I remember a friend with amnesia....
Anyone who has lived through secondary education knows what a pressure cooker school can be. Every professor thinks their class is the only one, and there are papers and exams and assignments until you sometimes can't remember if you are coming or going. If you are a music student, you also have hours of practice on your instruments of choice as well.
My friend, Rob, was a music major. He was so talented musically, had a disarming and charming sense of humor, and somehow managed to be completely suave and totally geeky both at the same time. One night he was giving an informal concert in the student lounge. He pulled a stool up on the stage and asked for a volunteer, then walked straight up to me and dragged me up there. He sang "Ain't Misbehavin'" to me, making me blush twelve shades of red when he'd look into my eyes and sing "I'm savin' my love for you!". It was a fun evening.
Not very long after that, Rob collapsed in his room, unable to breathe, a complete breakdown. He was rushed to Emergency, and we were all very concerned. Word came back to the school over the next few days that Rob had lost his memory, and once he was up to it, would probably benefit from visits from some of his friends.
A small group of us traveled to the hospital as soon as we were allowed. Rob was sitting up in his hospital bed. He looked at us all quizzically, and we introduced ourselves. He was still completely himself, charming and geeky, but he did not know who we were, he did not know his own name, he did not remember how to read...he couldn't remember ANYTHING! It was the oddest thing.
His roommate stuck in a cassette tape of some Beethoven symphony. Rob perked up. "What is that?"
"That's Beethoven. That's music."
"I like it! I like music!"
I felt like crying.
"Do you hear that da-da-da thing with the interesting tone? What is that?"
"That's the trumpet, Rob. You play the trumpet."
"Yes, you do."
"Well, listen to it. Can you hear it? There are four of them playing different tones...it's pretty. I like it."
Even though he didn't know what he was listening to, he was listening to it better than any of us could. His talent, his humour, the things that made him Rob were all still there. He just couldn't remember anything.
Over the next few weeks he began to regain his memory, bit by bit. The prognosis: stress. The treatment: take it slow. He didn't finish the school year, though he did come to visit a few times. It made me sad to see him, he seemed so tired and fragile. I found myself wondering how close to the line I was, how close to a breakdown, and what parts of me would be left if I got total amnesia.