When he came above ground, Grizmo grimaced in the sudden light. Although he’d only been underground a short time, the sunlight was too much for him to bear. And because he’d left before sunrise, he hadn’t thought to bring his sunglasses. Another thing disturbed him, too. When he’d left this morning, he had had a destination in mind, but now he wasn’t sure where he was going.

Grizmo stopped, looking up and down the empty street. With nowhere to go, he started walking, thinking that he’d encounter something he’d recognize. After a short distance, he came upon a small coffee shop and decided to go inside, if for no other reason than to get away from the glare of the sunlight. The small coffee shop, like the street, was empty, and he stepped to the counter looking up at the choices written in chalk on a large blackboard. He wanted coffee, plain and simple. All the varieties and flavors were unfamiliar to him. The young man who had come over stood patiently behind the counter. Embarrassed and flustered, Grizmo asked the young man if they had coffee. Plain coffee.

The young man told him yes, they did have coffee, and asked if he wanted dark, medium, or light roast. Grizmo stared at the young man. Dark, he said. The young man asked, here or to go? Grizmo asked, where? What? the young man asked. You asked, here or to go, Grizmo said, so I asked, where? No, the young man said. Do you want to drink it here or do you want to take it with you?

Why would I want to take it with me? Grizmo asked, looking around the small shop. I’ll drink it right over there, he said, indicating a table in the corner. I’ll be right over there. And Grizmo went to the table and sat down.

After the young man poured the coffee into a cup, he took it over and set it in front of Grizmo, who was staring out into the empty street. He turned to the young man. Thank you, he said.

Do you need anything else? the young man asked. Anything to eat?

No, I’m fine, thank you, Grizmo said. After watching the young man walk away, Grizmo picked up the coffee and took a sip. It was strong and hot and Grizmo put the cup down and turned back to the window.

Nothing was familiar, not even the taste of coffee. The strong hot coffee should remind him of something. But nothing came to him. He turned away from the window to look at the young man, who seemed preoccupied with something behind the counter. It was obvious to Grizmo that the young man had a purpose. And most certainly knew where he was. Why didn’t Grizmo know where he was?

The street was beginning to fill up with people, all of whom must know where they were and what they were doing. It seemed to Grizmo that he was the only spectator at a play in which a thousand actors played their parts with purpose and precision. And since they were so intent on playing their parts, maybe they wouldn’t mind if he joined them. They might not even notice if he took up one of the roles. He could play himself. It was the role he was the most familiar with. But was it? It occurred to him that he didn’t know how to act and certainly had no purpose in mind.

When he turned his attention back to the coffee, it was cold and bitter. He looked over at the young man, who was waiting on another customer. Several people waited in front of the counter and the tables were filling up. Feeling out of place, Grizmo decided to leave instead of asking for a refill.

When he stepped outside, he looked up and down the crowded street. Since nothing looked familiar, it didn’t matter which way he chose to go. Since it didn’t matter, why choose at all? What did he hope to find? And at the end of the day, where did he want to end up? He didn’t even know where he lived. To find out where he lived would be his first order of business. And this gave him a purpose.

But how? He turned and went back inside the small coffee shop. As he waited in line, he looked at the other customers, all of whom seemed perfectly content with where they were. Why was he the only one who seemed out of place?

The young man behind the counter was courteous and efficient. It seemed to Grizmo that the young man could use some help. Grizmo wondered if he stepped behind the counter to give the young man some assistance, would he know what to do? Could he possibly be a barista?

When it was his turn, he stepped up to the counter and asked the young man if he knew him, had he ever seen him before? The young man looked at Grizmo, a perplexed look on his face. I just started a couple of months ago, the young man said. Grizmo asked, but had he ever seen him in here before? Did he recognize him? Yes, the young man said. You were in here half an hour ago. No, I mean before now? Grizmo asked. The young man paused. No, he didn’t believe he’d ever seen him before. Grizmo thanked him, turned around, and left.

He was back on the crowded street, looking up and down the street. When he had been inside the coffee shop, he’d noticed several people who were reading. Sitting at their tables, reading newspapers, magazines, books. What do I like to read? he asked himself.

He stopped a young woman passerby. Excuse me, he said. Can you tell me if there is a library close by?

She looked at him, at first not sure how to answer him. He seemed so lost and alone. The city is so crowded and filled with lost souls. But this man seemed genuinely lost and troubled. All of this spun through her head at lightning speed while she sized him up. It was, after all, an innocent question. And she did know where there was a library. Not two blocks away.

Yes, she said. She pointed down the street in the opposite direction from the underground train station. Two blocks, she said. Stay on this street and you can’t miss it. It will be on the other side of the street. He looked down the street. Thank you, he said and began walking down the street in the direction of the library.

