Puzzle

Laughter too depends  upon memory a memory of previous laughter.

“Grace – not Gracey?” – That is your name?”

At first she can’t comprehend this. He takes out a little notebook from his pocket and painstakingly inscribed in it what appears to be a diagram in logic. “My days of mastering symbolic logic seem to have abandoned  me,” he says pleasantly, “but I think the situation is something like this..”

Grace is uncertain how to respond. It is fascinating to her that Dave has language skills, mathematical abilities  but he can’t retain new words, concepts or facts even if they are embedded in familiar information. Like many brain-afflicted individuals he carries with him word books, crossword puzzles. His knowledge of world geography is still impressive.Grace is speaking carefully to him: “Mr Dave- let me explain to you again that I am a Professor and has been working with you for a while. You have met me before.”
Dave  nods vehemently, even little impatiently. “ Grace- yes, doctor Grace.”

“I ‘m not a doctor I’m a professor. Please just call me -”

“Professor Grace.” Yes..” Well that makes two of us. I’m not a clinician either.” he laughs. He listens to Grace as she explains to him on the tests they will be doing on him. He listens politely at first, then becomes bemused and beguiled by her. She is wearing a pink wrap around skirt with black tights beneath, a black jacket over her thin frame tightly and not the crisp white lab coats of the medical staff, there is no laminated ID on her jacket to inform him of her name.

“ Why you are here, doctor and why am I here?”

Grace stares at him and then says, “ We are hoping to establish some facts containing memory.” Dave is eager and hopeful, cooperative but as the tests become more complicated and accelerated, he is thrown into confusion. He seems to be failing about like a drowning man. Restless, exhausted, without knowing why, he stands at a window and stares outside. He may be trying to determine where he is. But he is a proud man, he will not ask any questions. Like an athlete too long restrained in a cramped space or like a rebellious teenager, he begins to circle the room. He stretches the tendons in his calves, reaches for the ceilings-stretching vertebrae, mutters to himself.Grace would like to clasp his hand to comfort and encourage him

Grace walks toward him. “ Would you like your sketchbook?” She hands him one. He is pleased to see his sketchbook. He pages through it growing, holding the book in such a way to prevent anyone else seeing its contents. Then he discovers his little notebook in his pant pocket.He opens it eagerly, records something in it and slips it back into his pocket. Grace glances at Dave and thinks how sad, how exhausting, the amnesic can’t remember anything. His brain resembles a colander through which water sifts continually and never accumulates; those years before his illness, resembles a still, distant water glimpsed through dense foliage as in a hallucinatory landscape.

Dave looks worriedly at her as if he can read her thoughts. Grace feels her face burn like one who has dared to touch another intimately and has been detected. With an uplifted finger, to retain Grace’s attention, he leafs through his little notebook in search of something significant. In his bright affable voice he reads: “ There is no journey, no path, only emptiness.” He pauses to add, “Maybe this is the wisdom of Buddha.” he laughs with inexplicable humor. Grace smiles with him remembering how he used to explain to her the views of different teachings. He is always good in teaching and explaining. It is almost seven-thirty in the evening when she leaves.

Next day the test is on counting ability count as high as you can without stopping. He begins counting and continue for an impressively long time, then suddenly stops,distracted by Grace’s earrings.  “Looks like a pyramid upside down or may be pineapples?” he laughs.

“Please continue counting.”

“Counting’- what? What was I counting?”

“You don’t remember the count?”

Dave stares at the illustrated cards. His finger twitch. He looks blankly.

Grace leans forward. “You are doing fine, please continue.”

Dave looks at her again. She is a pretty woman with light brown skin, straight black eyebrows, dense wavy hair. The dimple on her cheek deepens while she smiles. Who is she? He has seen her somewhere? He thinks in a school where he used to teach? He extends his hand and shakes the woman’s hand.

“Hel-lo! I think we know each other we met in a school-did we? In a high school?”

Grace hesitates. Then gracefully she slips her hand into his with a smile.

“Hello, Mr Dev I’m Grace- whom you have never met before today.”

 Just after the rain,Grace knocks at the door before entering the room. “Good morning!” she smiles. “ I’m, Grace.”
“Yes, welcome.” Light coming up in his eyes, a slight leap of hope emerges.

“Welcome, Grace!”

Her hand grips in his, a clasp of recognition.

Grace thinks He does remember me. Not consciously but he remembers. Well there is no scientific data to prove. The amnesic will discover ways of remembering sometimes it bypasses the conscious mind altogether.

Suffused with happiness, Grace feels like a balloon rapidly, giddily filling with helium. Eagerly he smiles at her, leans close to her  to shake her hands. In his strong hand,Grace’s small hand. “We have met before?” he smiles gallantly.

“ Do you have an idea how long we’ve been working together?- Grace asks.

His smiles wavers. He speaks thoughtfully, gravely. “ May be two weeks a month? May be less?” He is still gripping her hands; gently she detaches. Grace has volunteered to take Dave to downstairs to the first-floor cafeteria, for lunch, sometimes for his medical tests or to the garden downstairs.She has become lonely. Work has become her addiction, her salvation. In human relations you never know where you stand.She is determined to help Dave in each step of his recovery. She has high hope.

It is a bright, sunny day when Grace returns to Dave’s room. “ We have some very interesting tests for today, Dave. I think you will like them.”

“Tests- yes. I’m good at them.” His smile is anxious and hopeful. Grace shows him the brainteaser puzzles consist of numbers, varicolored squares of plastic which you move around your thumb until there is an ideal conjunction of numerals and colors.Dave takes it from her with a bemused chuckle “Excuse me! Like this.” And within seconds, he has lined up the squares to perfection. His smile is that of the triumphant. Grace laughs – he used to teach the children the same way, the tricks to solve the puzzles.  After two days Grace returns to check on Dave.

“ Hello!”

“Yes- do I know you?” Dave asks, “I can hardly remember you.”

Grace is little frustrated. “Yes, we are.”

He gazes at her plaintively.

“ Are you my wife?” he asks anxiously, “ Or may be a lover?”

A twinge of excitement sparks in her. She wants to say yes I’m your wife, but she stops. He walks over and takes her hand in his strong dry fingers. She has been anticipating this she doesn’t pull her hand away from his grasp so quickly. They stand their clasping hands.

“Do you remember me?” Grace asks.

“I think I met you in your school am I correct?” Dave asks carefully. His hairline is receding from his forehead and his dark hair is fading to a beautiful shade of gray, his forehead is slightly creased with bewilderment or worry that quickly eases away when he smiles. He looks handsome in a neatly pressed khakis, a striped shirt.Grace still loves him dearly.

 

His memory is like a box of jigsaw puzzle pieces that has been overturned, but these countless pieces might be fitted together again into a coherent and illuminating whole.

Dave drops her hand and moves back to his chair.  “ I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you Nobody – Too? ”He recites the lines with a chilling sort of merriment, the poetry of Emily Dickinson…

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