I forget things. Crucial things, the how's and why's that provide context for our lives. They just seem to slip away while I'm not watching, just there, there, out of reach. I have no idea, for example, why I am sitting in a greasy, smoke-filled bar just before closing time. I can still see, feel, taste the world around me. The neon sign above my head flickers on and off with a soft, incessant buzzing. The air tastes sour, like spilt beer. In a far corner of the room, behind an overturned table and around bottle-green shards of glass, I can see two scrawny cats fighting over a dropped piece of chicken. But without history, without context, all of it is meaningless.

The man staring at me from the mirror behind the bar is about fifty. He has nervous, watery blue eyes and a rapidly receding hairline. Natty, cheap brown suit. No tie. He had a two- or three-day beard. He is me. How can that be me?

I don't know how I got here, don't even know my name! But there are times when it comes back. Slips back into my mind like a wayward child, skulking home in the strange and silent early morning hours. Perched on a creaking barstool, sipping something alcoholic, I am not expecting one of these times. I don't know when the last one was; I don't remember.

"Hey," a man behind a counter says. He must be the bartender. The neon lights glint off his shiny, bald head, and he squints at me through the smoke. "We're about to close, buddy. Can you make it home alright?"

Buddy. Buddy. Bud, hey buddy, we're here, bud, look out the window, just catch the ball, buddy, are you alright, bud? Does it hurt?

And then I remember. I remember my father, my mother. He was tall, so tall. Brown and blue, kissing my mother against the wall when he thought I wasn't watching. She was soft, cool air on a scratch, smooth, red-tipped fingers wrapped around mine.I remember the tangy smell of orange groves in California. I remember the blue china plates my mother was so proud of, set carefully on the top shelf of the cabinets. I remember dropping one of those plates, staring in childish horror at the shattered, jagged pieces. I remember dating... dating... dating someone in high school, heavy breathing and hot, sticky touches in the backseat of my faded blue pickup truck. Curly blond hair that smelled so good against my face. Dating Susan in high school.

I remember college. Well, I remember some of college. Blurred, indistinct white porcelain toilet seat. My god, did I really do that? and that? Adult life filters in, spotted with paid and unpaid bills, cubicles, and a thousand first dates, blind dates, bad dates. She had fun, I had fun, we didn't hit it off, it rained, I didn't want salad, she didn't need help getting home, kiss, no kiss, come inside, who are you, did we really-? And meanwhile, my body gains wrinkles and pounds.

I grab a bar napkin and begin to write. My handwriting is cramped and painful, but I fill the napkin with my messy scrawl and grab three more. Write it all down, capture everything where you can see it, keep it, hold onto it when the rest fades away. I pause to breathe, to look over what I have written. My memories, thick black lines squeezed onto the dirty, off-white napkins. I am watching a movie, writing subtitles for a film starring myself. I am seeing my own life. I am remembering.

Then I have a wife. Laura. I see a honeymoon, somewhere tropical, complete with sticky pink drinks and long walks under the sunset-red sky. Settling down, picking furniture, we both liked the flower-print couch but disagreed on the wallpaper. Fighting, making up. The doctor's weary, lined face as he tells us, says that she will never have children, I'm sorry, I'll just leave you two alone for a minute. Leave the room, staring at the blanks white walls and cheerful posters. I hold her as she cries.

Then I remember the beginning of the end. Losing my mind, forgetting the keys, the dog, the door. The important meeting with my boss. We are making love when I forget my wife's name for the first time. The doctors say that there's a problem with my brain, something they can't completely explain. They have no idea, do they? Defective.

I am writing again, furiously digging the pen into the napkin, into the wood of the bar underneath. The bartender is watching me, holding his breath, not sure if he should interrupt. I am on the verge of it, of remembering it. My own name. I lost it back then, along with my wife's name and Susan and my mother's blue china plates. My name, hovering just out of sight. There! There. If I can just capture that, keep that, it'll hold everything in place. All I need is my name. Reach out, grab it, set it down safely on the greasy napkin in the greasy bar somewhere. My name, right there. My name my name name name name name.

It's slipping away. And, as I stare at the smudged, angry lines, something else begins to fade. The writing blurs, loses meaning. I am staring at the words, watching them change to unintelligible chicken scratch. Scrawled, ancient patterns. Hieroglyphics. The memories pour away, slipping through ever-widening cracks in my mind, and the words on the napkins aren't words any more. I pour over the meaningless black scrawls, trying to hold on to one memory. Just one. The blue china, shattered on our wooden floor. White and blue, white and, white, white. Complete blankness.

I forget things.

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