If he liked to read, maybe the library would shake something loose in his brain. Or maybe someone might recognize him. At the very least, he can find a book to occupy his mind for a while.

The library was an old brick building the walls of which were covered in ivy. The steep steps leading up to the entrance were wide and curved. When he went through the entrance, he was immediately struck by the smell of books. This was a smell he was familiar with. He paused inside the front door to get his bearings. Where would his imagination take him?

The kind woman sitting at the information desk asked him if she could help him find anything. He smiled, thinking if she only knew. Do you know me? he asked her. She looked at him quizzically. I know it sounds like a strange question, he told her. But I am experiencing a slight case of forgetfulness and can’t quite get a grip on who I am. I thought if you knew me, it would be a good starting point. Maybe I come here often.

She smiled at him. I’m sorry, but I don’t recognize you. I wish I did, so I could help you find yourself. What do you like to read? she asked. That might shake something loose or spark a memory.

Unfortunately, he said, I don’t know what I like to read. I guess I’ll browse for a while and see if something shouts out to me. The problem is, I don’t have a clue what I do for a living. I don’t have a driver’s license, so I don’t even know my name. I don’t have a clue who I am or what I do.

She looked at him. I’m so sorry, she said. I wish I could be of more help.

You’ve been most kind, he told her and left the desk. The fiction section was upstairs, and for some reason, he wanted to begin there. He walked up the wide granite stairway to the rows and rows of books arranged alphabetically by the last name of the author. Nothing struck him in the As. He proceeded to the Bs. Beckett, Böll, Bradbury, Brontë, Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita. He took the book off the shelf and turned to page one, read a little, put the book back on the shelf, and walked back to the beginning of the Bs.

Beckett. He pulled Waiting for Godot off the shelf and opened it up. Act I. A country road. A tree. Evening. Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before. Enter Vladimir. Estragon: (giving up again). Nothing to be done. Vladimir: (advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart). I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Estragon.) So there you are again.

He returned Waiting for Godot to the shelf and pulled down Heinrich Böll’s The Clown. He flipped through the pages. I don’t think there is anyone in the world who understands a clown, even one clown doesn’t understand another, envy and jealousy always enter into it.

He thought about that for a minute. Then he walked to the brass railing that ran along the edge of the upper floor, looking down on the first floor. He watched the kind woman at the information desk. When she wasn’t giving out information, she was reading. He wondered what she was reading.

He turned back to the Bs and put The Clown back on the shelf. So many books. Where do I begin? he asked himself. And what if he’d already read The Clown? Would he recognize enough of it to realize that he’d already read it? He didn’t even recognize the streets he walked down, how would he recognize something he might or might not have read?

Walking downstairs, he stopped at the information desk. The kind woman looked up at him and smiled. He liked her smile. Are you sure you don’t know me? he asked. Still smiling, she said, no, but I wish I did. He thought about that for a moment. Was she his type? What was his type? He had no idea. He looked down at his left hand and noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Did that mean he wasn’t married or simply that he didn’t wear a ring?

Listen, she said, my lunch hour is in thirty minutes. Maybe I could walk with you. Something might occur to you along the way.

That would be delightful, he said. Thank you. I’ll wait right over there, pointing to the rows of non-fiction books. She nodded and smiled.

Walking slowly down the main aisle, he glanced at the rows of books as he passed. He was not familiar with the numbers but soon figured out that the books were arranged by subject. Philosophy and Psychology. Religion. Social Sciences. Language. Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He went back to Philosophy. Metaphysics. Analytic Philosophy. G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He pulled Tractatus Logico – Philosophicus from the shelf. In it, Wittgenstein writes: “It is obvious that an imagined world, however different it may be from the real one, must have something – a form – in common with it.”

Grizmo thought about this. Was it possible to imagine an entirely unimaginable world? What would that look like? And how would we describe it? For instance, how would we describe the color yellow to someone who is blind? Yellow is a concept that is agreed upon by everyone. When teaching a child about different colors, we point to a piece of yellow paper and say “That is yellow.”  It is yellow only if everyone agrees that it is yellow. It might just as well be said that it is red. But once we put a name to it, then it becomes that name. In the same way, we would describe something unimaginable by first describing what is imaginable.

Putting the book back on the shelf, he walked back to the aisle and looked down toward the information desk. She was pretty. Suddenly he realized that he hadn’t even asked her her name. He doesn’t know his own name, but she has a name, and he should have asked her what it was.

He looked around for a clock. Had it been thirty minutes? It didn’t matter, he decided, and started walking back toward the desk where she was talking to someone, pointing upstairs, with that bright smile of hers. He waited and when she was alone, he approached the desk. When he’d first come in, she was just someone behind the information desk, a little bookish behind her thick eyeglasses, but now she had taken on a new identity. She was a beautiful woman who he would like to get to know better. To him, it was a miraculous transition in a short time. And he asked himself, was it good? Of course it was.

