Remember Me?(15)

by Sophie Kinsella

My best friend? I've never seen this woman before in my life. She's skinny and tanned, with huge blue eyes, a massive bracelet on her wrist, and sunglasses pushed up on her blond, California-​girl hair. She sent me flowers, I suddenly remember. Darling girl... love, Rosalie. “Does she work at Deller Carpets?” “No!” Eric smiles as though I've cracked a joke. “This bit is fun.” He gestures toward the screen. The camera is following us as we walk out onto the terrace, and I can just hear myself laughing and saying, “Eric, what are you up to?” Everyone is looking up for some reason. I have no idea why And then the camera focuses and I see it. Skywriting. Lexi I will love you forever. On the screen, everyone is gasping and pointing, and I see myself staring up, pointing, shading my eyes, then kissing Eric. My husband organized surprise skywriting for me on my wedding day and I can't bloody remember it? I want to weep. “Now, this is us on holiday in Mauritius last year...” Eric has fast-​forwarded the DVD and I stare disbelievingly at the screen. Is that girl walking along the sand me? My hair's braided and I'm tanned and thin and wearing a red string bikini. I look like the kind of girl I'd normally gaze at with envy. “And this is us at a charity ball...” Eric's fast-​forwarded and there we are again. I'm wearing a slinky blue evening dress, dancing with Eric in a grand-​looking ballroom.

“Eric is a very generous benefactor,” Mum says, but I don't respond. I'm riveted by a handsome, dark-​haired guy standing near the dance floor. Wait a moment. Don't I . .. know him from somewhere? I do. I do. I definitely recognize him. At last! “Lexi?” Eric has noticed my expression. “Is this jolting your memory?” “Yes!” I can't help a joyful smile. “I remember that guy on the left.” I point at the screen. “I'm not sure who he is exactly, but I know him. Really well! He's warm, and funny, and I think maybe he's a doctor... or maybe I met him in a casino“ ”Lexi...“ Eric gently cuts me off. ”That's George Clooney, the actor. He was a fellow guest at the ball.“ ”Oh.“ I rub my nose, discomfited. ”Oh right.”

George Clooney. Of course it is. I'm a moron. I subside back onto my pillows, dispirited. When I think of all the hideous, mortifying things I can remember. Having to eat semolina at school when I was seven, and nearly vomiting. Wearing a white swimsuit when I was fifteen and getting out of the pool, and it was transparent and all the boys laughed. I remember that humiliation like it was yesterday.

But I can't remember walking along a perfect sandy beach on Mauritius. I can't remember dancing with my husband at some grand ball. Hello, brain? Do you have any priorities? “I was reading up on amnesia last night,” Amy says from her cross-​legged position on the floor. “You know which sense triggers memory the best? Smell. Maybe you should smell Eric.” “It's true,” Mum puts in unexpectedly. “Like that chap 78 Proust. One whiff of a fairy cake and everything came flooding back into his mind.” “Go on,” Amy says encouragingly. “It's worth a try, isn't it?” I glance over at Eric, embarrassed. “Would you mind if I . . . smelled you, Eric?” “Not at all! It's worth a go.” He sits on the bed and freeze-​frames the DVD. “Should I lift my arms up, or...” “Um... I guess s o . . .” Solemnly Eric lifts his arms. I lean forward gingerly and sniff his armpit. I can smell soap, and aftershave, and a mild, manly kind of smell. But nothing's rushing back into my brain. Except visions of George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven. I may not mention those. “Anything?” Eric is frozen, rigid in his arms-​up position. “Nothing yet,” I say after sniffing again. “I mean, nothing very strong...“ ”You should smell his crotch,“ says Amy. ”Sweetheart,“ Mum says faintly. I can't help glancing down at Eric's crotch. The crotch I've married. It looks pretty generous, although you can never quite tell. I wonder No. Not the point right now. ”What you two should do is have sex,“ Amy says into the awkward silence, then snaps her gum. ”You need the pungent smell of each other's bodily“ ”Amy!“ Mum cuts her off. ”Darling! That is quite enough!“ ”I'm just saying! It's nature's own amnesia cure!“ ”So.“ Eric drops his arms again. ”Not exactly the greatest success.“ ”No.”

Maybe Amy's right. Maybe we should have sex. I glance at Ericand I'm convinced he's thinking the same thing. “Never mind. It's still early days.” Eric smiles as he closes the wedding album, but I can tell he's disappointed too. “What if I never remember?” I look around the room. “What if all those memories are lost for good and I can never get them back? Ever?” As I look around at the concerned faces I suddenly feel powerless and vulnerable. It's like that time my computer crashed and I lost all my e-​mail, only a million times worse. The techy guy kept telling me I should have backed up my files. But how do you back up your own brain?

In the afternoon I see a neuropsychologist, Neil. He's a friendly guy, in jeans. I sit at a table with him, taking tests and I have to say, I'm pretty good! I remember most of twenty words in a list; I remember a short story; I draw a picture from memory.

“You're functioning extremely well, Lexi,” Neil says after he fills in the last check box. “Your executive skills are there, your short-​term memory is pretty good considering, you have no major cognitive problems... but you're suffering from a severe focal retrograde amnesia. It's very unusual you know.“ ”But why?“ ”Well, it has to do with the way you hit your head.“ He leans forward, animated, draws an outline of a head on his pad of paper, and starts to fill in a brain. ”You've had what we call an acceleration-​deceleration injury. When you hit the windshield, your brain was thrown around in your skull, and a small area of your brain was, shall we say, tweaked. It could be you've done damage to your warehouse of 80 memories... or it could be that you've done damage to your ability to retrieve memories. In that case the warehouse is intact, if you like, but you're unable to open the door.“ His eyes are shining, as though this is all really fabulous and I should be thrilled with myself. ”Can't you give me an electric shock?“ I say in frustration. ”Or hit me over the head or something?“ ”I'm afraid not.“ He looks amused. ”Contrary to popular belief, hitting an amnesiac over the head is not going to bring their memory back. So don't try that at home.“ He pushes his chair back. ”Let me walk you to your room.“ We arrive back at my room to find Mum and Amy still watching the home DVD while Eric talks on his cell phone. Immediately he finishes his conversation and claps his phone shut. ”How did you get on?“ ”What did you remember, darling?“ Mum chimes in. ”Nothing,“ I admit. ”Once Lexi gets back to familiar surroundings, she'll probably find her memory returns quite naturally,“ says Neil reassuringly. ”Although it may take time.“ ”Right.“ Eric nods earnestly. ”So, what next?“ ”Well.“ Neil flips through my notes. ”You're in good shape physically, Lexi. I would say you'll probably be discharged tomorrow. I'll make an appointment for you in a month's time as an outpatient. Until then, the best place for you is home.“ He smiles. ”I'm sure that's where you want to be too.“ ”Yes!“ I say after a pause. ”Home. Great.” Even as I'm saying the words I realize I don't know what I mean by home. Home was my Balham flat. And that's gone. “What's your address?” He takes out a pen. “For my notes.”