My boyfriend being entertained by my seizures

I staggered outside with that blank look on my face.

“You found another one, didn’t you?” Cool-guy asked, turning the salmon he was grilling.

I looked at him, numbly.

“COOL! What was this one named?”

Named? Did they have names? I sank into the chair.

“Let’s see.” He said, turning the salmon over. “Think you named the last one, AAAAHHHHHH! Was this the same one, or a different one?”

Slowly, very slowly I registered what he was saying. “You mean. You didn’t hear my screams?”

“Nope. Missed it. Why don’t you go back down to the basement and give me another chance?”

I gave him a hard stare.

“Holly. Don’t give up on me. I’ll listen for your screams this time. Go on. Go back down there.”

I leaned back in the chair. “You mean. I could get carried away by a man-eating-woman-eating Monster Mouse and you’d never hear a thing? You wouldn’t even know I was gone.”

“Honey. Of course I would know, eventually. When the brown rice rotted I’d know for SURE you were gone.”

I lifted my legs up onto the chair and looked around for more mice. “You REALLY didn’t hear me?”

He laughed. “No. Come on.” He reached for my hand. “Let’s go down to the basement right now. You can show me where he went.”

Yeah. No. The last time I showed him where the mouse had run, we’d discovered a large stash of dog food in an old pair of his shoes. I know. That may not have been a big deal for someone else, but he doesn’t have a dog. And. He doesn’t have houseguests with dogs either. Which means the mouse must have been stealing dog food from a neighbor’s house and carrying it over hill and dale to hide it in that shoe.

I think that’d be pretty hard to explain to the neighbors. How their dog food ended up in his basement. But. Cool-guy thinks it’s great and refuses to kill that mouse, hoping it might graduate to lifting more interesting items from his neighbors.

“He escaped, again.” I tattled. “He squeezed out a little hole next to the door. That must be how they’re getting in.”

“Honey! You scared him out? That’s why I love you so much. You’re better than a cat.” He gave me a big, smacking kiss on the mouth.

Why this man is willing to co-exist with mice, I’ll never understand. The only place that’s off limits to rodents in his house is the kitchen where he sets one trap. It’s enough to keep me from eating for a whole week if and when the trap does its job.

“Did you have a seizure?” He asked.

I nodded.


I stared at him, open mouthed. Good? For me to have a seizure? Good? GOOD?

He laughed. “These mice are really medicine testers. I’m convinced that your neurologist has sprinkled them throughout my house to test the effects of the Topamax. To see if it’s working.

I walked into the house and slumped on the couch.

He followed me inside. “What was your visual hallucination, honey. During the seizure. What was it?”

I ignored him. He thinks it’s good that I have seizures? GOOD?

“A mouse?” He laughed. “Did you see a mouse then have a seizure with a mouse? That would make two mice.” He laughed harder.

I waited a moment. “A train.”

“A “choo-choo” train?” He asked.


“Did the mouse hop on the train? Is that how he got out of the house? He hopped on the Mouse Train?” He laughed hysterically, holding his chest and rocking back and forth on the couch. “That’s hysterical. A Mouse Train.”

I sat up. “Is that why you won’t get rid of the mice? Because you’re so entertained by their seizure starting techniques?”

“No, honey.” He said. “No. Not at all.” He tried to stop his laughter. “But you have to admit. It’s a good thing that I’m not the only one scaring you into seizures… or you might want to get rid of me too…”

“You know…” I said, laying down on the couch. “If I ditched you, I’d get rid of two pests with one stone.”

He lost the laughter. “Two pests?”

“The mice and YOU.”

“Oh.” He said, nodding his head. “I was afraid you’d get rid of the mice and the mouse train.”

I stared at him. Open mouthed. What? Making fun of the seizure? What? So this WAS entertainment for him…

“I know.” He giggled. “That’s what I was worried about too. How will the mouse get out of the house if you get rid of his train?” He collapsed into laughter, rolling back and forth while little tears welled up in his eyes.

As for me… I’m tough. I can take it. And besides… I have power too.

aI decided not to mention the salmon that that he had clearly forgotten. It had certainly burned to a crisp on the grill by now. There is nothing that will dampen a chef’s mood more than burning an expensive slab of fish.

Steak for two

“Come on.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s go.”


“I’m starved.” He said, tugging on my shirt. “I’m hungry enough to eat a steak.”

“Wait.” I murmured, knowing full well I resort to single syllable words the moment I near my addiction.

“Hello? A vegetarian just said he was hungry enough to eat a steak?”

“K.” I agreed, not hearing him. I turned the page in my book.

Fine.” He said, patiently. “Five more minutes. But you’ve already overstayed your allotted bookstore time.”

I nodded absently and continued reading. What a great book. Something about how to mingle at parties when you don’t know anyone.

Oh. I know. I didn’t need the tips in the book. If I can enter a room and be assured I don’t know anyone there, I become Ms. Personality. My lack of visual memory is the only thing that slows me down at parties and keeps me from enjoying myself, because I can never be sure if I’m standing next to my best friend or talking to John Travolta. I can usually figure out who people are when I hear their voice, but that can take a lot of effort at a noisy party.

I put that book down and picked up another mingling book from the stack I had collected. How many socializing books are there? Book number two suggests striking up conversations with people at a party who are dressed the same way you are.

Um. No. Who wrote this book? Bad, bad idea. How could I look forward to stimulating conversations if I only talked to my fashion doubles? No. I recently had the most delightful party conversation with an old woman who was wearing a thick pink sweater. I was wearing a black dress so according to the book, we never would have talked. Why do people write this stuff?

