Remembering to breathe

“You know. If you walk away from me, I’ll lose you.” I said, quietly.

Cool-guy turned to me. “I’m glad you reminded me. I might’ve forgotten.”

He strengthened his grip on my hand and wove me through the thousands of people at the concert.

He stopped. “So. If I WANTED to lose you, all I would have to do is walk a few feet into the crowd?”

Breath easy. Don’t get mad. They all ask this. “Yes.” I said, evenly.


We walked on.

I stopped. “I won’t be teased about this. I know it’s funny. I know it’s strange. But. I can’t joke about it.”

He laughed. “Honey. I’m just kidding. Maybe teasing will help you lighten up about it, right?”

“No. Maybe not.”

We kept walking.

He stopped. “Maybe if you joked about it, you would see how unusual it is that you don’t have a visual memory. Come on, Holly. Are you sure I’m me?”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this.

“I don’t need you to help me with it. And I don’t want to be teased about it.”

“But.” He giggled. “You gotta admit. If I ever get tired of you, I could just fade into the background.”

I sighed. We moved on.

My visual memory has burned out from all the seizures I’ve had over the years. I have almost no visual recollection of what any of the people in my life look like. It’s been such a major issue for me that I’ve been struggling with whether or not to date.

We found our seats. He leaned in to me. “But you’ll recognize ME. In time. I know you will.”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this.

“No. I’ll NEVER recognize you. I don’t recognize my mother. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I’ll never recognize you. This won’t go away. This will never get better.”

He giggled. “I could hire some guy to stand in on a date if I had other plans?”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this.

“I have an auditory memory. After I’m with you for a few seconds, I can tell it’s you. I just can’t find you in a crowd. It’s so bad, that doctors have tried to label me ‘legally blind.”

“Cool. I think it’s cool. But. I’m going to tease you about it. Cause. It’s pretty funny. I could shave my head, and you wouldn’t know it was me? Cool.”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this.

“I won’t be teased about this.” I said, evenly. “This is one part of me that I don’t accept. Not at all. I don’t embrace this aspect of myself.”

“YOU SHOULD! He insisted. “It makes you an original!”

“You may not think it’s really cool when I walk past you. When I think you’re about the handsomest man on earth, and then I walk past you and don’t even know that it’s YOU standing there. That’s really going to hurt you.” I wanted to cry. I had hurt so many people in my life by not recognizing them. There was no quick fix for this.

“That’s not going to happen.” He said, softly. “I know it won’t.”

I sighed again. “I still walk past Ralph.

He froze. Ralph was my closest friend.

“If you talk, I’ll know it’s you right away.” I bit my lip. This was a really important conversation. Depending on the way it went, would depend on whether or not we would continue to date.

He laughed. “Sorry, honey. I’m still going to tease you about it.”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this.

“I once dated a man who traded shirts with another guy in the bathroom at a club. He wanted to ‘test’ my visual memory.”

“What happened? That’s hysterical!”

“The other guy approached me in my boyfriend’s shirt, saying that he thought that my boyfriend was trying to play some kind of trick on me.”

“Oh my god. That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. What did you do?”

“I asked the new boy if he wanted a kiss.”

Cool-guy got very quiet.

“It was a long time ago. I gave the imposter a nice kiss, let my boyfriend know that I didn’t like his fashion sense, and left him there. I refused to see him again.”

I had his attention.

“There was another boyfriend who once met me at the airport, to surprise me. He followed me out of the concourse, to baggage claim and all the way out to my car before he coughed, and I realized it was him. I was happy to see him, but only for a moment. Then I was so angry at him for not respecting me and my disability, I left him there and never saw him again.”

Cool-guy turned my head towards his and looked into my eyes. “You have to help me with this, Holly. I don’t understand.” He tried not to laugh. “It seems funny to me.”

“The funny thing about it is that it’s not consistent. Sometimes I’ll recognize someone that I don’t know well, and not recognize my best friend. There is no rhyme or reason for the way it works.”

“Maybe there’s a psychological reason for you not remembering people.”

Breathe easy. Don’t get mad. They all say this. They don’t understand the physiological reason for the memory loss.

“When I went camping a few weeks ago, I had a talk with my girlfriends. Honey. Maybe I shouldn’t date anyone till I come to terms with this part of myself. Because you aren’t the only one I won’t recognize. I won’t recognize your friends. Or your co-workers. Or your family. Everyone you introduce me to will be invisible.”

We sat quietly while the people around us danced to Jack Johnson. The concert was of no importance to us. This had to be dealt with.

“Holly. I want to be in you life. This part of you doesn’t scare me. You keep trying to scare me, don’t you? First all the stuff about the epilepsy. I don’t care. Now all the stuff about your visual memory. This isn’t a big deal. Ok. I won’t tease you about it. Just tell me what you need. I want to be a part of your life. Are you using this to try to push me away?”

Breathe easy. Be surprised. They never say this.

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