I began to forget things like first names, diapers at the grocery store when the sole reason to go to the grocery store was diapers, and on drives with Julian I randomly thought he wasn’t in his car seat, even though I knew he was there, but I had to look in the rearview mirror several times to actually see he was there. More troublesome examples included leaving faucets on, walking into a room only to question why I had walked into the room (when this happened I always tried to trick myself by pretending, to myself, that I had entered the room knowing what I was doing and would open and close a drawer like it was the original reason to enter the room before exiting) and in perhaps the most troubling incident I found myself in the bathroom washing my hands with toothpaste, the faucet off, but my mind telling me that I was brushing my teeth, grinning at myself in the mirror. I told Melanie that my faulty mind was because of the lack of sleep, and she recommended I research testing for early onset Alzheimer’s, that the family line was too deep to ignore it, and I aggressively told her that the idea was ridiculous, I was in my thirties, such a thing most likely didn’t even exist. Shortly after what became a full blown argument, we had a few friends over for dinner and while playing What Beatle Would You Be? I confidently answered “Jim Henson,” and after a silence that felt like minutes with a few faint laughs I said, “George Hamburgson” which everyone laughed at uncontrollably, except for Melanie, who I made eye contact with across the table and finally told, “George Harrison,” as if I was playing along the entire time.
Another example happened after I shattered the screen on my phone. I had planned a long walk with Julian and placed the phone in one of the cup-holders on his stroller and while carefully bouncing the stroller down the fourteen steps leading to our apartment, a move I had mastered with Julian strapped tight against my chest in a baby bjorn, the phone jumped from the holder, maybe I had gone too fast, and leading the stroller, the phone flipped down the concrete steps. I didn’t care about the phone as an object and thought the whole situation, my neighbor outside smoking and commenting “Oh, shit,” was funny. During our walk – the phone somehow still worked – I decided to show Melanie how messed up the phone was and attempted to screen capture the phone, and after three attempts, couldn’t understand why the picture didn’t reflect the screen I could easily see, the smashed phone in my hand. I angled the phone, and zoomed in and out on the picture, but it just didn’t resemble the actual phone, just a clear image, as if the phone was new. It took me several minutes to figure the problem out, a problem I made sure not to tell Melanie about.
My approach to reality was drastically off, for example, I had noticed while working at my office that I sat facing my computer monitor in an odd way, that is, I sat off to the side of the monitor, enough so that Iris asked why I was, “sitting crooked.” The next thing I noticed was brought to my attention by Melanie – that when I spoke on my phone (still cracked) I held the phone not at my ear and mouth, but at my ear and eye. I laughed, then Melanie took a photo on her phone and showed me, on her phone, of the picture of me holding my own phone, and sure enough I was holding the phone level with my ear and eye, and wondered how anyone had ever heard me speak before, that maybe they hadn’t, and just heard a distant mumbling and responded however they wished, a possibility both freeing and terrifying. The last askew approach to my reality was shortly after the toothpaste incident when I noticed, after banging my knees on the cabinet below the sink, that while standing at the mirror I occasionally bent my knees low enough so that I couldn’t see myself in the mirror. I was, in a sense, avoiding myself.
I’m not sure any of this is entirely unusual in contemporary life, and one weirdly similar example, but also a polar opposite, happened in the office one morning on my way to the bathroom when I passed the cubicle of Vicki and found her sitting bizarrely close to her computer screen staring at a blown up picture, the picture taking up the entire screen, somehow, a little more than the screen would allow, of her face, and when I returned from the bathroom she was still staring at the picture of herself, her face on the computer screen now bigger than her actual face, and I thought for a moment she was trying to enter it, or, the computer would swallow her real face, no matter how impossible, and for the entire morning I would pretend to use the community work printer, or stand and stretch my legs, or make a return trip back to the bathroom even if I didn’t need to use the bathroom, in order to see Vicki looking at the picture of herself, and each time I checked, she had zoomed in a little more until her lunch break and her computer screen was one pixilated eye.
Another moment concerning my reality, or my unreality, was while during my own lunch break, a few days before Julian was born. Connecting my office building with another office building, where they served pizza, was an underground tunnel, nearly two hundred yards long, wide enough for four people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and lit with yellow lights, and while walking the tunnel, coming back from lunch, I was in the tunnel with only one other person, a man about thirty years older than myself, 33, who was walking at the same rate of speed, roughly twenty feet in front of me. Everything about this man was similar to me, just slightly off, for example, he was my height and weight, but walked hunched over, he had a bald spot three times larger than mine, wore the same khaki pants and blue dress shirt – but the khaki pants were too short and the shirt too baggy – and later, I noticed he also had a beard of the same length. He walked while swinging a bag containing a Subway sandwich, and if he was the future me, it would have been an Italian mixed sub with chipotle dressing, I thought. I followed the man the entire length of the tunnel, no choice because I needed to get back to work, me as his past, following him, him as the future me, the two of us covering the same ground endlessly in time before he walked the opposite way, to a different set of elevator banks and continued on in his life, most likely, in a similar office with identical pay and maybe, even a daughter or son, who would have been my age.
These have been some problems I’ve been having with reality.