Forget the last step and trip over the next




I crept downstairs in the dark of night, feeling my way along the bottom of the stairs, trying not to switch on the light. I was doing my best not to wake the house as I made a return journey to the kitchen ages after we'd all gone to bed.

It had suddenly struck me that Custard was locked in the kitchen. This was not a dangerous predicament, it's just that he sleeps in the living room with the dogs. I had forgotten to put him to bed and I imagined him sat, wistfully staring at the door and wondering why he wasn't snuggled with Granny Tess.

Except he wasn't there. For a moment, I lurched as I wondered if he had escaped into the night. He's a house cat and has bad eyesight and very dodgy hearing, so the idea of him loose at night was Not Good.

Before I panicked completely, I went to check the living room. There he was, in his favourite place next to the antique clock he likes to push off, busy washing his bits. He looked up, understandably affronted to have me come in just then and waited, tongue stuck out between his teeth, for me to leave.

I wandered back upstairs feeling defeated. I'd done it again. Just like so many other times in the past week, I had forgotten the last thing I did.

It's not so much the usual flaky memory but a specific kind of annoyance: I'll do a few things in a row and then forget I've done the last one. Custard was a longer example, as it took me a while to realise 'here we go again'. Shorter instances have been when I've put things away from the living room, one at a time, finding them somewhere to go, only to discover the last one I come for has already 'vanished'; that, without remembering, I've tidied it up in the place I thought of already.

Taking my phone and inhaler upstairs. I came back down for the inhaler less than a minute later. Putting things in my bag before lessons, I folded some papers in there, then looked for the papers. Setting out cups, plates and cutlery for tea I only just stopped myself from adding a second lot of cutlery, less than a minute since adding the first.

That's what strikes me about it. I'm used to forgetting things normally, but not used to doing something then trying to re-do so quickly afterwards. It makes the whole forgetfulness business much more immediate and harder to ignore. To turn around and try to re-do something while you're standing in the same place you were seconds earlier, having just done the thing, is unnerving.

Before diagnosing myself with some neurological disorder, I had to admit it was probably tiredness. Sleep has been elusive, good sleep impossible, dreams everywhere, like flies. It's no surprise an already eccentric brain could find new ways to make me suffer.

What I don't like is the loss of control that comes with it, as well as the inability to lie to myself about what happened. Worse than either, though, is that I rarely remember having done the thing I forgot. There's no realisation moment following the discovery. It stays forgotten. I don't remember carrying Custard to bed, or putting the papers in my bag - I only remember planning to do these things.

The simple answer is to get more sleep but the next person to suggest that is in line for a smack. I do not lie there on purpose, being a non-sleeper. It has become a creature in its own right, with an identity separate from mine. Perhaps the insomnia-saur is the one putting Custard to bed and doing all those jobs I can't remember?

If the answer is more sleep, then I'll be happy to accept a nice, uncomplicated answer. What I fear is that I'm disconnecting a little more from reality. So easy to do and totally attractive, who ever wanted reality anyway? Perhaps I will, once I forget more, or do more without realising?

I'll let you know. Don't say it too loud, but last night I slept, properly. Today, I'm fuzzy and almost worse than with no sleep. If I don't forget stuff today, I'll know I can blame it on sleep. If I carry on as if I'm two people, with no connecting memory, then one of those people is in trouble.

Amanda

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