How should I write this? It seems I should know already, but I don’t. It is hard for me to remember things. I suppose I’ll remember this. No. I won’t remember. When I open my tablet to write something else, this will be visible in my drafts. Then I will remember. No. As I said. Not remember, but will be able to continue. It’s funny. I can read something I have written, and continue where I left off. I seem to sense where the story would have gone. How would I know however? Maybe I had a completely different plot idea when I started. I don’t suppose it matters. I enjoy writing, and my continuing drafts allows for that. Of course the other story, the one I came on here to write, will be forgotten. I have a post-it stuck to my tablet. It is in Sarah’s handwriting. “Write down synopsis of new story.” I trust Sarah, and so I do. That is a good idea. Then I can write both stories eventually. I wonder what happens if it takes me several turns to write a story. Do I have several half written stories. It says ‘three drafts’ in that section. I guess I’m right. One thing I am grateful for, is that I remember that I forget. It hurts me deeply, but at least I can plan around it. I wonder how those ‘don’t remember they don’t remember’ folks do. Is it a blessing, or is it a curse? Do they care?
So here I am, sitting at my desk. I remember my desk. I have had it for years. Only my short term memory is effected. Only. That’s kind of amusing. Short term memories are nice, useful, and often essential. If I had’t the resources to help me navigate this new life, how would it be for me? Life in a nursing home? Do you want to know what happened? It’s quite a silly tale really. I was late to start drinking alcohol. I started my sophomore year in college. In High School my participation in football kept me away from the stuff. Like all my fraternity and classmates, I drank a ridiculous amount. We all knew it was ‘normal’ at our stage of life. As we left school, and people found careers they liked, and didn’t, my alcohol consumption did not drop, but increased instead. I somehow held down a job, barely. Drinking was everything to me. My friends went on to marry, have babies, and grow up. I did not. I started noticing problems with my memory around the age of thirty. Initially I presumed it was a phase, or early old age. I joked about it. I had been seeing Sarah for about a year at this stage. She was fond of the drink as well. Not as bad as me, but enough that we boozed together quite often. It gave me an excuse to believe I was normal. If Sarah was drunk, then I was wasted, and all was well. She started slowing down. As we became closer, she started expressing her worry for me. She cut her drinking down to an average of twice a week, and she got drunk, not hammered. She persuaded me to go to the doctor.
Korsakov Syndrome, otherwise known as ‘wet brain’. My drinking had caught up with me, and in the most terrible of ways. I had heard of wet brain in my twenties. It happened to people who drank for decades. The stereotypical old man drunk on the street. I was not that. I just liked to party. Heck. I was only in my mid-thirties. As the doctor listed the symptoms in a sympathetic manner, I could barely hear him. I heard enough to recognize the disease in me. I broke down crying. Sarah was with me, and luckily had the wherewithal to ask the questions I couldn’t. To listen to treatment options, and to hear the prognosis for someone like me. She hasn’t had a sip of alcohol since. Thankfully nor have I. I have not progressed so much initially that I did not remember not to drink. Luckily I had not become chemically dependent like so many poor unfortunates. For them, giving up is unbearable. For me, it was far from easy. I did not have withdrawal symptoms, but I craved alcohol all the time. When I was sad I drank, and anxious, and happy, and every other imaginable emotion. Now I had to learn to do without this crutch.
Sarah came with me to tell my parents. They had both known I drank too much, but not to the extent I did. They were both shocked and devastated. I would always be their baby, the little boy they took home from the hospital. How could it end like this? No not end. This would be a protracted, agonizing process. Most people don’t die from wet brain. Some do. Left untreated it is fatal. My mother held my hand, and Sarah’s. She knew Sarah would be an invaluable link to me. That she would be the one to deal with me on a daily basis. My father just stared off into space. Too shaken to say or do anything. I knew he would fall apart once I left. We didn’t stay long. There wasn’t much to talk about at this point. Sarah had researched about the disease, the prognosis, and the best way to help sufferers, but we both had so much more to learn.
