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.