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Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006 - 12:41 a.m.

The man awakes, at the exact moment that his very last swirl of memory (it is of his late mother ironing) escapes his brain, and is turned back into light. Then, he has no memories left.

The first thing he sees in his life, now, is the view out the smeared train window - the repeating maze of battered, white apartment blocks and sagging telephone lines. It is as if he just appeared one Saturday afternoon, in the last carriage of a Brooklyn-bound F-train, a train carrying away his body with alarming speed from himself.

His expanding consciousness takes in the rushing landscape but cannot locate himself. He wants to scream and cry at the same time. The man gets off at the next station sobbing, and turns himself in to the police. Perhaps they can find him. A policeman empties his pockets and discovers nothing but a subway ticket. The ticket has a date and time stamp on the back, revealing that he had been riding the subway continuously for two days. What happened in those two lost days is a mystery that will never be solved.

The man is then sent to a hospital, where MRI and CT scans of his brain reveal, as it were, nothing. This sudden and complete loss of all memory, comments a doctor, is incredible. A new, fully grown man has been dropped onto the earth.

All day, the man stares at the cryptic numbers on the back of the subway ticket, a stubborn cipher that refuses to be broken. He dreams only of numbers, and of permutations of numbers. When he is tired, he walks to the recreation room where he watches the other patients play ping-pong. There, he loses himself a second time, hypnotized by the back and forth travel of the little white ball.

A week later, a friend searching all of New York's major hospitals finds him. His friend hugs him and her tears run down his hospital gown. He has been missing for ten days. You are a photographer. You live alone with your two Cocker Spaniels. You were born in England. Your father lives in Spain with your sister. He stares at her, as if she were telling a story. None of what she tells him has any resonance.

Almost immediately, he flies to Barcelona. At the airport, a woman hugs him. She says she is his sister. At their house on a cliff-top by the sea, his father stands at the porch watching him approach. The house is full of framed family photographs; he studies a black and white photograph of his mother, in a swimsuit by the beach. His sister looks over his shoulder and says that he had taken her death badly.

The next morning, he is seated alone at the dining table, with a stack of photo albums. Is this young man in the tuxedo, with the smirk and mullet really him? The idiots next to him his best friends? There are photographs of York, where he grew up, and of Thailand, where he holidayed every year. The photographs are terrifyingly real, pieces of paper filled with the faces of strangers.

Then he hears a faint tapping sound. It grows louder and more frequent. He walks to the window to find it marked by liquid droplets that appear randomly on the glass. They create individual paths down the glass, merging with and breaking off from other liquid paths. He is stunned at a house getting wet, and presses his fingers against the glass - he has never seen rain before.

He runs out of the house and suddenly he begins to laugh. He opens his mouth to taste the raindrops, and slowly he discovers the wetness of his skin - also a new sensation. His clothes are soaked through. Then he runs to the edge of the cliff, where the sea thrashes against the rocks below. He looks up and gasps. A massive, grey storm cloud, is dropping rain as it races inland, as if pulled on by invisible ropes. The storm cloud is the size of a hundred cliffs, and he can hardly comprehend something of that size floating in the sky, and then disappearing as it rained.

The man follows a path and it leads him down to the beach. He stands at the water's edge, watching the white roar of the waves. It is the first time (again) that he sees the sea. Was that photograph of his mother taken here? He dives into the water, and his body is immediately pulled and pushed by the undercurrent of the waves. He sees the earth resolved into its constituent forces - short black arrows directing the tear and rip of the waters, not just here, but all along the coast of Thailand. He sees the rise of water vapor over the seas, and the crawl of the clouds across the meridiens. Past skyscrapers as reflections, past the Pyrenees as a mist, mirroring a frozen lake in Siberia as a ghost. The man closes his eyes deliberately, and feels the invisible tug of the water, the bodiless, violent, energy of the unexperienced earth.


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