I’m missing large amounts of time in my days – just huge chunks where I remember nothing. I don’t know what to do. I have to get this all out before it’s too late.
It started off after a party one night. I was in college then; it was sophomore year but I was home for winter break. The party was at Angela’s, a friend from high school. We live in a rural area so it takes me about 30 minutes to reach her house.
Anyway, I was at this party, I probably had 3 drinks. Two glasses of wine and one vodka cranberry. I was feeling relaxed but not at all drunk. I was doing fine until the time came for me to leave.
I was tired. It was about 1 am and even though they were still up partying, I wanted to get home and go to sleep. I hopped in my car and headed out to the winding road that would eventually take me back to my parents’ house. I was about ten minutes into the drive, the road desolate, when I saw it.
Headlights in my rearview mirror. But there was something really wrong. No one else was on the road at this time of night and these headlights were zooming up behind me so fast I thought for sure whoever was behind me was going to crash into me. But that was it.
And then I woke up. I wiped away the sleep from my eyes and headed downstairs. My mom was doing dishes. “Well, look who decided to emerge,” she said. It was 4:30 PM and I had just gotten up.
I had no memory of getting home.
In fact, I had no memory of doing anything. The last thing I remember was those headlights coming up behind me so fast, then nothing. Yet my car was parked in the driveway, unscathed. I had pajamas on. I had taken out my contacts the night before. Later on, I even discovered that I texted Angela and told her I made it home, just as she had asked me to do.
I know what you’re thinking. I was tired. I was kind of intoxicated. I’m stupid for getting behind the wheel. I must have nodded off, I must have remembered wrong. The alcohol must have affected me more than I thought. And this is exactly what I told myself for a long while. Until it happened again.
I was back in school by then, the second semester of my sophomore year. Christmas and New Year’s had come and gone. All was well. I even indulged quite a bit again at Angela’s house. Far more than I had at that earlier party, but instead of driving home, I passed out on her couch.
I didn’t lose any more time until about February. The last thing I remember is that it was Valentine’s Day. I was at a Thai restaurant with five of my college girlfriends, who, like me, were single. We had some wine at the restaurant, but again, not much. I probably had two glasses.
I remember walking outside, I saw a bright light. We all saw it. I even remember my friend Amanda said “What is that?” Then, nothing. Again.
This time I woke up Monday morning at 8 AM.
Valentine’s Day was the Wednesday before.
I was really panicking now. How could I have been missing nearly an entire week from my memory? The first thing I did was check my phone and my e-mail. I had been active on Facebook, posting several statuses over the time I couldn’t remember. Generic musings about my day, and a picture I posted with my friends that Friday night, in my friend Amanda’s dorm, smiles ear to ear.
I went to class that day only to find that I had taken a test the week before and scored an 87% on it. Later that day, I saw Amanda. I asked her what we had done on Friday night.
“What do you mean? You mean at my dorm?” she asked.
She looked at me like I was crazy. I explained what was going on.
“You need to go to the doctor, that sounds scary,” she said.
I remember making the appointment at the school’s wellness center. I remember sitting in the cold waiting room, tapping my feet against the linoleum, sure I was going crazy. Or dying. I still remember the fear I felt when Dr. Hanes looked at me and said, “I’d like to schedule an MRI.”
My vital signs were fine. My reflexes were normal. My blood pressure was perfect for my age, he said. But he wanted to schedule an MRI anyway.
Here’s the part that’s really scary. Sober as a judge, I left the wellness center around noon that day. It was a Wednesday. I walked across campus. My dorm was in sight. I had about half a block left to walk, when it happened again.
This time, I woke up an entire month later.
It was mid-March. A Friday. I luckily didn’t have class on Fridays, so I ran as fast as I could to the wellness center.
“I really need to see Dr. Hanes,” I said to the receptionist up front. “It’s kind of an emergency.”
“Do you need an ambulance?” she asked.
“No I just really need to talk to him,” I replied.
