It’s like coming out of a fog.
The road that leads to the house in which I grew up is always foggy after 9 p.m. It’s something about the land, the farm, the pond and the cold Maine winters that leave a thick layer of mist at car level. The street is hilly, reaching various high and low points as it winds toward my grandfather’s farm. The highest views from the street are crisp, clear. At the tallest part, you can see all the way to Mount Washington through the tree tops. At the lowest point, the fog is thick and misleading. The road is hardly visible beneath the layer of brume, often hiding mother deer and their children just trying to get home.
When it happens, it changes quickly. Suddenly, you are surrounded by it. The moisture in the air is like velvet, covering your car windows and obscuring your headlights. Occasionally, fellow headlights meet you halfway and you are certain that if it had been a little foggier, or if you had been playing a little less attention, the two cars might have interacted differently. Then, as if a giant vacuum sucks it up, you are free from it. It is suddenly gone and you can see into the neighbor’s yard. You can look up and see the stars that hang over old cornfields. The fog is gone, as if it never existed. As if it didn’t have you holding on to your steering wheel a little too tightly. This thing that blinded you, that took away your confidence and familiarity, is now gone. It was there and now it isn’t. You think, “What was I so worried about? What was so important?”
I found myself falling into him rather than in love with him. My conversation topics slowly changed, relating to his interests and desires. We would talk about his friends and his job and how much he hated my hometown. My friends slowly stopped coming around as much, partly because they didn’t care for him and partly because I stopped inviting them. He was so much sweeter to me when we were alone.
Always a night owl, a creative-in-the-dark type, I was suddenly going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, napping more, because he did. I would leave work early to see him, taking extended lunch breaks from the office to lie in bed and talk about adventures we’d been on before we met. When he was in the mood, we would play hooky together and drive up the coast. He would drive and I would steal his iPhone to play whatever music the internet suggested. We would get lost together. We would drive down unknown roads and find ourselves on private property with the most impressive views of the ocean. When he wasn’t in the mood, he would refuse to take the day off to spend my birthday with me.
He runs hot. When we slept he would envelope me, his warm skin against mine, which is always cold. His arms, legs, chest, neck would wrap around me. He would whisper me secrets that he had never told anyone, not his sister or his best friend or the people before me, and I would press my frozen toes against his body to see his reaction. When he was mad at me, he would turn away. He would lie on his side and take his warmth away, as if physical closeness was only a reward for my good behavior — for being a good girl. I would shiver, alone on my side of his uncomfortable bed, and slowly begin to scratch the back of his head until he would let me be warm again. I would wake up and feel an overwhelming sense of shame; in my desire to stay warm I had somehow let my mother and her mother down. That sense of shame would follow me home in the morning when he would drop me off. It would linger as he’d kiss me goodbye and tell me to have a good day. It would follow me to my room and stick with me as I got ready, even through my morning shower. Sometime in the mid afternoon, the feeling would disappear. I would make it home and change and cook dinner. He would pick me up because he didn’t like to stay at my house very much and in the morning I would wake up feeling exactly the same.
A fugue state is characterized by amnesia for personal identity. A person loses parts of their personality — their memories, their individuality. Some or all of a person’s identifying characteristics disappear temporarily. Unlike most other forms of amnesia, dissociative fugue is not caused by brain damage. It is a psychological state, triggered by somewhere, something or someone.
Many times, a fugue state is completely undiagnosed until the person emerges from the dissociative disorder and is able to remember their true identity.
I sat on my couch. My bare feet pushed against the old, yellow leather. These couches had followed me from childhood to adulthood, a gift from my parents when moving to my first post-college apartment. I was calm and collected; I was numb.
I gave him the easiest out, “If you don’t want to be with me, don’t. I’m not keeping you. We can end this now.” His body recoiled, like an injured animal. He asked if I was going to break up with him.
That night he held me and told me all of the things he liked about me. “You are confident. You are smart. You are beautiful.”
I was having trouble remembering the girl he was describing.
Between every compliment he would kiss my face. The last one was, “You are forgiving.”
At the lowest point, the fog is thick and misleading. The road is hardly visible beneath the layer of brume. You find yourself slowing down, changing plans, just to get through it in one piece. Even the most confident drivers are rocked by the severity and onset of it all. You make slight adjustments, dim your lights, pull over, but nothing seems to work.
Half a year later we sat in his car in the rain. When I was done with what I needed to say I realized that I had been yelling, as if someone or something inside of me was trying every way possible to get free.
He looked ahead as I spoke. After a few minutes he sharply turned his head toward me and said, “What part of how I treated you ever made you think that I cared about you?”
Then, as if a giant vacuum sucks it up, you are free from it. It is suddenly gone and you can see into the neighbor’s yard. You can look up and see the stars that hang over old cornfields.
I looked back at him.
This thing that blinded you, that took away your confidence and familiarity, is now gone. It was there and now it isn’t. You think, “What was I so worried about? What was so important?”