I tossed the book aside and chose the next from my pile.

I flipped open to an essay on the whiles of positioning oneself around the food table to find a good conversation. Oh. I totally disagree. I HATE people who monopolize the food table so all the guests have to talk about carpooling if they want to eat. I’d rather go hungry.

I prefer to fix a small plate and remove myself to a far corner of the party. Then I can ask a handsome man if he’ll refill my plate with his favorite foods. See. That way we can have a great conversation when he comes back. Yeah. I know. That doesn’t work well if he’s married or if his date happens to see him doing my bidding.

Cool-guy came back and touched my elbow gently. “Time to leave?”

I looked up at him. “Not yet?”

“I’m going to read a magazine. I’m a fast reader…. I’ll be right back.”

“Thanks.” I picked up book number four. This one suggested walking up to a group of people you don’t know and jumping into THEIR conversation. Oh. Yuck. Like. Who wants to talk about the stock market anyway? Not me. I’d rather go over to a large plant and look for bugs, or stare at the stars. Believe me. Some bored person will seek me out and start a conversation.

I dropped that book and thumbed through the next one. This author insisted that if all else fails, you might wait on line at the bathroom to meet some people. No. No. No. I mean. Sure. Meet people in the bathroom, but they will be able to tell INSTANTLY that you’re sad and lonely and searching for camaraderie and it will SCARE them. Everyone knows loneliness at a party can be catching and they won’t have a THING to do with you.

Rather I like to strike up a conversation with the hired help. If all else fails I pretend I’M the hired help. It always brings out the curiosity in people if I’ve donned an apron and started serving cheese and crackers. A friend and I once jumped into a failing party and became the Holly-appointed bar tenders. Man. That was fun. And we met tons of men. (mostly alcoholic…)

Cool-guy hugged me from behind and whispered. “I love you. I’m hungry. You’re a bore in bookstores.”

I laughed. “Would you rather BUY me this book? I only have about ten more pages to scan. Can you wait?”

“Yes.” He said, kissing my cheek.

He stood behind me while I turned pages, reading as fast as I could.

Oh. This was worth all the wasted scanning time I’d put in. The last book insisted that when you’re ready for some interesting party conversation, you should turn to the person next to you and say, “Tell me something dangerous.” EXCELLENT. Great idea. I’d never thought of that. I could even add sparkle to grocery store lines with that bit.

I turned the page, “Another way to catch the attention of someone you don’t know would be to say, ‘Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”

Excellent. I decided to try these lines on Cool-guy. After all. The poor man had waited for over an hour while I wandered through the mingling books.

Without turning around, I leaned in to him, and gazed up at his chin. “Tell me something dangerous.” I said in a low, seductive voice. Yes. That sounded good. I took a step forward, ran my hands down my body and spun around as I said in my sexiest voice, “Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”

“Uh huh.” Stranger said. He cleared his throat.

My mouth fell open. That was not Cool-guy’s voice. That was not his body. That was not his beard. That was not his face. Oh. God. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right behind me.

Stranger was surprised by my behavior. He cleared his throat again. “You’re REALLY hot.” He stammered.

Oh. God. The books. I had scanned all these books, and not one had a suggestion for escaping humiliating situations. “Oh. Um. Yeah. No. I mean. Thanks.” I forced a smile, and mechanically handed him the book, a reflex from my assistant-manager-of-a-bookstore days. “You should read this. You’ll really like this.”

I turned and stepped away, quickly.

“Yeah. Thanks?” He mumbled after me.

I found Cool-guy in the magazine section; at least I thought it was him. Closely shaven beard. Blue shirt. It looked like him. I waited.

He looked up. “Hi honey.”

“I’ve overused my allotted book store time.” I said, pulling him by the sleeve.

“Oh. Now you’re ready to go?” He asked, dropping the magazine. “What’s the rush?”

“I was overly friendly with a man who wasn’t you.” I said, quietly.

“OHMYGOD. Where is he?”

“Can we go? Please? Now. Can we go?”

“Did you kiss him?”

“No.” I said a little too quickly. My God. I might have kissed him.

He laughed hysterically. “What did you do?”

“It’s not what I did. It’s more like what I said.” I looked over my shoulder. Was he following me?

“What did you say?” He laughed.

I bit my lip to try to turn down my blooming blush. It didn’t work. “Well. It’s not what I said. The problem was more in the way I said it.”

Cool-guy took my hand and gently pulled me back into the bookstore.

I resisted with all my strength. “Where are we going?”

“I want to meet my double.” Cool-guy laughed. “I want to see his face when he sees you again.”

I tugged and pulled, trying to get free. “I don’t remember what he looks like.”

Cool-guy was scanning the aisles. “I’m guessing he has a closely shaven beard. Right?”

“No. He’s short and fat. A midget I think. Oh. Look. No midgets here. Let’s go.”

He released my hand. “Honey. I’ve decided to extend your allotted bookstore time. I realize now I’ve been cutting you off and not letting you be the real you.”

“No. Thanks.” I said. “Time to feed the boyfriend?” Food always changes the subject. Surely this would grant us a fast exit out of there.

He handed me a book on bird watching. “Watching you mangling your mingling skills is all the food I need.” He laughed, clapping his hands. He leaned against a stack of books. “Please. Continue.”

Call of the wandering boy

“Cool-guy?” I called out, looking around. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right next to me a minute ago.

People turned to see what I was yelling for. I know. I was causing a commotion at the garden festival and they wanted to know why. I yelled again, not knowing how else to find him.

I looked back the way I had come. Ok. Blue shirt. He’s wearing a blue shirt. And he’s tall with a closely shaven beard. I know what he looks like because I’ve memorized his attributes. Now if only I could recognize him when I see him again.