Just as she was finishing her sentence, I think it was something about how I needed to schedule an appointment first, Dr. Hanes came out of the back room. He must have noticed how pale I looked, because he ushered me back into an exam room to have me sit down.
He took my blood pressure and asked me how I was feeling.
“I need to get that MRI done fast,” I said. “It happened again, I don’t remember anything for the last month.” I could feel my heart rate increase. I was panicking again.
He looked at me, puzzled.
“You had the test a few weeks ago,” he said. “It came back normal.”
I was both relieved and terrified. I wasn’t sick. There was no tumor. But what did that mean?
I couldn’t have imagined. But little did I know then, things were about to get a whole lot worse.
I sat bewildered in Dr. Hanes’s tiny little exam room. He gazed at his computer screen and then back at me.
“Completely normal. Have you been stressed out lately?” he asked.
No, I told him. Besides, since when did stress cause you to miss parts of your life? Severe stress could cause it, he said. He recommended I talk to a therapist. But something did not sit right with me. I had never experienced anything like this before.
A few days later, after I tried to put the whole ordeal behind me. I got my carbon monoxide detector checked. I had been googling my problem and that was one of the suggestions. Thankfully, the carbon monoxide levels in my dorm were normal.
But I was still left with this mystery. I quizzed my friends over the next week about the time I missed. What did I do? What did I say? I tried to put the pieces together as best as I could.
I had gone to class as usual. I was not acting strange according to anyone I talked to: teachers, classmates, friends. I hadn’t taken any drugs. I even went to see the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie that had just come out. I had no recollection of this event, yet I’m told I enjoyed it.
It was very unsettling not having answers, but I did the only thing I could. I moved on. And all went well for a while again. I moved out of my dorm and back home for the summer in May, keeping in touch with my college friends over the phone and Internet. I got a part time job at a sandwich shop in my hometown. It wasn’t a ton of money but it allowed me to go out on the weekends and see the occasional movie with my high school friends.
Slowly, I started to feel better. My routine became that I would go to work at the sandwich shop around 3 or 4 and work until 10. I’d then close up and walk about four blocks to my parents’ house. The summer nights always brought a sense of comfort. Usually after work I’d go home and watch TV or occasionally I would meet up with a friend.
But things got really bad again one night in July.
I tried not to think about the time lapses and by that time, I had almost put it in the back of my mind. Until that night in July.
I had just finished making a turkey sandwich for a guy who walked into our shop about 10 minutes before close. He didn’t say much, but there was something about him that was a little off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
He had to be in his late 20’s. He wore torn jeans and a tan hooded sweatshirt. He paid for the sandwich with crumpled up dollar bills he fished out of his jeans’ pocket. He was quiet, cold.
Albeit an odd encounter, I had forgotten about it by the time I was turning the key to lock up the store. I was on my way home when I saw him again. Halfway into my first block, I glanced and saw him walking in the same direction on the opposite side of the street. The man in the tan sweatshirt.
Now, as a young woman walking home alone, I was a little creeped out. However, our town was fairly safe, so I kept walking. The night was hot. The streets were empty. Still, I picked up the pace a bit.
Second block. I’m still walking. He crossed the street to my side.
Third block, he’s still behind me. I’m sincerely worried. If I can just make it to the next block, I’ll be safe.
Fourth block. He’s sprinting at me full speed. I have never run so fast in my life.
Then I woke up.
“Shit, not again!” I said out loud in my bedroom. The sun was high in the sky. It must have been about 11 am. I got up and ran down the stairs.
My mom was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee.
“What day is it?!” I exclaimed.
“Uh, it’s Saturday.” She gazed up at me from over her newspaper.
I sighed. I had closed up the sandwich shop on Friday night. I had simply slept through the night. But what happened to the guy who was chasing me?
“Are you having memory problems again?” my mom asked.
I had told her what was going on, and I think she was worried at first. But when I let her know the doctor said everything was fine, she brushed it off as stress.
“I, I’m fine,” I told her.
