Everyone forgets my name eventually. Ever since I was little, I would play with the other kids. We would laugh, kick the ball, throw rocks at the sun, but the next morning, they would not recognize me. Sometimes I would be bullied as all new kids are; sometimes, I would befriend them once again, but the cycle would always continue. I never had friends, but I also learned not to become attached to people. Including my family.
For a while, my family remembered who I was, for the most part. But they would have to place reminders for themselves. I remember one time, when I was coming home from wandering in the woods, I stepped into the doorway and saw my mother cooking. She stopped and her face was filled with surprise and confusion. “Um, hello child,” she said innocently. “Are you lost? Do you need something to eat?” But I would respond that I was her son and point at the refrigerator. That’s when she looked at the note she had placed there with a picture of my face, and I saw the sense of embarrassment, relief, and shame travel through her eyes. That wasn’t the first time that this had happened. However, when I became a young man, my name and face were almost completely gone from their memories. It wasn’t their fault; it was inevitable. And I knew, once I left to have a life of my own, it would be as if I never existed to them.
Holding work in the city was a bit rough. Bosses and managers would often forget who I was, and most didn’t want to put in the effort of setting-up reminders for themselves of who I was. Some were understanding of my affliction, or rather, my effect on people. But even then, I was tough to keep track of.
Eventually, I had to find other ways to supplement my income. While my affliction had its demerits, those demerits were quite useful in acts of thievery. I hate to say it, but I had to mug people. And while people seemed to quickly forget the trauma inflicted upon them as I entered the shadows, and wonder where their money had gone, it still made me feel bad. But I had no other choice.
But, my situation wasn’t always grave. While I never had much of a connection with anyone this allowed me to watch people up-front. I would watch people. Sometimes, I would even say strange things to them, watch as their faces contort. But then observe from a distance as the memory of me and my words fade from them. Sometimes it was like a game. I would sometimes see how long my impression would stay. I learned the more vile, more unpleasant things I said, the longer people seemed to remember me. However, if I made someone laugh or smile, the quicker they forgot about me. At least, that’s what it seemed.
Now, people watch me. I was in my 40s when they found me and placed me in confinement. I know very little of who they are (the nature of shadowy organizations, I guess,) but, like me, tended to watch things from the shadows, making as little impression as possible.
They study me. Like my family and employers before them, they have to give themselves reminders of who I am and why they have imprisoned me. I don’t mind it, however. They feed me and house me. Plus, it’s nice to provide some utility to the world, or someone’s world, as they study me, trying to find “my secret.” But sometimes I have dreams, closer to nightmares really. I imagine a nuclear strike, people evacuating this building, but as I scream and pound the door, no one hears. They had forgotten that I was there. Leaving me alone as I feel the smoke billow into my room, becoming a faint shape under its grasp.
But, I’m sure there are procedures put in place if such an event were to ever occur. And even if I were to somehow die here, alone and forgotten, at least I had a good life. I have everything I need. And it’s a simple life, sans the complications of deep relationships and drama. I sometimes feel bad for those famous few who have to be something for everyone. Me? I’m allowed to be whoever I am without judgment or control. I am free from everyone’s gaze, unmoored by memory.
I hope you enjoyed my little story. Sadly, however, these words will simply leave you. For some it may take an hour or two, others it will only take a few seconds. But, maybe, deep-down, in some small place, I will be buried. An area that you cannot name or face, but is there, lingering, influencing in some minor way. Well, it’s time for both of us to leave. We might be busy in our lives for now, but, regardless, we will all be forgotten, some sooner than others.
Written for the A-Z Challenge. “People are Strange” by the Doors inspired this story.