Hi, he said. I hope I’m not bothering you. Of course you aren’t, she said. I feel so stupid, he said. I never asked your name. I don’t know mine, but you have a name, and I should have asked you. It’s Veron, she said. Veron, he said, that’s very pretty. Thank you, she said. Now what are we going to call you? she asked. She thought for a minute before exclaiming, Grizmo. Yes, that’s what we’ll call you.

He tilted his head and looked at her like a dog looks at its master waiting for what comes next. Grizmo, he said, mulling it over in his head. Grizmo. Yes, that’ll do. I like it. Where did it come from? he asked. From my head, she said with a laugh. Well then it is even better for having come from your head, he said.

Fine, she said. Are you ready for our little adventure? she asked. Indeed, he said reaching over to pull her chair out as she stood up.

They walked directly out of the library and down the wide, steep steps to the sidewalk. There they hesitated, looking first one way and then the other. Grizmo followed Veron’s gaze. From what direction did you say you came? she asked. From that direction, he said pointing to their right. Then we’ll proceed in that direction.

As they walked back down the sidewalk toward the coffee shop, she asked him questions. Gaging by your clothes, which are quite nice, and expensive, you certainly aren’t homeless, she said. He looked down at his shoes. Now why don’t you have any identification on you? That seems rather odd. You left home this morning without a wallet. Why? He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a money clip. I do have this, he said. And quite a bit of money, she said. But why no driver’s license or other form of identification? she asked. Doesn’t that seem queer to you?

He thought about it, but it didn’t seem queer to him at all. Nothing made any sense to him, so the fact that he wasn’t carrying any form of identification didn’t seem any stranger to him than the rest of his morning did. Perhaps, she suggested, you were out for a quick walk around the neighborhood and didn’t think you’d need any form of identification. If we could only find your neighborhood.

When they approached the coffee shop, he slowed down. I stopped in here this morning, he told her. For a cup of coffee. Plain coffee. For here, not to go. She looked at him. What on earth are you talking about? she asked. The young man inside, he’d asked me if I wanted my coffee here or to go. I didn’t know what he meant at first, but then I figured it out and told him that I’d drink my coffee at a table by the window. The place was getting busy, and I didn’t want to be a bother.

Do you remember from which direction you’d come to get here? Yes, I came from the underground. The train? she asked. Yes. Which station? The one right down the street. Oh, Stanton Station, she said. That is a main hub and you could have come in from almost anywhere. This is going to be a little more difficult than I’d imagined, she said. You are quite a puzzle.

A deep sadness came over him as he looked over at Veron. She would get discouraged with him and leave, he thought. If she realized that his situation was hopeless, she would have no choice but to leave. What happens if we can’t find out who I am? he asked. She looked at him, thinking. That’s not a problem, she said. If we can’t find out who you are, we create a new you. A wonderful opportunity for you. How many people get the chance to re-create themselves? It is a gift from heaven, she said.

While we’re here, why don’t we get a cup of coffee? she suggested. An excellent idea, he said. And I’ll treat.

They went inside. It was less crowded than it had been earlier in the day, and when they stepped up to the counter, Grizmo looked over at Veron and asked, what is your pleasure? She studied the blackboard. I’ll have a cappuccino, she said. Excellent choice, he said. When the young man came over, Grizmo said, two cappuccinos, for here. The young man said, you got it. After paying for the cappuccinos, Grizmo told the young man that they’d be right over there, the same table where he’d sat earlier in the day. Taking hold of Veron’s elbow, he escorted her to the table and pulled out a chair. Veron sat down, saying, thank you. You’re welcome, he said and sat down across from her.

He looked across at her as she looked out the window. The street was beginning to fill up again with the lunchtime crowd. She usually ate her lunch in the library because she didn’t like fighting the crowd. But it was nice sitting here with Grizmo. He was such a pleasant, good-looking man. But what an odd situation she found herself in. How could she help him? she asked herself. She was pretty good at solving puzzles, but this one was going to be very difficult to solve, if not impossible. As difficult as it seemed, she couldn’t abandon Grizmo now. She leaned toward him. You certainly are an interesting character, she said. He looked across at her, his heart fluttering. What he was feeling was exciting but also made him a little nervous. He didn’t want to do or say anything to offend Veron. Nor did he want to lose her so soon after finding her.

The young man brought over the two cappuccinos and set them down on the table. Grizmo watched Veron to see how to proceed. He didn’t remember ever having a cappuccino. Maybe he drank them all the time. But he couldn’t remember.

Grizmo, she asked him, if you could do anything you wanted, what would you do? Or where would you go? You have a rare opportunity to start over. Not many people get this chance. A lot of us wish we had this chance, but it comes along rarely.

