I Give Myself Amnesia / 19 July 2002

I give myself amnesia maybe once or twice a week, I’m not sure. I scored a little amber bottle of translucent pills but I’ve since learned that they’re just placebos. So Chacha tells me, anyway. They have real amnesia pills, she says, but they’re expensive and feel synthetic and give you stomach cramps. And anyway when it comes to amnesia you want your own head to be doing the leg work, as it were.

I forget who it was who gave me the pills and showed me the exercises. You do deep knee bends and some pivoting at the waist, let your head loll around like something’s been detached — again, all psychosomatic. Some irregular breathing, tensing all the muscles in your face and hands and then releasing. You choose a mantra from a list of twelve and go to work. I opted for No. 10 — ten dollar bills used to have two large roman numeral tens on their reverse side, resembling the scaffold for a sawbuck or sawhorse — which evidently means I have a good sense of humor but am afraid to share myself emotionally. Chant x 100, make sure every word loses its meaning, then keep going. When you reach the point where it seems as if the sounds are coming from a distant and malfunctioning radio, you’re ready to knock back a capsule. This tricks some ancient part of your brain, the part that is able to forget these are sugar pills.

Chacha swears she can do selective amnesia, focusing on one (but only one) particular event or subject and then temporarily obliterating it from her head. I’m not at that level yet, but frankly I’m fine with the tabula rasa. I wake up the next morning, feeling like a million sawbucks. Everything is absolutely astounding. I cannot believe anything I look at — the fan, the chest of drawers, my feet, the picture hanging on the wall, the frame, the brass hanger, the nail. I laugh out loud and then do a fake laugh to listen to it again, see how it works.

By the end of the day, or maybe late afternoon if I didn’t do it very well, everything’s come back to me. I’ll pick up a dirty glass and start washing it and realize this is drudgery and not some kind of mystical rite and I sigh in disappointment.

Joshua Green Allen

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