Not one of the curious people who turned when I called was tall with a blue shirt. Great. This is the one time not having a visual memory annoys me the most. When my boyfriend might be three feet from me and I can’t find him. I slowly scanned the crowd for people wearing blue shirts. Remind me to dress him in a long, dotted caftan with a ten-gallon hat next time.

I leaned against a pole. There were jillions of people walking around the garden show, so finding my man was going to be a chore. Oh. I know. He could find me. His visual memory was perfect. And he knew the moment he stepped away, my brain promptly forgot what he looked like. I couldn’t remember faces at all. My epileptic seizures had burned out my visual memory long ago which made all people look basically the same. If three men with closely shaven beards walked up to me and they were all wearing blue shirts, I would have to wait for a voice to be able to tell which one was my boyfriend.

Oh. Sure. I know. My neurologist constantly reminds me to switch to auditory when I lose someone in a crowd. I keep begging my doctor for more practical help. Isn’t there a drug I can take to help me locate my boyfriend in a crowd? Something that would make our magnetic pull an optical reality? But my sweet neurologist doesn’t seem to understand that auditory doesn’t help locate a missing man in a blue shirt. I wonder if I could learn some kind of echolocation like bats use?

I tensed. I hate losing Cool-guy. If I could find him right now, before he knew I was lost, he’d never know my disability had separated us yet again. I started the nonchalant scan. He couldn’t have gone too far.

Sure. There might be methods for us to find each other quickly. Everyone and his brother had suggestions. At a recent party several of my closest friends excitedly gathered around and shared their top three ideas for me finding Cool-guy in a crowd.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The top three ways to find each other when lost in a crowd.”

I looked at Cool-guy. Was it too late to opt out of this game?

“Number three: Use an electric dog collar that can send out small shocks.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I tried to back away. “You’re trying to be funny, right?”

Pete grabbed my hand. “Think about it.” He said, excitedly. “You could press a button and send out a SHOCK to let Cool-guy know you’re looking for him.”

“Do you have anything kinder?” Cool-guy asked.

“You could hold the collar in your hand.” Pete continued. “Think about it.”

“Is number two any better?” I asked. “I need a drink. Number one has me craving alcohol.”

Angela smiled. “Number two: Carry a flag around and wave it back and forth when you get lost.”

“No.” I said. “Everyone will think I’m leading a parade. You guys are scaring me. I thought your top three were going to be a joke. You’re serious? Could you lighten up?”

“We won’t need a flag.” Cool-guy added.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The number one suggestion for identifying your man when you don’t have a visual memory…”

I cut in. “I’m thirsty.”

“Me too.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s find a drink.”

Pete continued. “Have him wear a hat with a big X on top. And whenever you can’t find him, climb onto something tall and look DOWN.”

Cool-guy took my hand. “White or red wine?”

“Vodka.” I said. “Straight up.”


“Already had one, but thanks.”

Cool-guy led me to a quiet spot in a garden. “I’ve never lost you yet. I’m not worried about it.”

“Me neither.” I lied.

Ok. That was last month. Now. Here I was wondering how long it would be before he realized I didn’t stop to look at the street musician or art exhibit or whatever grabbed his attention. How long until he would retrace his steps to find me? Because if he didn’t I might have to live here forever in this garden festival and get a job watering the grass, because they’d never trust me to go near the flowers.

Maybe I should have paid attention to where we left the car. We had absolutely no plan for finding each other. Wonder if they have laws against adults showing up at the missing children’s tent. What other option would I have?

I tried to even out my breathing. Ok. Enough of all this worrying. He’d figure it out. Eventually.

I heard a high pitched call. “Who-dee-hoo” It was a human voice that was mimicking a bird’s call. I heard it again. And again.

Hey. Was that Cool-guy’s voice?

I heard the call again. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.” I turned towards the voice and saw a tall man in a blue shirt with a close shaven beard waving his arms back and forth over his head. I laughed and walked towards him.


As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed not one person around us turned to see where the noise was coming from. Couldn’t they hear him?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Cool-guy called again.

I laughed my way up to him. “Where’d you get the wild call?”

“Barney Fife. He used it once during a steak-out.”


“Yup.” He handed me the freshly squeezed lemonade he had stopped to buy. “Barney said when the bad guys were coming, they would use the secret call, ‘Who-dee-hoo.” It worked for them, so I figured it would work for me, too.”

I laughed at our new secret code.

Later we stopped for a sorbet. I turned after buying mine and Cool-guy was gone. Where was he? Ok. Fine. Blue shirt. Tall man. Close shaven beard. Where was he? I didn’t see him. I exhaled slowly and shook my head fast. Again? Twice in one day? Again?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Came the call from across the street.

I turned and saw a man in a blue shirt waving one arm over his head. I laughed. How could I get mad at a man with such ridiculous methods? Especially when nobody else was paying attention to all the hooting going on. Really. This call was going to work. We had found our way.

As I got closer, I heard what sounded like an echo. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“OhmyGod.” I said, kissing his cheek. “Someone has stolen our secret call.”

Cool-guy smiled. “Listen to this.” He called out, “Who-dee-hoo.”

The birds in the trees repeated the call back to him. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“You know.” He said. “Maybe I’d better be careful. When I step away and send the secret call, those birds could really mess us up by sending out false signals. We’ll get all turned around.”

“I like the hooting.” I said. “It’s better than hollering. But maybe we should match it with the electronic dog collar. I think a little shock therapy might help you remember not to wander.”

