Palimpsest - JED

Word Association. Darn weird word, though.  It means a document that has been

     written over with parts of the original still legible underneath-- look it up here

This is how the conversation went:

Me: “So…I found one of my old diaries yesterday.”

Her: “Yes?”

Me: “And, uh, I didn’t know if I should read it.”

Her: “Why is that?”

Me: “Because…it’s not really mine. Feels like it’s not mine. Like I’d be invading his privacy or something.”

Her: “Hmm. If it’s not yours though, whose is it? Isn’t his past your past? Aren’t you built on the bedrock of him? Wouldn’t he want you to read it?”


That got me thinking. So I’ll give it a try.


            I got the call this morning, from Dr. Walloch. She said that the tests had come in. She actually told me that over the phone. Un-frickin-believable. She didn’t even ask me to sit down. You’d think someone would give you warning before they tell you something like that. Especially given how much I pay them. More than the Goddamned Mayo clinic.

            Anyway, when she told me, I spilled my coffee all over the living room carpet, the red and gold Persian that Daph bought last year in Chicago. For a split second that was all I could think about, how she was going to be so upset. Then I remembered what was happening. I guess this thing means I get a free pass on carpet stains for a while.


I met with Cheryl, my counselor, this afternoon. We talked about the diary again. We talked about other things too, the hot flashes, the headaches, how I feel, loneliness, isolation. Same old stuff. But mostly we talked about the diary. She was wearing a light blue pant suit with a long string of off-white pearls that came cascading down over her breasts like a waterfall. She’s a very attractive woman, but I think she wants to look older than she is. I can’t really say I understand that feeling.


            I can’t even pronounce it. The name has something like sixteen syllables. All in Latin. So rare that no one’s even bothered to tack their name in front. Maybe I’ll be the first. Call it Anderson’s Brain Droop, or something like that. They say it might be related to Alzheimer’s, that the protein tangles are similar, just in different places. That my memory doesn’t seem to be too badly affected. Yay, for small miracles and whatnot. The worst spots seem to be my primary motor and sensory cortices. So I get to keep my sanity while I slowly go blind, deaf and dumb. That should be fun.


I think Cheryl was on to something about reading the diary. It’s making me feel better. Getting in touch with my roots or something. She’s very intuitive and usually pretty on the mark about these things. Like the time she said I had a crush on my nurse, and that it wasn’t healthy for someone like me to be dependent on a caregiver. Turned out right on that one.

His wife is gone. She died something like thirty years ago. It doesn’t make me sad. I can remember things about her though, and they touch me. The way she would lean into him, like he was something she could rest all her weight on. Like he was the most solid thing in the world. The way he’d catch her staring at him sometimes, and she’d just smile. I know that it must have been so natural between them. It was a good feeling, and I know it belonged to him but I can’t help wanting to feel it for myself. Or feel it again. Or whatever. 


            This morning I lost my balance at the breakfast table. I had to lean on the mantle just to stand up. Daph ran over and asked it I needed help. If I wanted her to call 911. And I’ve been having tunnel vision all day. Pretty soon I’m going to need a colostomy bag. Bullshit. This WILL NOT happen to me. I won’t let it. I am too good at what I do, too important, too strong for this to happen to ME. Let it happen to some dumb shit living in the suburbs somewhere. Let it happen to someone who hasn’t made something of themselves. I don’t deserve this.


Cheryl said I should consider writing in the diary. Not just picking up where I/he left off before, but actually writing over or around some of the older entries. It’s a nice book, like everything else in his house, classy looking. Leather bound. Writing in it makes me nervous, like I’m defacing something that should be in a museum (does he belong in a museum?). It’s hard to convince myself that this isn’t graffiti.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the graffiti. Scratchy childish drawings written over the clean clear text of him. I’m in crayon, he’s in India ink.


            I’m a fighter, so I’m fighting. I’ve got my hired guns looking into everything. Not that crystal, new age bullshit. I mean, the real science, cutting edge, I don’t care where they find it or how risky it is. It’s getting worse all the time now. The hired guns tell me that my downward spiral is going to accelerate. I’m already half deaf, and writing this is taking me twice as long as it used to. Pretty soon I’ll need one of those Stephen Hawking speaking machines. Daph cries every time she sees me. She tries to hide it but I can see. I don’t look in the mirror anymore.


I don’t know what to think of him. He seems so different from me. He was cocky, sure of himself. Kind of an SOB. He knew who he was, and he was proud of it. I don’t feel that way at all. Half the time I don’t even know what I feel like. Sometimes I’m an antique. All the memories I have are from fifty+ years ago. My face isn’t the face I remember. My house was wrapped in sheets and covered in dust. Everyone I knew is dead and all the children I remember are old men. And on top  of that I’m dislocated, out of touch. Like all the distant memories of him/me are TV shows that I watched as a kid. This strange sense that they happened to someone else. My handwriting is different than his. I don’t like the same foods he did. I don’t care about the money and the recognition like he did. I don’t think I’m as smart as he was. I remember all the things that happened to him, but I don’t remember HIM.


            The talking heads down at my private hospital think they’ve found something. It isn’t exactly new, but it’s better than it used to be. They say they can’t stop the degeneration, that there’s no cure right now. But they think they can freeze me, wait until someone’s figured something out. They say it’s improved since old Walt Disney’s day. No freezer burn now. Just ‘lights out’ and wakey wakey all better. All the boo-boos gone.       


Is this at all what he wanted? I know it isn’t what he thought would happen. He thought he’d just go to sleep, wake up one bright sunny future day with a clean bill of health. Pick right up where he left off. In the most literal sense, I guess he made a good decision. Getting frosted and sleeping it off. They did find a way to cure him, even though it meant cutting out all the damaged parts and putting in new, lab grown bits and pieces. While they were at it they even gave him a new body, all cloned and cleaned. That’s me now. Something a little like Frankenstein. Something a little like a plagiarized paper. All his bits and pieces with a new title.


            I asked them how long it would be. They say they don’t know. I haven’t told Daph yet. I’m not sure what to say.


 I'm not sure how to feel about all of this. I've got my own life to live now, but there's still parts of him stuck all over me. I'm, new and old. I'm recycled. It's a strange disconnection. Like living with a ghost inside you.



Author's Notes.