On our first date, M and I bonded by comparing the scars on our wrists from suicide attempts. We ate and drank, laughed and talked, and fueled by alcohol, we wandered the streets of downtown Des Moines on a cold Friday night a few weeks before Christmas.
We wound up at her apartment, where she shared some details of her life. A former Goth, her bookshelves wer lined with the usual suspects--Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Sylvia Plath. She had notebooks and notebooks of poetry tucked away, and was eager to share it with me. It wasn't very good, but it was obviously sincere, which is what I told her. "Oh, and there's another thing I should tell you," she said. "A few years ago, I was in a car accident, and I got some glass in my head and...anyway, sometimes I have short-term memory loss. Like in the restaurant, when we were sitting there talking, I could have forgotten who you are. I just blank sometimes. If it happens, don't take it personally, I just can't remember things."
"Has it happened tonight?" I asked.
"No, and that's weird. I have a hard time remembering new people, but I seem to know who you are."
We talked some more, but soon it was 3 AM, and I excused myself and went home. I could have stayed the night with her--we'd been laying in her bed, fully clothed, as we talked--but her revelation of her condition bothered me more than I wanted to admit. Somehow it made her seem more vulnerable. Did her condition scramble only her memory, or were her thought processes and perceptions messed up as well? I was afraid a physical relationship might imply feeling and emotions that just weren't there.
Who knows, though? Those feelings and emotions might have developed eventually, but it was not to be. M and I spent a lot of time together in the next two or three weeks, even roadtripped together on the weekend between Christmas and New Year's Day--we stayed in a motel and slept together, but literally only slept--and ate a lot of Indian food and listened to a lot of music.
One night I got a call from her. She was manic, alternately crying and laughing, and finally bluntly asked, "Why don't you want to fuck me? You don't think I'm pretty enough, do you? Is that it?"
"No," I said, "that's not it."
"You think I'm crazy? Is that it?"
"No, I just...I just think...It's not that I don't want to, I just think we should wait until the right time..."
"Well, I think you should come down here and fuck me."
I did not go down and fuck her, but the next time I saw her, I learned the reason for the phone call: Some friends had given her crack. "They're not very good friends," she said, "but at least I can remember who they are."
This made me extremely uncomfortable, and our day together had a weird tone, our connection had been altered, but we still had a pretty good time, and ended the day watching Scooby-Doo reruns, both of us admitting an unhealthy obsession with Velma. (M was bi-sexual, and most of her long-term relationships had been with women.) The evening wound down and I left.
That was the last time I saw M. We'd talk on the phone, but she seemed spacier and more confused than I'd known her to be. Was that an aspect of her condition I simply hadn't seen, or was it something more sinister? We'd make plans, but she'd cancel. Eventually I'd stop calling her, and she didn't call me.
About a month later I met Sue Ellen, who I fell for almost immediately. I asked her to marry me on our third date, and within a few weeks I had moved halfway across the state to be with her. Initially I had my own apartment, then I just moved in with her. That would have been in September.
Shortly after that, I received a phone call from my mom. Some girl had left a message on her machine, saying she was looking for me. It was M.
She'd left a number where she could be reached. Sue Ellen, mercifully, gave her full blessings to allow me to call her--I think her words were, "Let's see what the lesbo chick wants." So I dialed the number. Her mother answered, I told her I was an old friend of M's and that she'd left me this number, and I was told, in no uncertain terms, to never call again.
Her mother couldn't have known who I was, and must have been protecting her daughter from "old friends"--but why? What had happened, many, many months after we last spoke, to prompt M to randomly dial someone in the Perry phone book with my last name, in the hopes of getting a message to me?
I'll probably never know. After several years away, I live in Des Moines now. M is not listed in the phone book, and I've Googled her name to no avail. I have no idea what might have happened to her, or even if she's still alive. It would be nice if I could talk to her, just to let her know that she really did matter to me, that I think of her sometimes, fondly and with regret.