“Bad idea.” He said, handing me my second freshly squeezed lemonade of the day. “It could cut down on your lemonade supply.”

Love with forgetful eyes

I turn off the alarm and nestle back under the covers. Morning can wait. Isn’t there something I was going to do before I got out of bed? What was it? Something important, right? My eyes open. It had to be done first thing. Um… after the alarm but before I got up. Yes. That’s right. I wanted to remember my boyfriend’s face.

I close my eyes and try to envision him: close shaven beard. Blue eyes. Brown hair. Yes. Dark brown hair. My imagination paints a scruffy beard floating in a sea of black. I can’t do it.

I open my eyes and clench my fists. Come on. I’ve dated him for over a year. I must try harder. I close my eyes. What does he look like? Blackness. My boyfriend is a black cloud in my eyes.

I must see him. Right now. No more waiting. He is laying right behind me in bed, but since I can’t hold any image of him in my mind I feel strangely alone. Though he’s completely comfortable with my visual memory loss and knowing that I must see him to remember what he looks like, this morning I feel that I have something to prove. Maybe if I can summons his image from the nothingness in my head, then I can prove his importance in my life. Shouldn’t I remember the one I love?

I open my eyes and quietly roll over to my right side. If he wakes now, he’ll cuddle closer and I’ll miss this early morning chance to study his face. These stolen moments are important to me. This is the time when I work on what years of Epileptic seizures have stripped away from me: my visual memory.

His face is mashed into his pillow but I can see. Oh. I can see. My heart quickens as Cool-guy’s image fills the void in my head. I use my eyes to touch his lips. His beard. His nose. I trace the lines around his eyes as I drink him in. Yes. Dark brown hair. Ok. That’s what he looks like with his new haircut. Like he’s ten year’s younger.

His mouth is slightly open and as he breathes little, shallow breaths and I want to laugh out loud. Isn’t he cute? Look at him laying there with his little boy haircut! Yes. It’s him. My boyfriend with the short hair.

I want to tell someone. Who could I tell? Nobody at this hour. He really is gorgeous. I relax. Every morning I wonder about seeing him again, for the first time. What if I don’t like what I see one day? I want to laugh at the absurdity of this fear since it’s been a year and it hasn’t happened yet. But I don’t laugh. I need more time alone with the sleeping him.

I reach out my hand and gently rub the side of his face. Though this might wake most people up, it relaxes him into a deeper sleep. He moans slightly and sighs deeply. I smile and continue caressing his face and beard. His beautiful face. Maybe if I touch his face enough my hands will remember it.

I pull my hand back and spend some time memorizing him. When I’m sure I’ve committed every detail to memory, I close my eyes, willing myself to hold those details in my mind. One. Two. Three. Four. Gone. Four counts. I can hold his image for four counts before it dissolves completely and I’m back to black. Not bad. I’ll try again.

I open my eyes to find his blue eyes staring into mine.

“What’d you doing?” He asks in his early morning groggy voice. He searches my face, worried I’ve had a seizure.

I wait a minute, unsure how to express that I’m loving him with eyes that can’t remember. “You’re so cute.” I whisper, cuddling closer. “Do you have any idea how cute you are?”

He laughs. This is the millionth time he’s heard this. He closes his eyes. “Thanks, honey.”

I reach my hand up and stroke his beard. He sighs as he falls back into sleep.

I slip out of bed and step into the shower, ever reluctant to start my day while a cuddle opportunity lays in the next room. I dress and eat breakfast before I make my way back to the bedroom.

I hold my breath and silently creep up to the bed to study him for a moment. Yes. That’s right. Close shaven beard. Short hair. Cute. Very cute.

I kiss his cheek and arrange the covers around his shoulders. “Bye honey.”

“Bye.” He says, opening his eyes. “You’re ready for work, already?”

He thinks I need him to wake up and discuss our day and arrange our evening.

I kiss his cheek and whisper. “I’ll call you later.” My hand automatically rubs his face and he is back to relaxation. My eyes gather their last look.

As I walk away I count. One. Two. Three. Darn. Only three. He’s gone. I’ve just walked a few steps and already his image is gone. I’m tempted to go back. One last look. But I don’t let myself. He needs his sleep.

Besides. My eyes may have forgotten what he looks like, but I have nothing to prove to myself. Because my hands will remember all day.

Brown-eyed boy

“We should stop meeting like this.” Brown eyes said.

I smiled as I walked through the door. “Stop? I was just getting used to it.”

We walked into the coffee shop that was the neighborhood I was about to move into.

“You a coffee-girl or tea?”

“Tea. Herbal. No caffeine.”

“I’m a double caffeine man myself.” He smiled. “But tonight I’m thinking decaffeinated might work just fine.”

I almost blushed. What was it about his eyes? He had the ability to melt me with a simple look. That’s not so easy to do, but he seemed to have it down.

“So.” He said. “How close to this herbal-tea house are you going to live?”

“Round the corner. And you?”

“Three blocks away. That’s unless I feel like driving.”

“It will be great to live near such a cool place.”

“Yeah.” He said, looking around. “Cool if you like drinking hot stuff.”

I laughed and left him to order our tea while I searched for the bathroom. There was plenty of time before our tea was brewed. But, I hurried. I didn’t want to lose him in the shop. Oh. Man. What was he wearing?

As I returned to the counter my worst fear was realized. He wasn’t standing at the counter any more. Um. Where was he? Oh. No. Man. What did he look like, again? Brown eyes. Um. That wasn’t going to be enough of a clue for me to find him.

