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Florence in Words

Ease and Unreliability of Memory

Yes, I was tired as I kept my acupuncture appointment, and I knew I was going to lunch afterward instead of going home and resting. Linda picked me up in a taxi and then told me we were going to Atlantic Grill on Third Avenue. The name meant nothing to me but as soon as we were inside, I knew where I was, but not Atlantic Grill. Up front, I remembered Mariam Chamberlain’s enjoying the young people at the bar, beginning conversations with them, as we stood for a half hour sipping chardonnay and waiting for a table. And I always admired the L-shaped restaurant itself, its distinctive and beautiful brick wall that ended in a glass wall open on a beautiful garden. The restaurant was one of my favorite places, and I spent much of the lunch trying to remember its name.

I was also thinking about an important lunch there with a female member of the City University of New York’s Executive Board whose job it would be to recommend that The Feminist Press become resident at the Graduate Center and I become a full professor. And I could not remember her name, though I could see her face and even the toque-like hat she wore. I remember her first name now—Blanche.

Yes, I was extraordinarily quiet through lunch, did not talk about what I was trying to remember. On the way out, I asked several waiters, including the man seemingly in charge, if he remembered what this restaurant was called before it was bought by Atlantic Grill. No one responded.

At the front desk of my building, I was handed a huge bag of manuscripts I had agreed to review, and as I headed to pick up mail, the postman handed me a few letters, and I walked to the elevator, rooting around in my capacious handbag for my house keys in their usual spot.

By the time I reached my door, I had found no keys. No keys? No keys! No keys? How could that be? I am disciplined about where the keys rest when they are at home, on the end of a small bookcase near the door, from where they go into my handbag. And of course I use them to lock the door behind me.

I rang my neighbor’s bell, and to my relief Renee was at home and she invited me to come in and go through my bag systematically, saying that this happens to her once or twice a year at least. I felt frantic, breathless, anxious. I could not calm down, but I did say that it had never happened to me. As my heart continued to pound, I emptied my handbag onto Renee’s beautiful embroidered tablecloth, dropping cookie crumbs, but finding no keys. Renee urged me to call security, which I did.

Even then, I had no memory of leaving my apartment while my housekeeper was still in the apartment. And so I had left without picking up my keys, since Lucy was there. It’s days later and I still can’t understand not only how I could have left the keys, but as frightening, how could I have not remembered Lucy’s presence?
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