The chainsaw is exactly how I left it. Its cutting chain is bright with edge and lubricating oil. The tank is full. I’m standing in my shop with a Phillip’s Head Screwdriver in my left hand and a tape line in my right. I have boots on, but they aren’t laced. My jacket is where I left it, I think, somewhere inside. I’m already shivering, even though I’ve only been in the shop for a few minutes, but it is as cold as a meat locker in here. A pile of half-finished projects sit before me, taunting me a bit, I think.
So far, I’ve begun to work on seven different tasks since I got up this morning. The irony is that I don’t remember what I started with in the beginning. I know there are seven, for I am wearing seven different rubber bands on my wrists, reminders that I am working on something. I walk with great purpose towards the workbench, striding even. I learned over a year ago while I was in a kitchen it was important to never show weakness, to never appear as though I had forgotten what I was going to the walk-in to get. By the time I made it to the actual refrigerated space I had usually remembered what I went after. If not, then I could save face by grabbing something that I’m sure I needed, such as garlic, shallots, scallions, potatoes (I always needed those, it seemed) or green tomatoes. If I ever ran out of anything to do, I could always slice and bread tomatoes for the freezer to be fried later. We never had enough of those.
I’m trying to save face now, just as I did then, approaching my work bench with great purpose, as though I am a man tasked with splitting the atom, combating a strange new venereal disease through microbe manipulation, or just some dude that needs to hang his surfboard straighter. Admirable tasks, all.
The problem is that none of them are what I set out to do, with my screwdriver and measuring tape. It’s a soft tape, not a hard retractable one: The one I’m holding is a tailors measuring stick, flexible so that it can easily pass round the curves of a human form. Or around a board for more accurate measurements.
I’m not a tailor, and I have no reason to measure my own form for fitting. I’m not planning to buy a suit and I have the proper attire for my brother-in-law’s wedding, the day fast approaching. I puzzle through what I’m working on. A half-assembled beehive sits in front of me, the project on hold until I get consistently warm temperatures for a day or so for painting. My chainsaw is sharpened. My saw is put away. The floor space is swept. I’ve scratched the small humidor project, put aside for the time being by my lack of interest in fine cigars. They seem to be a waste for someone who enjoys it only slightly and would rather enjoy a salty bite of mackerel roe or kimchi if I must live dangerously. A hot dog is preferable to a cigar for me, even the service station type, with its accompanying crock pot of chili from unknown origins, created from cast-offs of bits of meat, fat, spices, beans and no doubt Hormel products. These nuanced flavors, however cast, with raw onions, spicy mustard, jalapenos, all piled on a stale potato roll. This is preferable to a cigar.
Back to the problem at hand: What, exactly, was I doing? I’ve always been a bit scatter-brained, but this memory loss is downright annoying. It is an amusing, if not slightly dangerous side effect of years of drinking, associated comas, medications and toxins arriving, unfiltered, into my brain stem. I used to consume things with little cause for worry in regards to my health – foodstuffs with color additives, artificial preservatives, excessive sodium, hormones, pathogens, ammonia, bacterial strains, antibiotics, aerosols – any of these things, even in small amounts, have a cumulative effect on my memory functions.
It is an interesting task to sit and write without conscious thought, to see where afterwards the path my brain takes, now off the rails without constant guidance. My thoughts wander as much as my attention, with vivid detail in the least of circumstances, then lines and hooks left open and dangling, for the reader to ponder upon after the writing has ended. Even I am puzzled. What exactly was I trying to say? At least my patterns thought are in order least.
But it’s not all bad. All things considered, it is still amusing, but not crippling. I still run on autopilot just fine, remembering, most times, the day and date, how to cook, how to do and be successful at the myriad of all tasks that are required to be human. I am so far trustworthy, able to always be, or close enough, on time for meetings, dates with my wife, and I still have a basic internal clock as do all cooks that ticks in the background when multiple items are in or on the stove or grill.
I’m thankful for that. On more than one occasion, while battling my last real approach to the inevitable course to the big unknown, I cooked meals for people who raved about them. I didn’t remember. One such dinner stands out, as it was for our Nanny. The term Nanny only fits as nothing else really does. Captain? Chief helper and person we now don’t know how we did without? A graduate student in Veterinary Science, she was a more than qualified person to care for our son, and, in a pinch, me. For some reason of her personality, she was able to guide me, despite my innate willfulness, in a better direction when I was suffering most from hepatic encephalopathy. I apparently made a risotto of some sort and have no memory of doing so. She raved about it later.
As long as I stand intact and whole in this world, I have every reason to be grateful. It is too easy to wallow in self-pity and ungratefulness, to develop an attitude of suffering and despair. It is not my way, yet I have to be on guard for those thoughts and feelings which could lead me to further illness.
Wait a minute? What was I writing about? What was I doing? Oh, yeah. Fixing the doorknob on the front entrance to the house. Why do I have my laptop? What day is it?