“Are you ready to proceed?” the man in the white lab coat asked.
I nodded, unable to speak. I felt weak. My head spun a little. I knew I should have eaten breakfast. Now I did all I could to keep from passing out.
“Very well.” He handed me a clipboard with a single page clamped to the wooden surface. “Sign here, indicating I’ve informed you of the warnings and possible side effects.”
The clipboard felt cumbersome in my lap, while the pen weighed down my hand. I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t signed anything without my finger on a screen. The pen felt foreign in my grip. For a time I struggled to hold it between my fingers and thumb. I wobbled my name as best as I could remember.
I handed the man in the white lab coat the clipboard. He set it down on a side table without even looking at it. He slid a small, circular pad onto the table in front of me.
“Now, if you will. Please place it onto the scanning pad.”
I blankly stared down at the pad for a frozen moment. The gray pad, no larger than a soda can, stared up at me. Raised contact rings spiraled inward toward its center, like a map charting planet movements. My hand placed my own world on top of the pad.
The man in the white coat adjusted the back placement of my cell phone, making sure it aligned correctly with the spiraling contact points on the pad.
He pressed a button and the room lights faded to twilight. Above the phone, images projected upward, spreading around the room like paintings hanging by string from the ceiling, yet each image remained somewhat translucent.
I turned in my chair, taking in the pictures as more continued to appear. An image of Samantha and I, the Grand Canyon over our shoulders. I smiled at the camera. She kissed my cheek. Another of us at a baseball game. I couldn’t remember the game or who played. I only knew it to be a baseball game because balls and strikes appeared on a scoreboard behind our smiling heads.
As I twisted and scanned through the growing presentation, more images of myself and of girls I dated looked back to me. The Chicago skyline behind us. Machu Picchu lingering in the background. My face in front of the St. Elmo Steak House sign made my mouth water and my stomach gurgle as my body reminded me of my lack of breakfast. The Tony Paco sign did the same.
So many of the places I had forgotten. So many experiences trapped in vertical frames. So many-
“-The point of no return” the man in the white lab coat interrupted. “Your last chance to turn around. If we continue there’s no recovering.”
I sighed and looked down at the floor. Did I really want to continue? Did I really want to purge my memories from existence? And would I truly forget? I mean I had gone to all those places. Ate all that food. Done all those things. But even looking at the images failed to generate any real connection or stir any real emotion. My stomach seemed the only part of my body affected.
“Is that a yes?”
The man in the white coat pushed a button. A floating image to my left disappeared. A photograph in front of me snuffed out to nothing, like suddenly turning off a television screen. One to my right blinked away. Then another. Then another.
The process picked up until I couldn’t keep up with all the disappearing digital memories. As quickly as it started, I sat in a darkened room, surrounded by nothing but gray walls and emptiness.
The man made a movement with his hand and the lights returned.
“You may take your phone back.”
I looked to the man in the white coat, but he had turned his back to me as he sifted through something next to his desk. Picking up my phone, it felt both lighter and heavier. The gray pad looked up at me with its lifeless eye.
“That’s it.” The man said. “We’re all done here. You can take a minute if you’d like. There’s water outside if you need any.” With that, he got up and left the room. His white lab coat swished against his legs as the door clicked shut.
I sat alone for a moment, looking down at my phone. I rotated it in my hands. I caught my reflection in the glass lens of the camera. I wondered if it, deep down, could remember my memories. Of Samantha and the other girls I dated. Of the places we had…where had we gone? I couldn’t remember. I guess that’s why I have my camera around. So it can take the pictures and remember the memories for me.
My stomach rumbled.
That’s right, I never had breakfast.
And for some reason, steak sounded good.