god dog god dog,” at frustrated moments, like when she saw her face in the mirror in the afternoon light. She asked me too many times, “How did I get this old? I don’t feel like this, that’s the problem.” And then she said, “Say something,” and I couldn’t say much, and sometimes she cried about my lack of response, what she referred to as white noise I allowed into our lives.
“All of this goddamned white noise rushing around the house, you would have thought you’d put a stop to this by now.”
Whenever we went to the doctor’s office, she sat in the waiting room chairs and asked me too loudly, “Do you still want to grow old with me? Do you still want to do this? Because I’m not entirely sure where this is all going.”
And she told me she hated me when I asked her if we had to do this again. “Must we do this again?” She sighed, exasperated and told me that no one gives a mother fuck about anything.
After our third visit to the neurologist’s office I began bringing fortune cookies from the Asian grocery story in the Central district. She loved fortune cookies and the fact that I’d stuffed fortunes into them.
“Husband love is like prickly pear, handle with care,” and “More sex makes for an improved memory.” She laughed uproariously at “Dog is God spelled backyards.” And “When you go to the dog park today bring extra poop bags for a dog named Clive.”
There is the before and after with my wife that is in and of itself fortune cookie-like. The neurologist’s words, “Damaged cerebral cortex,” and “We’ll have to wait and see,” mean that I grieve the woman I loved while living with a woman I think I also love and who is only dimly recognizable to me.
I’m not complaining. People change, you do know that don’t you? Women who love grocery stores can, and do, develop distaste for fluorescent lit aisles of canned goods. The person who loves Bob Dylan can morph into someone who gravitates to Kenny G. The woman of Italian heritage who eats spaghetti three times a week might one day declare that life is too short and there’s no longer any time left for long-noodled dinners. The woman who once laid on the floor with your dog and eyes misted with tears because he would someday die, can in fact forget that he lived and died, and you may lose sleep over this, your heart doesn’t thump itself closed.
A woman who reads long novels for entire afternoons can and will develop a sudden taste for graphic novels and she might even copy some of those images out onto blank white sketchpads with meticulously sharpened pencils. The woman you once loved, and probably still do love, will say to you, “From here on out it’s a superhero’s life.”
Mishele Maron’s writing has appeared in Saveur and Seattle Magazine. She lives and writes in Seattle’s Green Lake neighbor with her husband, two daughters and two dogs.