I had lost my visual memory from all the epileptic seizures I had endured over the years. Once I walked away, my brain would forget any face it wasn’t still looking at. I couldn’t hold any image for more than a few seconds. Great. What had he been wearing? What color was his jacket?

I walked slowly towards the counter, willing him to call out my name. Surely he would call me over to the table? Nope. No chance. I was on my own. Great.

I stood at the counter and pretended to look at the list of decaffeinated teas again. Where was he? OhmyGod. I hate dating anyone new. At some point I would divulge the fact that I suffer from a strange blindness that would keep me from finding him in a crowd. But I rarely tell my story on the second date.

I leaned into the girl at the counter and whispered. “Where’s the cute guy I walked in with?”

She scrunched up her face and whispered back. “You’re kidding, right?”

I slowed down my breathing and stared into her eyes. She pointed to a table roughly two feet from where we were standing. I slowly turned my head and waved to my confused date who was close enough to the whispering to hear all of it.

“So.” I said light heartedly, as I approached the table. “You’re hiding from me?”

He gave a confused laugh. “Here I thought I’d found us the perfect table.”

Leather jacket. Black pants. Brown hair, short. Kind of looked like one of my brothers. Holding a large cup of tea. Ok. I wouldn’t lose him again.

After several stories and tea sipping we headed for the shmancy fish restaurant down the street. Now it was his turn to find a bathroom while I sat on a bench.

I read through the menu while I waited for him. I saw him approaching. Leather coat. Brown hair. Black pants. I smiled as he sat down next to me.

“Been waiting long?” He asked.

“Um. No.” I said, slowly. Was that his voice?

“Well. We have. We’ve been here for half an hour and they keep putting us off. Why don’t you come with us over to the Asian Grill?”

OhmyGod. Wrong leather coat? I looked around and saw my date watching me closely.

I turned to the man sitting next to me on the bench. “No. Thanks. We think we have a good chance of making it in, here. We’re going to wait it out.”

He nodded his head as he stood. “Didn’t mean to cut in on anything…”

I bit my lip. Bad move, on my part. Bad, bad move. He’s going to think I’m on the make. Bad, bad move.

Our table was called moments later.

“How’d you get us a table so fast?” Ok. I was impressed.

“Figured I might lose you in the crowd, so I took drastic measures.”

“Oh.” I bit my lip again. “Sorry about that.”

We sat next to the window and watched the people walk down the street. I laughed as a little boy jumped into a puddle, soaking his mother and father in his excitement.

Brown eyes was watching me closely. “Ok.” He said slowly. “So. You can see.”

“Yes.” I said, slowly. “I can see.”

“And you can read a menu.” He continued.


“But you can’t see me? Or is it all men?”

I laughed and laughed. “Well. Nobody has ever put it to me that way before.” I laughed harder. “And nobody has ever noticed. I’ve always been able to hide it.”

“Well. You’re slacking on the hiding department.” He said, sourly. “That guy who sat next to you was balding. I have a full head of hair.”

I nodded. “Yes, you do. But. You were both wearing a leather jacket and you both have dark hair. That’s a pretty good start for me, when we’ve just met.”

He rested his head in his chin. “You have to memorize people by their clothes?”

I laughed. “Yes. I don’t have a visual memory. I can’t remember faces, or clothes or anything. But. I can memorize a list of what clothes you are wearing to find you.”

“That won’t be necessary.” He said, with a wave of his hand.

My face fell. No more smile. Ok. Well. It was bound to happen. A man who didn’t want to deal with my little game of not remembering what he looked like. A man who would rather date a woman who could spot him in a crowd. I couldn’t blame him. There are so many women out there, why date one with a disability? “I understand.” I said, reaching for my purse.”

He ignored my retreat. “You won’t have to memorize what I’m wearing or what I look like.” he started “because now that I know, I won’t step away from you again.”

Antler drama

I stood outside the coffee shop and nonchalantly leaned against the window. Was he inside waiting for me? Hadn’t we agreed to meet outside?

A man with a fur collar on his coat waved to me and pointed to the seat next to his.

No. That wasn’t Brown-eyes. He’d never wear fur on his coat. He’s a pure leather man. I mouthed “No thanks.” And kept looking.

“Over here!” Brown-eyes called from the bench on the corner. “Figured I wouldn’t block the door from over here.”

He was wearing a large brown hat. Two reindeer antlers sprung several feet into the air from the top of the hat, making my date appear to be even taller than he was.

“Oh my God.” I smiled. “Hope you didn’t kill a reindeer to land that hat.”

“Nah.” He said, reaching up to stroke the antlers. “Santa gave it to me.”

I laughed. “Santa doesn’t like you, does he?”

Two four-year-old children ran up to him, pointed to his hat, and started singing, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

“Yup.” He nodded, as he kissed my cheek. “Kids love this hat.”

I shook my head. “I’m glad to know where you get your fashion sense.”

“This has nothing to do with fashion, though, you have to admit, I look pretty good with antlers, don’t I?”

I laughed.

“I wore the hat so you wouldn’t lose me in a crowd.”

I melted. Right there. Right then. Wow. He had dressed differently for me?

He continued. “I almost lost you on our last date, so I wanted to be sure that you wouldn’t confuse me some other guy.”

I melted a bit more. Wow. How cool was that? He knew I didn’t have a visual memory. In fact he had figured out that I couldn’t hold people’s images in my head once they had left my sight when I mistook someone else for him on our last date.

I bit my lip. “Thanks. Thanks for understanding.”

He waved his hand at me. “Do you have any idea what a relief it is to have a place to wear this hat?”

I laughed. “What did you buy it for?”

“For tonight.”