“Sit down. I’ll get you some coffee. I haven’t finished it yet.”
I listened to her and sat down at the table. No one could make me feel as wonderful as my mom. The scent of coffee filled my nostrils and I tried to relax. The night before was unnerving, but I hadn’t missed much time, or so I had thought.
That was until I glanced at the newspaper my mom had left on the table in front of me. I threw my hands over my mouth in a panic. Tears began to well up in my eyes.
“What’s wrong? Janine?” My mom looked over, coffee pot in her hand.
It was Saturday, August 11, 2018.
I had missed four years.
I gripped the edge of the table. Tears were now streaming down my face.
“I missed four years!” I yelled.
“Janine, calm down.”
“I can’t calm down! I missed four years! I’m supposed to be in college! Where am I?” These were just a few of the questions that were running through my mind.
I let out a deep sob.
“Janine, calm down, do I need to take you to the emergency room?”
Long story short, my mom did take me to the emergency room that day. And long story shorter, I’m sure I had every test that existed in the medical community: A CAT scan, MRI, bloodwork. Psychiatric evaluations. Name the test, I probably had it done. And you know what? Everything came back normal.
At a complete loss for words that night, I couldn’t do anything but cry. I had graduated college. I had a new job now. My mom told me I worked at a law firm. I was a receptionist. She showed me pictures online of the building, the website for the firm I supposedly worked. We scrolled through the “staff” section of the website. There was not a single face I recognized.
I started seeing a therapist twice a week. I think everyone thought I was crazy, but I knew I wasn’t.
Something was happening to me. Something in my brain, my mind. Maybe it was some outside force. I didn’t know what to believe at that point. Hell, I started to think maybe I was crazy.
Every night when I went to bed, I prayed I would wake up the next day. I prayed that maybe this was a horrible dream. I would wake up back in college that sophomore year. At my parent’s house over that winter break. After I left Angela’s party. That’s really where I should have been. I prayed that I could get it all back.
I stopped having complete meltdowns after the 20-year gap. That was my last one. I woke up one morning to find a stranger in bed with me. I screamed. He screamed. I had woken him out of a dead sleep.
After I screamed and cried for what was about 20 minutes, I was told that this man was my husband. Jack.
“Calm down,” he said. “You’re going to wake Samantha.”
That was the day my heart broke. I walked into the room adjacent to where I was. Where was I? I didn’t even know. I stared intently at this child, sound asleep. She was thirteen. Her thick, brown hair fell just above her shoulders. This was my daughter.
I turned away and Jack was there, staring me down.
Finally, the familiarity registered. Jack was the same man that came into my sandwich shop that night. He was the man that chased me. The time I skipped four years of my life.
“What’s happening to me?” I asked. “I want to call my mother. Where’s my mother? Where is my phone?”
Jack’s face went from confused to sympathetic.
“Janine, you’re starting to scare me.”
“Just give me my phone!” I yelled. To me this man was a creepy stranger, not my husband. And the child next door, just a child. I had no idea where I was or what was going on. I just wanted to call my mom.
“Janine your mom died,” he said. “Eight years ago.”
I don’t get scared when the time lapses happen anymore. Since then, I am filled with nothing but a deep sadness. I found a new therapist to talk this through with at first, then I stopped going. Or time passed and he quit working at that clinic. I’m not really sure which. I live with my daughter now. In a new house. I don’t know what happened to Jack. I woke up one day after skipping some time and he was gone. I’m not sure how much time went by. I avoid TV. I don’t ask Samantha where he is. I don’t have the heart or mental capacity to endure anything else.
All I know now is that each time it happens, I wake up older. I feel a bit more tired. I have learned to accept this as normal, and I don’t talk about it anymore.
Except for right now, so I can tell whoever reads this one thing: appreciate each day. Hug the ones you love. Don’t ever take time for granted, because if you do, one day you’ll wake up wondering where all the time went.
I’m going to sleep now, but I hope you take my words to heart.
I’m not sure if I’ll still be here in the morning to say any more.