Those first few days and weeks were filled with anger, frustration, shame, and tears. A lot of ‘why me?’ I felt like such an idiot for letting my life get to this place. Sarah was amazing, but had all the same feelings as me. She was devastated. I think we both knew that we had wanted to spend our lives together. Still wanted it. This new life was very different from the one we might have hoped for. If I hadn’t given up alcohol, would we have had a life together at all? There was no point in living in the ‘what if?’ It wouldn’t change anything. Sarah and I (mostly her) came up with ideas of how to help me cope. How to use cheats, like the tablet one, to help me function. The tablet one was not necessary at this point. How do I know this? Sarah is filling in the gaps as I write. I haven’t forgotten the things that happened around the time of the diagnosis. At least most of them. Since then things have gotten worse.
I remember my name of course. Charles. I also remember in fifth grade deciding I hated Chuck, Charlie, and any other nickname I could come up with. I chose to go by my middle name, Denver. My mom loved John Denver. They felt Denver for a first name was a bit pretentious, but fine for a middle name. Well mom got her way, and I felt terribly cool. I remember all my friends. I remember my way home from work. Speaking of work – I have not told them yet. A few people have expressed concern. Most people know that I’m a party animal. They seem to think the issues I am having are directly related to my alcohol consumption. I haven’t decided how to deal with this yet. I don’t think I can be fired. It’s an illness like any other, even if it was caused by me. If I can’t perform my job of course, I will be made to go on leave. For twelve months, and then I’ll be terminated. That word is so cool. If I was in fifth grade, transferring to Denver, I’d be thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger and “I’ll be back.” Who am I kidding? That’s what I’m thinking now. Anything to lighten the mood.
It’s five months since my diagnosis. Sarah put the date up on the fridge because I asked her so frequently when it happened. She puts today’s date beside it. She has a list of to-dos on the fridge for me. I meet with my boss today. I have been off work for two weeks now. I have not told him what is wrong, but I have told H.R. Today I will tell him. Sarah is coming with me, incase I forget pertinent points. I will forget of course. It is highly unusual to bring your girlfriend to a meeting with your boss. I suppose I’ll have to break the surprise early. I could say ‘I need Sarah here’, or ‘I drank way too much, I’m fucked. I remember Jack Shit.’ Which should I go for? Eany Meany Miney Mo…’
The meeting went well, I think. The bits I remember at least. Sarah assures me it did. John had never heard of Korsakov Syndrome. I think if he had been younger rather than older than me he probably would have been less sympathetic. He had heard of wet brain before but knew little about it. The thought that it could effect someone younger than him who was sober enough to hold down a job, both shocked him, and made him feel sorry for me. We agreed that I could hold onto one of my projects, out of four, but that Sarah would have to help with sticky notes. I knew my project inside out. I had been working on it for five years. That was a huge advantage. The only problem might be me forgetting to do what was tasked to me. John would e-mail me and copy Sarah. I knew this was only a pity job, but I took it. It kept my mind off everything else. When I remembered it did.
Sarah and I decided to get married. She recorded her proposal to me so that I could watch it whenever I want. She’s added to the video as time has gone. I watched it this morning. She told me we had chosen her engagement ring together, and showed it to me on her finger. She said that way when I see her with it on, I won’t be freaked out. She also informed me that we are planning the wedding together. We’re making the guest list out together. She’s helping me with my suit. It sounds like I’m doing things I would never have had any interest in before. Being abruptly reminded of your mortality changes a lot. I just want to be with Sarah, and show her how much I love her. At least that’s what I assume. Every time I see her my heart still skips a beat.