I inhaled quickly. Yeah. We’d better talk before we went to dinner. “Um. Just so you know. I agreed to see Cool-guy tomorrow night.”

He was quiet for a moment. “How’d he talk you into that?”

I shrugged.

“He wasn’t wearing antlers, was he?”

I laughed. “No. I’m sure he hasn’t even considered antlers.”

“Good.” He said, watching my face. “Because I don’t want to play second fiddle. I’d take these antlers off in a second if I thought he was playing the same game.”

“No antlers. We’re exchanging Christmas gifts. Well. I mean. He has a gift for me.”

“Yeah? Well. That’s not till tomorrow.” He said as we started walking down the street. “And, tomorrow’s so far away.”

A shop owner came out of her store and hung a small red ornament from one of the antlers.

Brown-eyes bowed to her. “Ok. I’ll put in a good word to Santa. I’m guessing you want more diamonds in your stocking?”

“How did you know?” She laughed.

We walked down to my favorite restaurant.

“I love it here.” I said. “Did you make reservations?”

“But, of course.” He said, holding the door.

The host wasn’t so sure. “Sir. We have a ‘No Hat’ rule in our dinning room.”

“Good.” Brown-eyes said. “I agree with that rule.” He stood up straight. “Is our reservation ready?”

The host shook his head back and forth rapidly as if he was trying to shake away a bad image. “I’m sorry sir, but you will have to remove your hat before you can enter this dinning room.”

Brown-eyes pointed, dramatically, to his hat. “This hat is fulfilling a medical need.”

“OhGodno.” I whispered, tugging on his arm.

Brown-eyes stood his ground.

“Do you have a doctor’s note?” Host smiled the biggest smile he may have produced in years.

“Can you give me ten minutes?” Brown-eyes countered.

“OhGodno.” I whispered.

Brown-eyes turned to me. “We need to fight this.” The antlers swayed back and forth with anger. “How dare they take away your ability to find me amongst strangers.”

“Comeon.” I said, tugging on his sleeve. “Let’s go across the street. They’re a lot nicer over there.” I softened my voice. “Or, you could take off the hat.”

“No.” Brown-eyes said, locking eyes with the host. “I want to see the manager. NOW.”

My eyes got big. Um. Oh God. No. No. No. My visual memory isn’t the kind of thing I tell many people. And. Now. He’s going to shout it out in a restaurant? This’s a little too much antler drama for me.

I turned to my date. “I don’t usually go on about my disability.”

He looked at me. “You don’t? You don’t fight for your rights?”

“Not when it comes to antlers.”

“Ok.” He said. “Don’t worry.” He patted my arm.

In a few moments a man with an expensive suit was standing in front of us.

Brown-eyes met the man’s stare, then turned up the volume of his voice so the whole restaurant could hear him. “Am I to understand you don’t let people with disabilities eat here? Isn’t that against the law?”

I blushed a deep red and looked at my feet. Were they all going to think the ridiculous hat was some kind of therapy tool for me?

The manager sent a confused look towards the host, who lost his smug look. “Please, seat them immediately.”

Brown-eyes burned triumph from his eyes like torches as he followed the host to our table.

I followed behind them wishing there was a way I could make a mad dash for home. But. If I tried to escape, I was pretty sure Brown-eyes would chase after me, wondering what was wrong.

Um. Not sure I could take any more Antler Drama tonight.

My invisible infliction

I stood at the window and watched the students run towards my special education classroom, behind the elementary school. Which kid was in the lead today? Must be R. Small with short black hair. He was usually first. Another student was close behind him. Was that A? I watched as ten fourth graders raced towards an hour of tortuous work that would help diminish their reading and writing disabilities.

It was hard to decide what was more baffling; the fact that they ran as fast as they could towards an hour of difficult work, or that we were sixth months into the school year and I still couldn’t pin my students’ names to their faces. Being able to call your students by name is expected of a teacher on the first day of class. And here I was, over a hundred days into the year, and I still couldn’t do it.

Years of epileptic seizures have erased my visual memory, so it is impossible for me to recognize my students by their appearance. I have zero memory for faces. Luckily, I have learned to discern them by their voices, mannerisms, and where they sit in class. The irony of a special education teacher working to erase students’ reading and writing disabilities who is plagued with her own invisible disability has never eluded me.

“First,” a boy yelled as he burst through the door. “I’m always first.”

Yes. This was R. I recognized his breathless, voice. “You do run fast, don’t you, R?”

“Fastest in the school,” He puffed, as he walked over to get his notebook off the shelf.

Tall-girl with dark hair entered, lips pressed together. This must be B, the quiet one.

“Ms. Winter.” She whispered to me. “Last night my father and mother let me use the computer to do extra homework.” She handed me a packet of papers with hours of stories stamped out on them.

“Extra mile!” I shouted. “Do you have any idea how many extra points you’ll get for this? I can’t wait to read them…”

She nodded and walked to get her notebook.

Another Tall-girl with long, dark hair entered with her arms folded across her chest. I watched her get her notebook and move to her seat. Ok. This was M.

“Mornin’ M.” I smiled. Her family was going through a terrible divorce that was slowly pulling her inside out. “Glad you’re here.”

She frowned. “My brother’s birthday is coming in two weeks. We have to spend it with my dad.”

I didn’t flinch. “Will he have a cake with candles?”

She smiled big. “Yeah. He said he’d get some of those candles that won’t blow out. Won’t that be funny?”

“Is that what you’re going to write about?”


Slowly I matched names to clothing as each of my students sat down and began writing.

I moved over to the computer where C was typing so I could edit his work. He would only write a few lines in the ten minute slot, but I wanted him to see how good his writing could look when it was cleaned up.

