Ahead us stands the silhouette of a regular flat built decades ago seen from the perspective of an unusually fat pigeon resting on a street light, the stark lines of cement coated steel reinforcements framing the straight lines of windows that hide little boxes would hold no surprise. There is no room for surprises here, only timetables and scheduled events, plans without higher expectations. Pipes go through the clearly outlined building like veins, pumping not with the periodicity of a sole heart, but with beats that follow the whims of its tenants, yet the endless refreshment of cells that causes inhaling and determines exhaling is nowhere in the lines of being copied by the fraudulence of cold metal. The rhythm of pulse is loneliness after twilight’s gone.
“Crocodile Adventures” is on. The television’s bluish hue hits the wall with hard, straight beams every time the anxious cameraman switches in between a close-up of the crocodile and the host. The image shakes, and droplets of water cover the lens, coating Leo Roche’s face with a shallow layer of shadows that changes every second. His eyelashes flutter while his cheekbones switch from emaciated to plump, his forehead and short hair lit up by cold flames. His heart beats shallowly under layers of renewing cells, shedding new doubts and generating new ones at the same pace that end-of -the-line situations are reverted in westerns and CO2 gets a C crossed out each time his breath whizzes. It’s past midnight and the plain mechanism that keeps veins and pipes pumping functions without fail. Contrasts are formed between beats, but the result is the same raw deja-vu of inevitable defection, untimely death and other distractions.
A commercial break starts with a harsh yellow background and a cheerful tune. Leo lifts his head for a second, cracking an eye open. He looks at the round clock on the wall that reads 3:36 and remembers he’s out of potatoes before turning his back to the television and falling back into sound sleep, which is an unusual thing to remember for an amnesiac awoken in the middle of the night by a violent beverage commercial.
Recent events were starting to unveil.
Leo: (Turns on camera, waves. Sits down on a single wooden chair in a scarcely decorated, otherwise white room with a set of windows. Harsh morning light. Looks straight at camera, begins speaking in a robotic voice) This is the video journal of Leo Roche, anterograde amnesiac, aged 31 years, five months and 21 days , on the 23rd of September 1998. (Laughs. Resumes normal deep voice) I woke up with the television on this morning, the 7 sharp news were on, and this horrible, horrible
mountain biking accident in a town a few miles north of here was the first thing I really paid attention to. Twenty-seven injured due to some sort of technical malfunction of the braking system.
Well, since it was a competition, I’m guessing they all used the same bike model, otherwise that could never have happened. I’m phobic when it comes to bikes… A bike. Something as simple as a chassis, two wheels, a rock and some sort of residual rain water pond can cause a eight year old boy partial seizures for many years. Then tonic-clonic seizures before the age of sixteen. Then a phobia that remains buried deeply in his psyche, man! Yeah, it’ll like, haunt him until old age slows him down, crippling him into a remorseful bundle of sagging skin and teeth aches before his final encounter with Lady Death… (Laughs) As if I haven’t met the bitch already.
I’m unusually cheerful for a man who can’t really remember anything that happened after he turned eighteen, aren’t I? Well, on that rather insightful look towards my future as a grumpy old man who still thinks he’s a teenager, I shall return to the purpose of this video journal. Which is, documenting my day to day activities. Just in case I murder someone and I need an alibi or that my life suddenly becomes so interesting that my grandchildren will want to sell these tapes in order to buy recreational drugs, guitars and moonshine (“Look dude, my grampa had a memory disorder! Grab some popcorn and let’s watch how he tries to piece back his sad, empty life!”). It won’t matter to me, anyway. It’s reset each morning, replay tapes after brushing my teeth. Thank goodness for post-its and markers.