As he looked over at her, his heart beat faster and faster. He watched her beautiful lips instead of listening to what she said. She reached over for his hand and he took her hand, looking deep into her eyes. She reached up and took off her glasses. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known but didn’t know how to tell her. She must know. How could she not know of her beauty?

Did you hear a word of what I said? she asked him. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from hers. Hello, Grizmo. I’m talking to you. You have to listen to me. I only have a half-hour left of my lunch break, and we need to make some plans.

Plans? he asked. What were you saying? I was saying that you have a great opportunity here. To start over. Do you know how rare this is? Every day I wake up hoping to find a way, to find the strength, to start over. To reinvent myself, she said. He reached his other hand over and took her hand in both of his. Why would you want to start over when you are stunning just the way you are? he asked.

Listen, Grizmo. I am not talking about physical appearances. I’m talking about your spirit, your mind, your imagination. Your soul. You have a clean slate. Your soul is unconstrained by your past. By all the guilt and misgivings that clutter our lives. You must see how liberating this is. Don’t you?

Grizmo couldn’t stop staring at Veron. Finally, she had to pull her hand away to get his attention. Grizmo, you must listen to me, she said. Startled, he pulled back, looking at her in a new way. Thinking now, he tried to recall what she had been saying. Something about starting over. Let’s go back to my original question, she said. If you could do anything in the world, what would you do? The answer to that question might give us some clues to your identity.

Grizmo picked up his cappuccino and took a sip. She watched him intently, waiting for an answer. He looked at her over the rim of his cup. He reminded her of a six-year-old. She reached over, took his cup, and set it on the table. Listen, you have to focus. What would I do? he said out loud. Hmm. I would…he looked over at her hoping for a clue from her. What would she have me do? he thought. I would write. Thinking about the rows and rows of books in the library, he said, but there have been so many things already written. But maybe there is room for one more thing. Right?

Yes, she agreed. There is room. Indeed. Do you know how to write? she asked. Do you think that maybe you are a writer? Is it possible? He considered this. Was he? If he only knew his name, he could find out quickly enough by searching through the library. She would be able to help him find his work. Or if he didn’t have any books in the library, she could help him write a book. He wanted more than anything to be on a shelf somewhere in her library.

I don’t know, but if I sit down to write, and it comes to me, then it might just be that I am a writer. I need to find out. Could you help me? he asked. Of course, she said, I will help you. I have to get back to the library now, but when we get back there, I’ll set you up in a room with a computer. Do you know how to use a computer?

He looked at her, wondering if he did know how to use a computer. He hoped he did. He needed to do something to impress her. We’ll see, he said. He stood up and quickly went to her side of the table to pull her chair out as she stood up. He reached for her arm and led her out of the coffee shop and out to the sidewalk. They walked briskly back to the library. While they walked, he thought about the library. The smells, the quiet, all of the books. He felt comfortable there. But with her especially. She made him feel comfortable. He loved being in her presence. And he hoped more than anything that he could write. If he couldn’t, he would learn. He would dedicate himself to it until he mastered it. It would be his only focus. And when he learned to write, then maybe she would fall in love with him.

They walked up the steep, wide steps to the entrance. He held the door open for her and followed her inside. She stopped at her desk, grabbed a set of keys from underneath her desk, and led him to a row of rooms off to the side of the rotunda. She opened the first room and turned on the light. Inside were a row of desks on top of which sat computers. She led him to the first desk. She pulled out the chair and he sat down. She reached down and turned on the computer. The screen lit up. She typed in a password, took up the mouse, pointed to the Word icon at the bottom of the screen, and clicked on it. Word appeared on the screen.

Do you know how to use Word? she asked. He stared at the screen in front of him. He reached over for the mouse and directed the arrow to the taskbar at the top of the screen. He clicked on File and then New and a blank page appeared in front of him. He looked up at Veron and smiled. She smiled back. I’ll leave you alone, she said. I’ll be at my desk if you need me. He nodded. I’ll need you, I’m sure. But I know where to find you.

As she left the room, Grizmo was typing vigorously. When she got to her desk, she looked at him through the wide window. He seemed so intent on what he was typing. With no memory or experiences, what could he find to write about? Maybe he relied fully on his imagination, making up worlds never before discovered. A modern Don Quixote. Her heart filled with gladness as she watched him type.

Across the top of the page, Grizmo had typed Veron and Grizmo. Followed by: When he came above ground, Grizmo grimaced in the sudden light. Although he’d only been underground a short time, the sunlight was too much for him to bear. And because he’d left before sunrise, he hadn’t thought to bring his sunglasses. Another thing disturbed him, too. When he’d left this morning, he had had a destination in mind, but now he wasn’t sure where he was going.




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