I fixed the misspellings and took away the extra spaces before I hit the print button. “There you go,” I smiled, handing him his printed page. “Looks good, doesn’t it?”

The fourth grader laughed into his work. “I can’t believe I wrote this much! It’s my new record, isn’t it?”

“Sure is.” I closed the computer file with his writing in it. I closed the file with the program we were using. As I was moving to the front of the classroom to start my lesson, he called to me.

“Hey, Ms. Winter. You put C’s name on this.”

Every muscle in my body tensed as I quickly scanned the classroom. There were three students in this class who looked identical: C, G and J. They were all the same height and same weight with spiked hair. Um. Wasn’t he C?

“The wrong name?” I asked, slowly.

“Yeah! Look.” He pointed to the name at the top of the paper.

Come on. I thought HE was C. Had he figured out I couldn’t recognize my students? Oh. Man. This was a test, wasn’t it? Was he going to ‘out’ me to the other students and their parents and my boss? What would happen when they found out I could only be sure who my students when they were sitting in their assigned seats? Would I be fired for having a disability like I was from my flight attendant job?

I searched the classroom for the other two boys who looked like the boy standing in front of me. Maybe I would know who he was if I saw the other students, too. But the students weren’t at their seats. They all looked like the same without a seating chart.

“Hmmm.” I said, dramatically, turning towards him. “Well? If you aren’t C, who ARE you?”

He put his hands on his hips. “I’m G. And you know it. You made a mistake with my name, again.”

I sat at the computer and flipped through computer files, until I found his saved piece of writing. I changed the name and hit the print button. “Ok.” I said, playfully. “If you’re sure.” I handed him his printed page.

He sighed. “Ms. Winter. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t know, but the one thing I know for sure is my name.”

He dropped his writing on his desk and giggled his way to the front of the classroom, which gave me a moment to contemplate a nine-year-old boy who is completely comfortable with the stuff he knows, and the stuff he doesn’t know.

Um. Seeing how I spend enormous amounts of energy hiding my invisible disability, I wonder if he might give me lessons on being comfortable with my stuff?

My Appointment with the Brain Doc

“You can’t see the difference?” Brain-doctor studied the images on the screen.

I looked carefully as a house flashed onto his screen, then another. My job was to recognize if there was a difference between the two, which there wasn’t. “Nope.” I said, confidently. “No difference.” I clicked ‘N’ on the keypad to record there was ‘no’ difference in the photos.

Brain-doctor leaned closer to the computer as I studied the white house with green shutters that flashed for a second. The second white house came up; it was identical to the first image, green shutters and all.

“No difference.” I announced.

The doctor stared at me. “You really can’t see a difference?”

Oh. God. I was failing the test, wasn’t I? I mean. That was the whole idea of his visit; the examination of my visual memory. And. I agreed to the testing, knowing my disability well enough to expect failure. My rare form of epilepsy has burned away my visual memory, meaning I can’t recognize my friends, myself in a mirror or my car as my brain can’t hold any visual images.

But. Now that I was failing, the competitive side of me wanted to win. I wanted the high score. Losing suddenly seemed a painful end to a frustrating test. “Are they really different?”

“Yes.” He said slowly.

“But. It’s a white house and then another white house.” I clicked ‘N’ again. There wasn’t a difference.

He sat back in his chair.

Is there something I’m missing?


Why did I agree to take this test? Oh. Yes. So I could learn more about my disability. But. I hadn’t considered how painful getting that information would be. It’d be one thing if I couldn’t do the test, but this exam seemed obvious to me. I was ready to bet a hundred dollars that there was NO difference between the houses, but there was something in the doctor’s voice stopping me from placing that bet: I so hated to lose money.

This would be my very first F on a test for my whole life. And even though it had nothing to do with lack of studying or trying, ancient survival skills from my long ago college days kicked into gear: “Concentrate. Try harder. Maybe you can bluff your way through with an essay.” I wasn’t going to lose a scholarship with low scores, but losing was new territory for me. Knowing I couldn’t brain my way to winning grades was sobering. This was me. This was the way I worked, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do any better.

I felt itchy and self-conscious as if this were the first time the truth was revealed to me: I have no visual memory: I can’t see houses once they’re gone. I would never again be able to trust things I saw, my eyes can’t be trusted.

Concentrate. I had to concentrate. A white house flashed onto the screen. The next house flashed up. No difference. ‘N.’ Again: House. House. No difference. ‘N.’

A few months ago I happened upon the website,, which had a survey asking people to explain their visual memory problems. I was in a sarcastic mood, and filled the survey with saucy testimonial as to how life can be better if you can’t recognize your mother. I expected nothing for my efforts, except maybe a visit from my out-of-town mother demanding a retraction over lunch.

Brain-doctor, Dr. Brad Duchaine, e-mailed back, saying he’d like to test me and that he’d be in Denver and could test me at my apartment. I figured he’d import a hospital neurological unit with a staff of nurses who understood electrodes so he could peer into my synapses, but he assured me he only needed room for a laptop.

He didn’t use wires and he didn’t wear a white coat. He was a research doctor connected to Harvard University and University College London and let me know when he arrived that he didn’t know how to test me, because I was the only one he’d ever heard of with my specific visual memory loss. He had a series of tests: flashing houses, cars, and people, he used to examine people with a condition called Prosopagnosia, or Face Blindness. These people register blurs when they try to recall faces.

Me? I recall a big blank void when I try to recall faces, places or things. I knew my syndrome was far different from what Brain-doctor was used to testing, but figured those Face Blind people were kind of like my medical cousins. How cool is that? Finding family in the medical world.

