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This novel is R-rated, by the MPAA's standards. It is not G rated as per the request of the editors for this site, ergo, I will post chapters stripped of say, a polyptyton of stripped. Nevertheless, I would love your comments on all but the explicit love scenes, which I may not post here, and which may encourage those wanting to see the more explicit content to buy the book at such time as it becomes salable. If it looks like something's missing, it's probably that explicit content. Without further ado then, enjoy

Chapter 1.

"That's my last duchess painted on the wall
Looking as though she were still alive."
Robert Browning

I have never known the pains or passions of youth. I am now 32 years old and as many years behind in experience. I was born not once but twice. Obviously I will have to clarify that so that should someone come along and read this after my death, my final death, my identity should not twice be lost. I donít mean the same body was born twice, that is impossible. When I say, ďI was born,Ē I mean, there came into existence a new identity. This happened twice to this one body, although I havenít a clue as to what the first one was, and the second, well that one was born two days ago. For some reason it took the nurses almost a day to get me a note pad and a pen. I asked for it because after what happened to me, whatever happened to me, I didnít want this identity lost to the sands of time as the other had been.

Both such identities are equally mysterious to me. The last one was lost and this one is just beginning. Certainly, I would give or do anything to find out who I was before -- thatís a unique part of this identity I suppose -- but I have to make a life for myself, new friends, new experiences, new places, new jobs. I have to grow up now, 32 years after everybody else. Well, I donít know if Iím 32. Itís a rough estimate based on God only knows what. It works for me though. I have to start somewhere.

Tomorrow a social worker will help me establish an identity as a John Doe. Itís my understanding that I can choose any name I want, but Iíll stick with Doe. Iíll change it later should I see fit, or should I somehow discover the first identity in his entirety. I suspect such a discovery should link the two. That said, at the moment the name Doe fits perfectly. It was a handful of dedicated professionals who brought me into existence, whose names are so often forgotten or never learned to begin with. Everyone right down to the janitors who kept the floors and linens clean at night had a hand in my existence, so for me Doe doesnít mean ďnothing,Ē but is rather an agglomerate of all the unheard names that caused me to exist. I guess thatís a start.

I certainly hope no more than two identities can be born to a single body. Even I can only begin to imagine the horror of being born at 60, oneís life over half gone, (thereís just no way to say that optimistically) no love, no sex, no adventure. Everybody says that Alzheimerís is an easy way to go, but that itís just hard on the loved ones. After my experience I very much doubt that. To lose all connection to the past is the most horrible thing that can happen to a man. In a very real sense, it is death.

With that, John put the pen and pad on a little night table that was in his room. He turned off the light in his room, tried to come to terms with his existence, decided he should try to get some sleep. Yet decisions are not actions and he found himself gripped by a stream of thoughts, as terrifying as they were comforting. He began to wonder if he had ever been in love. He had notions of love. Love is even more ineffable for those who cannot remember its experience than for those that think do. In trying to remember, he racked his brain for a clear concept of love, realized that there was no clear concept, and settled on Socratesí view of the thing. In the words of the erudite philosopher ďlove is divinely inspired madness.Ē He did not remember it was SocratesĎ view of the thing.

He turned the light on and went to the bathroom to look in a mirror. He was not exceptionally handsome. He certainly looked the part of a patient. To his chagrin, he noticed a small facial tic. He didnít know why this should be embarrassing but found it to be anyway. He wondered if it had been there before now or if it was some side effect of some drug he was on. He went back to examining the stranger in the mirror before him. His long black hair was a ratís nest from his having lain in bed all day. It wasnít like he didnít try to comb it, he did, but it got messed up so many times that he stopped bothering with it. His face was weathered looking for his age. It had a two day growth of beard on it. He would have to remember to ask for a razor. It was indented slightly, and his eyes were sunken. There was a small scar above his left eyebrow. He touched it. It hurt a little. He debated over whether he liked it or not. In the end he decided he did. It added character. His jaws looked angular, and were so thin that the upper bones of it slightly jutted out. He scanned down. The mirror reported he was more generally thin. At least he wouldnít have to worry about that. It was, however, clear that the last owner of his body had not taken very good care of it. He was thin but not sleek, not built. He was the sort of thin that characterizes ill health. He also lacked muscle tone, but he reasoned that that was likely from being in a coma.

He decided that he shouldnít get any sleep. After all, he had been asleep for nearly 11 months. He turned the light off and decided to contemplate in the dark for a while. Then he made up his mind to write more in his journal and turned on the light, but his roommate in a less than courteous manner advised him to get some sleep. He grunted once, spent about an hour trying to settle on some reasonably comfortable position, finally found one, wondered whether he or somebody else in his body would wake up the next morning, and finally yielded to his compulsion to see oddities or none now dance before his eyes.

