Through a Glass Dimly
My name is Al. I guess since my shrink has asked me to try to write this memoir and include such recollections of my life as I can remember, my full name is Albert Bentley Chambers. From notes I have found, my parents had a sense of humor and wanted me to learn my ABC's!
The original reason I started writing this is because I have trouble remembering. I woke up just over a year ago in a hospital having been in a coma for two years after being found on the side of a road. I was found naked with not a blemish on my body.
When I write not a blemish, I mean exactly that. My fingerprints disclosed my identity. Further identification was made difficult because I had no scars. I had my teeth perfectly in place and with no fillings in them. The government was worried because it had pictures of me. Those pictures showed a scar where my appendix was removed. It's there now. Not the scar but the appendix! I should have some indication of a long ago broken leg though the bone is perfect in the x-rays. My nose should be bent a tiny bit to the left but no longer. My body was the same height but, beyond that, it is very close to perfection.
My mind seems fine except for this big hole that is my past. I can speak four different languages though didn't know that I knew them or where I learned them until I read about my past. I can shoot anything that has bullets or shells but didn't know how I learned that until I read about it. I have other skills including being a trained engineer but don't know how any of those skills came to be mine.
My lack of memory is why I am putting all this on paper. My psychologist hopes I will jog my memory and it will all come back.
I think my superiors in the government service would like for me to remember, too. They are upset that five years are missing from their knowledge of my whereabouts. My body doesn't look like it aged a minute from when I went missing for five years until I was found in the coma three years ago.
If you think reading these words weirds you out, try being the one who is writing this little autobiography! I'm also trying to figure out what I'm all about. Reading about my history is not the same as having experienced it. It's all made worse because I have no relatives. My parents died in a car crash while I was in college and my brother stepped on a mine in Afghanistan while I was missing. There were never any other relatives according to the reports that I've read. My parents were only children. My grandparents are dead as are their siblings. I have a few cousins but the records indicate that we weren't close. I've met one. We still aren't close.
That same file doesn't indicate that I had any close friends. My job involved frequent travel for long periods and, if you're in your mid twenties, seven years is a life-changing time ago. Most of the people in my section had left and those who had known me had nothing in common with me any longer. There had been women but none serious and none were still interested. Most had moved on and were married or in relationships now.
There is one other curious thing different about me now as compared to then. The section of the government for which I worked was meticulous in its record keeping. My penis used to measure six and a half inches when fully hard. I didn't ask how that was known or how it was relevant to anything. However, I was longer and thicker while soft than those prior measurements indicated! I really didn't mind that but thought it would be nice to know how all this had occurred!
My old section would not accept me back with five years of my life unaccounted for and with so many questions about what might have happened to me. All they would tell me was that I had been leaving for an assignment when I vanished. I understood their position but did manage to collect my back pay. It took some effort but they came through as well as on my savings and brokerage accounts that they had held for me. With that money, I have no need to work for a few years. I did have to pay taxes on it, the back pay. At least, the IRS waived penalties and interest!
I wanted to know who I was, what happened to me, and why I was changed. Part of that search was reading my file and talking to people. The other part was working with a psychologist who specializes in memory loss issues. He gave me a reduced rate in exchange for publishing rights, if anything developed to publish.
That's why I write this story and why, at a chronological age of thirty-four and physical age of twenty-six, I am trying to find myself while living in a world in which I am seven years out of date.
I was given a copy of my personnel file with most of my later activities redacted out. I didn't mind mostly because I thought it unlikely that my work, whatever that had entailed, had any real bearing upon my issues. My former employer agreed with that. However, to get my job back, I would have to figure out what had happened and account for the missing time.
The file was in reverse chronological order so I started at the back. I wanted to know who Al Chambers had been. Even more important, I was trying to know who he was now.
I have a small studio apartment though little in the way of personal belongings. My old stuff was disposed while I was missing. I read through the file and learned my birth date, my social security number, my parents' names and other such information. Probably the most interesting piece of information was the inventory of my personal possessions before they were sold.
It seemed that I was widely read in some areas. There were a number of philosophical works, novels by Clancy, a complete set of Tolkien's books, and an almost complete set of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books. Looking over the list was like being reminded of something you knew but had forgotten. I mentioned this to my shrink and he nodded. Things and events from my past will trigger some memories. It was strange. I could remember the books and even passages from many of them but not that I had read them or when. It feels weird to realize that.
I also noticed that my memory was exceptional. I went to places that my file indicated that I should know and found that I did even though I didn't remember them. I was living in the same small city as I had before so traveling around on foot or by car gave me this feeling of deja vu regularly. It was strange to know an area or bit of information but only know from reading my file to get any idea of how I might have known or learned it. It tends to be unnerving.
Once out and on my own, I found out another thing. Women found me attractive. Looking at prior pictures, I realized that I hadn't been bad looking but now looked even better. Two years in a coma hadn't hurt my physique, which was surprising to the doctors. I worked to improve my body and get into shape during the year after the coma. It wasn't difficult since I started at a good point. I wasn't a hunk but was trim and lightly muscular with medium brown hair and green eyes.
I also realized that I would like some feminine companionship. I had joined a fitness club and performed my workout routines there using the weights and walkers. Outside I didn't jog. I ran and would cover three to five miles about every other day. I had been going to the fitness center for two weeks when I finally had a chance to talk to her. I had noticed her before. She had a great body, toned and firm, with dark blond hair that might be her real color. Her workout clothes were older and somewhat faded. It made me think that she might be a graduate student since she came during both days and nights.