So hello, tomorrow-Leo! How’s your week been? Hahaha. You don’t have to answer that. (Looks around room) Seriously, don’t waste hours watching the tapes, I can tell you man nothing special happened. You woke up at 0700 hours, looked at the post-it on the cork board that read “Bathroom first on left”, brushed your teeth with Colgate, urinated, showered, took your meds, remember, we don’t want to go to the hospital just yet. Another post-it lay in the bathroom cabinet. It read “Tapes. First room to right, top shelf. Right to left, watch last.” And here you are, (Looks at watch), 12 minutes later. Next, you will have to eat your breakfast. If you run out of milk or groceries of any kind, there’s a post-it on the fridge with instructions to the nearest store. Remember to lock the door and don’t talk to strangers. (Grins) After you leave your groceries back home, check your mailbox. Put all envelopes that look important on the shelf under the tape, behind the turtle candle that smells like thyme. (Grins again) Then you’re free to go to the gym, in case you don’t remember, you’ve been having some coordination problems these days. The addy is first on the wardrobe door. Tim, the tall redhead guy is your physical therapist. He is a pain, but then again, would you look at your shoulders?! (Flexes) If he’s not there, ask for Pamela. You will return at home around 1130 am. That’s when you can start cooking lunch. Feel free to chose anything from the cook book under the sugar bowl that doesn’t include pork lard. That’s bad for the arteries.
Call the first number on speed dial after you’ve eaten your lunch, it’s Dr. King’s office. Tell him about your day, but keep it brief. He’s heard it all before. After that, you’re free to chose an activity from an astounding collection of puzzles, which you suck at but Dr. King insisted, movies you don’t remember seeing, crap blockbusters you won’t miss, the news, a snack, tomorrow’s Saturday so maybe a special report about whatever, knitting, sewing or baking (Chuckle). Before making dinner, call your brother (second number on speed dial), ask him if he’d like to come over or just tell him about your “strangely repetitive” days. His birthday is next week. Lock your door, read your mail and pin anything important on the cork board.
Don’t forget, I’ll be seeing you again tomorrow. (Salutes. Turns off camera. Fall into an abyss.)
Leo Roche’s bedroom. Door is half-parted. The psychotic beverage commercial chants about low calories. The upstairs neighbor flushes. The man next-door closes his television. Behind locked doors, a man is climbing the stairs leading to Leo’s 4th floor apartment. His coat resembles that of a ’40’s gangster on the run and his black hat covers his eyes with a straight shadow at all times. The Knight’s lips mold no emotion, no perception, no thought, no vowel. He walks the short distance to the front door without making any unnecessary sounds, walking the determined walk of a person on a mission. Exhale. Inhale. He removes a key chain from his coat pocket, wipes his shoes on the doormat and enters. One minute has passed.
He removes a pre-filled syringe from a metal case in his chest pocket while walking through the hallway. It reads DIAZEPAM in tiny script, no brand name, no dosage. Opening the door, he rests on the edge of Leo’s bed. Inhale. Exhale. Giving the medication too fast can cause heart problems. If giving this medication into a vein, inject it slowly into a large vein because the medication is very irritating to the vein. Do not inject this medication into an artery or into the skin, he thinks, repeating the first sentence agin and again. Two minutes. No withdrawal, no addiction, no depression. Mood swings now and then, but it’s not like the guy remembers anything, right?
The Valium Knight exhales and injects the medication at exactly the scheduled time, then leaves the building and quietly as he had entered. The forgetfulness business had always been profitable in keeping mouths shut, memories locked down and causes unknown.
Excerpt from a medical journal:
…adverse effects of benzodiazepines such as diazepam include anterograde amnesia and confusion (especially pronounced in higher doses) and sedation. Like other benzodiazepines, diazepam can impair short-term memory and learning of new information. While benzodiazepine drugs such as diazepam can cause anterograde amnesia, they do not cause retrograde amnesia; information learned before benzodiazepines is not impaired. Tolerance to the cognitive impairing effects of benzodiazepines does not tend to develop with long-term use.
Valium Knights in my bed
Only now, he’s a vagrant in my head
Loneliness, twilights gone,
I don’t understand where we went wrong.