Neither oddities nor memories had come. He awoke the next morning vaguely confident that it was indeed the next morning. A brief trip to the mirror confirmed his suspicion. He was still in fact him, whoever that happened to be. He looked at the scar above his eyebrow again. Scars were usually memories. How would he explain this one? There was nothing attached to it save for a slight pain when he touched it. It was a small thin scar that cut through his eyebrow. There didnít appear to be any stitches around it. It was white and thin. It was clearly a very old scar. Perhaps he acquired it roughhousing as a child. Maybe he wiped out on a patch of black ice and hit his head on the curb. Maybe he got into a fight and his eyebrow was cut by a particularly hard blow, then later got infected. Perhaps a piercing got ripped out. He looked to see if he had any piercing scars in his nose or on his ears. He didnít see any, but a piercing gone awry seemed like the least painful thing that could have caused it, so he decided to make this his story. He didnít need the story for other people so much as he needed it for himself. He would define himself by the stories he inferred from his past. He knew that after a stay of a few days or weeks he would be healthy enough to leave the hospital and join society. Naturally, this too was something he knew nothing about. He surmised that he must have been at least somewhat successful in it before, but then, he had had experiences before of some kind. Neither then was he forced into any sort of role any more than the rest of us are. Now he found himself cast as a storyteller. Where most of us need only invent a future for ourselves, he was in a nearly unique position of having to create a past for himself as well. Ideally, he would discover his past instead of create it.

An eccentrically personable psychologist he had seen earlier informed him that making a story about the past and remembering it are essentially the same thing. ďIt isnít so bad what happened to you, ď she said. ďMemory is just an illusion. You just know itís an illusion. You see, there are two types of memory. We call them semantic and phenomenal. Semantic memory is basically your memory of words, concepts, ideas, that sort of thing. We usually donít remember where we learned such things. There is no story we can tell about them because that story is so banal. For example, I know that 2 + 2 = 4. Iím sure I learned that in kindergarten, but I certainly donít remember learning it. On the other hand, I remember the name of my kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Bell.Ē John had interrupted him at that point and complained that he didnít fully understand. ďIím getting to that,Ē continued the psychologist. ďYou see, I remember Mrs. Bell because she would always give us tiny pieces of chocolate when we would do something more than she expected of us. She especially liked to reward what she felt was virtuous behavior. There was a kid named Georgie, who was constantly picked on because he had a bum leg and it made him walk a bit funny. Nobody would be his friend until I stuck up for him. I got a whole chocolate bar that day. Yet I still canít tell you definitively that Mrs. Bell taught me that 2 + 2 = 4.Ē John had interjected again that he didnít understand. The psychologist continued his lecture. ďHave you ever heard of Pavlovís dogs?Ē he asked. ďNo,Ē John had answered. ďWell, Ivan Pavlov was trying to learn about the digestive systems of dogs, and as part of that he would measure how much they salivate when they were presented with food. Over time, what he started noticing is that they would salivate before his assistants brought their food. The dogs had learned to associate the assistantsí voices with the food, so they salivated in response to their voices. Pavlov abandoned his anatomical research and developed his theory called classical conditioning. Itís actually how all dogs are trained today. They learn to associate particular behaviors with the reward of food. Now there is something more to us, a cognitive side, but we are all Pavlovís dogs. I associated Mrs. Bell with chocolate and that kid Georgie, who went on to be a really good friend all the way through university. We still keep in touch to some degree now. My point is this though. I remember Mrs. Bellís name somehow, and I remember that she used to give us chocolate. You see, I had developed an association between Mrs. Bell and chocolate, and then Mrs. Bell and Georgie. However, in telling you all this, what Iím mostly doing is filling in the blanks. Iím trying to provide you with a reasonable explanation of how I came to have the associations I have, and that essentially is what phenomenal memory is. What you have lost is your ability to find logical connections between your current brain state and the past. In laymanís terms, we call that amnesia. I would advise you to try to tell stories about your past. Some of them might ring a bell. Youíll be ready to go soon, the doctor tells me you check out medically. Weíre just waiting for the social worker to arrange housing and income for you.Ē John was excited but somewhat terrified by that idea. He journaled and waited another two days to see the social worker, who it turned out had been seeing lawyers to help him establish a legal identity.


The following comments are for "Tabula Rasa Chapter 1"
by sixstrungout

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