I have just woken up. I’m in a room on my own. It has to be a hotel room. Hotel rooms have a certain look about them, a certain tidiness, a sterility that is never replicated elsewhere. Why am I on my own? I remember enough to know I cannot be on business. Sarah is not here. Something is wrong. This is both puzzling and worrying. The first place my mind goes to is suicide. I know I have had this thought many times. I can’t remember… no I don’t know… have I had the thought recently? Would I know? I just know I am in a hotel on my own for no good reason. I check through my bags. There are no changes of clothes. There are many medications on my nightstand. The labels have my name on them. Did I intend to end it today? Why would I have no changes of clothes? There is a set on a chair. I suppose I wore them here. I am in a pair of boxers. It’s how I’ve slept since I was a teenager. And nothing else. I wear a new set of clothes every day. I remember that from before. I don’t remember if I intended to die today, but it seems so. I don’t have an overwhelming urge to do it, but I know yesterday’s self planned this. Do I owe it to him? What if I don’t do it, and I never get the courage, or never remember to do it, and I continue to live this miserable life. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. The familiar feeling of being ready to do it is present. This is the only way.
I have a bottle of water next to the pills on the nightstand. It is more evidence to me. Usually I keep my pills in the bathroom. I will go through with this. I must have decided Sarah and my parents would be better off. Maybe they already know? I won’t call them. That would be too hard for them. I uncap all my pill bottles. I pour them down my throat bit by bit, following each mouthful with water. Once they are all inside me I feel two things: slight relief; and paralyzing fear. I have never been this scared in my life. Knowing you are about to die, and not in the distant future, but now, is terrifying. I oscillate between these two emotions. They battle for first place, but somehow as well as switching between each other, they manage to coexist. It is exhilarating and renders me powerless. It doesn’t take long for symptoms to emerge. The first of which is slight intermittent blurring of my vision, followed quickly by dizziness. I walk around the room. A final use of my legs before they crumble. I look out the window. When the blurriness resolves for a minute I notice that it is a beautiful day outside. Perfectly clear skies. I see children playing in a park across the street. A tear rolls down my cheek. I will never have children. I never wanted them before. When I still drank. I mean I wanted them someday. It did not seem important. Now everything is important. Should be important. I am dying however. Nothing will be important. No more tears rolling down cheeks. No more pain. No more confusion. No more hurting Sarah, and mom and dad. I walk to the end of the bed. I sway slightly. Not so much from dizziness, but to comfort myself. I wish I wasn’t alone, but I have to be. The blurring eases less and less frequently. It is difficult to see, but not impossible. The dizziness feels like it wants to pull me to the floor even though I am sitting on the bed.
I stand to see if I still can, and fall to the left, crashing in a heap on the floor. I am facing the closet still. The door is ajar. It must have been since last night. I certainly don’t remember opening it. I laugh to myself. Even in this fear I can laugh at my own expense. How would I know if I had opened it? Duh. I can see inside just a little. After a while my blurriness subsides enough for me to see what’s inside. There is a suit. It is very formal. Has a purple cravat. This is how I imagined my suit might look if Sarah and I got married. Wait. Is this my suit? Were Sarah and I due to marry today? Oh God. I don’t know. How on earth could I know? My vision blurs out for the final time. My eyes also swim with tears. No. I don’t want this. I want to live. Sarah. I love Sarah. She loves me. I can get through anything with her. I feel myself fading out more. My whole brain swimming inside my skull. My useless wet brain. What a ridiculous name for it. Brains are supposed to be surrounded with liquid. Aren’t all brains wet? I giggle to myself and burst into more tears. I try to crawl to my nightstand. If I can reach the phone maybe I can get help in time. I can’t crawl. I can barely more. I’ve left it too late. I hear knocking on my door. I cannot respond. It is casual and slow initially. As the next few minutes, the last of my life, pass, the pounding becomes faster and louder. The voice on the other side is shouting now. It is Sarah. I can hear her screams. She knows something is wrong. I spend the last minute of my life staring at the blur that is my wedding suit, crying silent but huge tears, and hearing the love of my life panicking. I am devastated that I did this to her. So selfish. And I fade. Fade out. No more. I am going, going, gone. My wet-brain ceases to function. I am no more.