Index of Forgotten Things

Judith Hannah Weiss painted birds

One of the birds I paint by hand.

For six years, I scribbled thoughts I couldn’t recall on any surface I could find, then forgot each piece. These turned into brief writings on paper plates, paper napkins, paper cups, and the occasional Popsicle stick, as well as on shards torn from magazines I used to work on. At some point, I began stashing them in shopping bags. Years later, I found scraps like these:

  • On September 18, at 10:14 AM, I forgot most of the things I meant to remember.
  • One moment I was someone. Then I was someone else.
  • I got off a DC-7 at Idlewild Airport in New York, which no longer exists. Neither do I.
  • It was a Code 4 emergency, which means my life was threatened. Then it wasn’t my life.
  • I woke from a comma, I mean a coma. I saw someone on a gurney, speeding by on a gurney, my name on her wrist.
  • You might think I would break down, scream, require sedation. No, I was calm, cool and barely conscious.
  • I saw a scruffy green angel looking upside down at me. He asked if I knew my address. I told him my name instead. He asked again if I knew my address, and I said my name again.
  • Then I saw Zeke, my golden retriever, floating calmly overhead, just below ceiling lights.
  • If someone asks why I stopped writing for media and started making homes for birds, should I say a truck tanked a few trillion bits of my mind.
  • Don’t tell anyone that something can’t be done. God might have been waiting for someone who didn’t know that.
  • Today I learned to roll Play-Doh balls
  • I’m severely digressed.
  • The end of the end of the world
  • Breaking your head in Hollywood
  • The brain you’ve reached has been disconnected
  • I’m having a moment of clarity
  • Thing with feathers is a bird, thing with milk is a cow, thing that purrs is a cat, thing that barks is a dog, thing you lost is your mind.

The scraps became vignettes and then the book, Away with Words: An Amnesic Memoir.