Elizabeth Collison ~ Lydia’s Address Book

Sometimes these days when I first awake, when the room is still dark and shad­owy, I find I do not always know where I am. I try not to let this both­er me. The home is still new, my lit­tle cell here is new. Not remem­ber­ing this place right out of sleep is no doubt a good idea.

But here is what I wor­ry about—not that I might wake for­get­ting where I am, but that one day I also might for­get who. Well no, not who, that is not yet the case. I know of course who I am. But some morn­ings now when I arise, just for a moment or two, I can­not put a name to me. Oddly I can­not recall what I am called.

Which is not as alarm­ing as it might sound. It has not, for exam­ple, been the case every day, since I do not at first always need to address me. Still, wak­ing and find­ing myself in the home can some­times come as a shock, and when it does, for ground­ing, I suppose—not a bad plan for any­one real­ly, past a cer­tain age—I say my name aloud. “Well yes, here you are again, Lydia,” I say. “Here you are, Lydia H. Langdon.” It’s only dis­turb­ing when the name does not come.

So this is what I do next. I lie in my bed and I wait. I tell myself that once it is light out, as soon as this room becomes clear, so will all the rest. It is just that I’m not yet awake.

Besides which, if after a lit­tle while more I still can­not think of my name, which hasn’t, I repeat, hap­pened yet, I know I have it writ­ten down. I can check for it in my address book.

Not every­one keeps an address book, I know. It’s con­sid­ered old fash­ioned, I’m told. But I am old fash­ioned, well old. So I keep an address book and I keep it handy, on the stand by my phone next to my bed. Then just to make sure I’ve cov­ered my tracks, I don’t list my name in the alpha­bet­ized part, where oth­ers might find it and think it odd. Rather, should I one day need a reminder, I’ll know to turn to the front cov­er book­plate— “If found, return to owner”—and look for the name writ­ten in below.

It does not both­er me, this lit­tle deceit. Well done, Lydia, I must say. But how strange that will be, I must also say, need­ing to be found and returned.


Elizabeth Collison has pub­lished sto­ries in Conjunctions, North American Review, The Barcelona Review, and Chicago Tribune (run­ner-up, Nelson Algren Award) and a nov­el, Some Other Town, with Harper Perennial. She holds an MFA in fic­tion from the Iowa Writers Workshop.