I found comfort in being the only one with my bizarre set of conditions. My smug moment of superiority left by the time the Famous People test rolled around.

I was shown numerous images of famous people, and I had to give their name. Easy right? Well. No. I missed Marilyn Monroe, President Bush and Julia Roberts which confused me; I would have thought Marilyn would be an easy guess.

I did recognize a few people. Luckily I didn’t have to remember the exact name. “Ok. This guy is on TV. He’s really racist and has a wife named, Edith.”

“Yes.” Brain-doctor agreed. “Archie Bunker.”

I paused to let my embarrassment sink in. I didn’t recognize Lucille Ball, but knew Archie Bunker? Brains really are unreliable, aren’t they?

Testing took hours away from my otherwise predictable life. Work. Work out. Play. Write. Sleep. Brain-doctor hid his boredom by studying the hundreds of photos in my kitchen while I hit ‘Y’ and ‘N’ on his keyboard. He showed utmost decorum by gently reminding me not to cheat, which I unconsciously tried to do, repeatedly.

“Don’t turn your head.” He smiled from the corner of my eye.

I was trying to match upside down faces to faces that were right side up. “I’m not.” I wasn’t lying; I wasn’t aware that my head was practically upside down, trying to study the photos from the angle they were printed in.

Great. He’ll be able to add to his report that not only was I absent of a visual memory, but I wasn’t aware of what my body was doing. What’s the official definition of Tourette’s Syndrome?

Brain-doctor laughed at me. “You’re still turning your head.”

Hours after the testing started, he pulled out a notebook and printed my name at the bottom of a long list. “Time to get paid.”

Oh. Yes. The money. He said something about getting paid for letting them test me. I brightened. Even though I failed the test, I still got paid? I liked this system. Maybe others would pay to test me. Maybe I could make testing into a full time job.

He handed me twenty dollars and asked me to sign off on it.

After releasing the dream of a ten thousand dollar check, I accepted the twenty and took him out for Mexican food, a treat he can’t enjoy in London where he now lives. The restaurant is owned by the family of one of my students.

Fourth-grade-Student approached our table and answered the doctor’s questions about students I mix up in the classroom.

Brain-doctor leaned forward. “Do J and D look the same to you?”

“No.” Student shook his head. “They look exactly different.”

That was news to me. They look different to others?

I leaned back and listened to the doctor quiz student on my classroom behavior and I realized I’d been failing this visual memory test long before Brain-doctor came along. The principal of my school looks exactly like the orchestra teacher. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t confuse a fourth grade teacher with a sixth grade teacher. I’ve learned how to deal with my inability to recognize the people I work with by never calling anyone by name and initiating small talk before every conversation so I can discern who I’m talking to by voice.

The irony of students with learning disabilities being taught by a woman with such a debilitating disability isn’t lost on me. One day when my students who struggle with reading and writing learn of my disability, they’re going to feel a lot smarter. These ten, eleven, and twelve-year-old children can do things a teacher can’t do: tell J and D apart, call out a greeting to the principal before they hear her voice, and recognize their friends without memorizing their clothes. And just as my students’ inability to read or write has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence, maybe I’m not failing at anything either.

I’m just doing the best I can.

Why I love Drupal

I’m very excited…about some software. People who know me will be amazed (apart from my rather dubious attachment to Guitar Hero 3 for the Playstation, this has to be a first). I’ve just started building my website using the content management system Drupal and it’s the most fantastic tool for a content writer like me; in fact for anyone thinking of re-doing their company website. I can:

  • Produce, edit and input content to my site whenever I like
  • Change the images, navigation and menus with ease
  • Write news stories that publish at a click
  • Include feeds to my blog articles on my home page
  • Incorporate a whole host of extra features should I feel so inclined, including forums, newsletters, ecommerce and picture galleries.

I have always thought that content management solutions were for large organisations but now smaller professional companies and individuals can get control and change their content regularly too. Drupal is a free a software package that allows you to ‘easily publish, manage and organise a wide variety of content on a web site’. It’s an excellent framework for a dynamic business website.

Like any web project, a Drupal website still takes effort to set up. As usual, you’ll need a combination of:

  • Sound project management and planning to ensure the end result meets your business’ requirements: defining your audience, your message, and specifying the content you’ll need (now and in the future) to get this message across.
  • Specialist web design skills: someone who knows how to get your brand across visually on the web.
  • Technical expertise: to set up the site using Drupal, configuring it to your requirements, hosting and running it.
  • Great content that gets your message across to your readers in a way they’ll understand and respond to.

The beauty of Drupal is that, once your website is up and running, you are in control of the content. You can update and create new content and add new features whenever you like, without having to go through an expensive site redesign process every time. I’ve been banging on about how a website should be dynamic (less like an online brochure and more like a regularly updated magazine) for ages. The process I’ve used to achieve this for my clients has been effective but cumbersome, usually involving a willing web designer updating the text as and when we need it; not the best use of a talented designer’s skills.

I can’t wait to introduce this to my clients. With Drupal the process of building and writing a website is easier. You can collaborate on writing the content, track changes and see To Do lists, all online. I have no doubt this would make the process of building and writing a website much quicker and more manageable for a busy small business.

Finally, websites have caught up with blogs and become easy and cheap to update. This is a whole new world. It puts content right where it should be; at the heart of any business web project, whatever the size of your business.

Do not miss this opportunity. Whether it is Drupal or another solution, if you are thinking about re-doing your website, why not invest in content management.

Anyway, must split. Got content to write.

I really welcome your feedback and will amend or add to the site if anyone comes up with useful suggestions.