We were next to each other on the treadmills when I had my opening. Her walkman-type device wasn't working. She had been listening when the sound that I could hear faintly suddenly quit. She banged it to no avail. She muttered and I looked over. I said, "Trouble?"
She nodded. "Let me give it a try. I'm pretty good with electronic devices."
She said, "It suddenly quit working but I hadn't turned it off or touched it at all."
I examined the device and quickly found the battery compartment. Opening it, I rotated the batteries and it started to work again. I pulled one out and looked at the connections. I inserted my fingernail and made a slight adjustment. With the battery replaced, it played music quite well. "My name is Al, Al Chambers." I offered her device back.
She said, "I'm Lisa, Lisa Goodbody." I grinned. She said, "Please, no jokes!"
I said quite seriously, "Your family name is apt, Lisa. It's good to meet you. When we're finished, would you like to get something to drink in the juice bar here?"
"I would like that, Al."
We continued our walking and then separated to go to different weight machines. After a short cool down period, she walked over to me and said, "I'm going to shower and will meet you at the juice bar."
I nodded. I went to shower before changing into street clothes.
Cleaned up, we shook hands again in the juice bar at the center. A number of people meet before or after exercising. We ordered fruit smoothies. Mine was cherry and hers was passion fruit. We took our drinks to a table.
I said, "Okay, I can't resist it. Lisa Goodbody orders a passion fruit smoothie and I can't believe there's no connection!"
She laughed throatily and I was dazzled again when she smiled. "Okay. Okay. I will give you that one free. But you ordered cherry! Al, what is that connection?"
"That's a little more complicated."
She said, "I bet! Give!"
"Okay, but you have to listen to the whole story though it will be highly condensed." She nodded. "I woke up over a year ago from a two year coma after being missing for five years before that. I have no memory of my past life from before the time I woke from the coma. I worked for a branch of the government and they had an exhaustive file on me. I have been reading and studying it trying to learn who is Al Chambers. I will do something and know it but have still no memory of anything about having done it before. I speak four languages. If you started talking in one of them, I would follow you into it without really noticing. I know things like how to work on your Walkman."
She chuckled, "It's called an Ipod."
I said, "Okay. That's what one looks like.
"I have knowledge from before eight years ago that pops up when appropriate but the seven years that I was missing and in the coma are totally a blank.
"So, you see. In some ways, cherry is apropos for me."
Lisa said, "You look normal. Actually, you look very good."
"Thank you. I came back after the five years in great physical shape and with some improvements. My nose was straightened and my appendix that, according to my records had been removed, is back and the scar is gone!" Lisa blinked. "Yeah, that's the way I felt, too. What's worse, the doctors feel that way, too.
"My shrink says that I'm not a danger to anyone including to myself and take no meds. We meet to go over a journal that I keep trying to record what happens in my life and those things that dredge up memories. Tonight, I will note that I like cherry smoothies. I didn't know that before but when, it was time to order, that was what I wanted. I knew I would like it.
"Now, hopefully I haven't scared the daylights out of you and we can finish our drinks peacefully. However, if you want to leave, I would understand and not stop you or interfere in any way."
She said slowly, "You seem like a nice guy. I will talk to you. I don't usually tolerate pickups but I will make an exception for you." She smiled and it lit up a beautiful face and dazzled me again since I was its target. "I'm guessing that you don't have many people who are your friends."
"Unfortunately, that's true. The only two have been Gwen Stevens, an older nurse at the hospital, and Doc Baker, my psychologist. I had a lot of physical rehab but never got to know anyone as we moved through the various programs. I will be honest. I have seen you here a few times and wanted to meet you if it worked out. You looked, look, like a nice person, smart, who might put up with a dumb guy who would just like to get to know some people."
"What about family?"
"From what I have read, my parents died in an auto accident while I was in college. My younger brother stepped on a mine in Afghanistan while I was missing. It's been lonely."
I had stopped. Then, I said, "Lisa, would you talk to me when we're here?"
She smiled again lighting up everything around her. "Of course, I will.
"I will even do you one better. Do you go to church?"
"My file says I am Methodist but I haven't been since I've been back."
She chuckled. "That's an interesting way to put it but it makes sense to say it that way. I attend Hillview United Methodist. Come as my guest Sunday. Church starts at eleven but meet me at the front door at a quarter before."
"Lisa, thank you. I will be glad to do that. I will try not to embarrass you."
"I'm not worried, Al. If I were concerned, I didn't have to invite you."
"True." We both laughed. Our smoothies were long since finished. I stood. "Thank you for listening to me and for the invitation. I really appreciate it very much.
"I will walk you to your car, leave and go to our cars separately, or leave before you or after you." I stood. She stood, too. I realized again that she was tall, almost as tall as me.
She said, "We'll leave together."
"That's fine. I look forward to Sunday." I held out my hand to shake and she took it shaking it firmly. It was a good hand.
I went home and sort of daydreamed about her while I brought this journal up to date.
Friday and Saturday were a bust. I didn't have any plans and wound up doing nothing except going to the grocery store and restocking my pantry. I went on a long run. I was really looking forward to Sunday. I laid out a pair of slacks, dress shirt, tie, and sports coat Saturday evening. I wasn't sure what to wear but I could always lose the tie and even the coat. If I didn't have them, it would be hard to add them should I need them.